Christopher Columbus Biography
It is believed that Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 in Genoa, Italy. Coming from a middle class family, he worked with his father at his cheese stand. He was a student of the Prince Henry's School of Navigation, located in Portugal. Christopher Columbus began a career as a seafarer at the age of fourteen and later supported himself by selling maps and charts.
From a young age, Columbus worked as a sailor on merchant and war ships in the Mediterranean Sea. In 1476 he went to Lisbon, Portugal, where he learned mathematics and astronomy (study of the stars), subjects that are vital for navigation.
In 1480, Columbus, with the help of his brothers, came up with a plan to travel to the Indies, which covered the south and east Asia, by crossing the Atlantic that was then known as the Ocean Sea. Columbus probably underestimated the Earth's diameter and thought he would easily reach Asia by sailing across the Atlantic. Interestingly, Columbus had calculated the Earth's circumference to be only 25,255 kms.
Christopher Columbus Voyages
For several years Columbus proposed his idea to the king of Portugal, but he was turned down. Not to be discouraged, Columbus went to try his luck in Spain. He first met with Queen Isabella I in 1486. Finally, in April 1492, Isabella and her husband, King Ferdinand V, signed an agreement with Columbus in which they agreed to pay for his voyage.
According to this deal, Columbus would be named admiral, become the governor of any lands he discovered, and receive a tax-free ten percent share of any riches found in the new lands.
Before Columbus was to take up a voyage to the Indies, the Europeans believed that a westward voyage was very risky and would surely prove fatal for the voyager. Spain wanted to gain supremacy over the European countries in some way and hence the Spanish king was ready to accept Columbus' plans. He funded Columbus' voyage that was aimed at finding a route to Asia.
Columbus began his first voyage on August 3, 1492. He left Palos de la Frontera with a ship and two caravels. He sailed to the Canary Islands from where he left for a five-day tour across the waters. On October 12, 1492, one of the sailors accompanying Columbus noticed a patch of land, which is today a part of the Bahamas. Columbus ventured to parts of Cuba and Hispaniola. On March 15, 1493, he reached Spain.
Convincing King Ferdinand that one more voyage would bring the abundant riches promised, Columbus went on what would be his last voyage in 1502, traveling along the eastern coast of Central America in an unsuccessful search for a route to the Indian Ocean. A storm wrecked one of his ships stranding the captain and his sailors on the island of Cuba. During this time, local islanders, tired of the Spaniards poor treatment and obsession with gold, refused to give them food.
In a spark of inspiration, Columbus consulted an almanac and devised a plan "punish" the islanders by taking away the moon. On February 29, 1504, a lunar eclipse alarmed the natives enough to re-established trade with the Spaniards. A rescue party finally arrived, sent by the royal governor. Even though he made three return trips west, Christopher Columbus never actually stepped foot on the mainland of North America.
With the passing years, Columbus grew religious. He claimed to be hearing divine voices. Till death, he believed that he had toured to Asia during his voyages. He died of Reiter's syndrome on May 20, 1506. He remains to be one of the iconic figure of the world, especially in the United States, for it was him, who brought the existence of the United States to the world's notice.