The First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

Brief Biography of Christopher Columbus

An Italian explorer who accidentally found America and with whose journey began the new transatlantic conquest and colonization of many centuries was Christopher Columbus. Throughout his life, he made a total of 4 journeys to the Atlantic Ocean from Spain to find a direct water route from Europe to Asia but was not successful in that.

Ever since Columbus was a young boy he wanted to be a sailor. At age 14, he went on his first sailing trip. As he got older he learned that King John, the King of Portugal was trying to sail to India by sailing east. Columbus wanted to see if he could reach the east by sailing west.

He needed someone to fund his expedition, so first, he approached King John of Portugal but he was turned down as King thought him to be a crackpot. Then in 1485, Columbus went to Spain to convince Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand to sponsor his expedition. Here also he was turned down first but later he was granted the finance from Spain in 1492.

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus

First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

On 12th May 1492, Columbus completed his negotiations with the Spanish government for his voyage and then left Granada. His next task was to search for the crew and then purchase and provision his ships.

It was August 3, 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed from Spain for his initial journey with three ships. The Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Niña made up his small fleet of ships with teams of around 90 men joining him from nearby towns.

Voyage of Christopher Columbus
Voyage of Christopher Columbus

First Landfall At San Salvador

At the outset, Christopher Columbus planned to land for a short period on the Canary Islands to gather additional supplies but ended up with a month’s layover. This was due to a lack of wind and the requirements for ship maintenance. The wind remained flat and so it took him a few days at the beginning of September to establish visual contact with the island of Hierro.

Columbus had expected the voyage to take four weeks, but that deadline came and went without sighting land. The greatest obstacle to Columbus was the crew’s beliefs and superstitions. They believed the sea was full of monsters, that there were places where the sea was at the boiling point, or there were endless whirlpools. The voyage lasted longer than Columbus expected.

After days with no sight of land, the crew grew restless and Columbus had to use all manner of discipline to keep them in line. He offered a hefty reward to the first man to sight land.

 On October 10, Columbus struck a deal with his men: if no land was found in the next three days, they would turn back for Spain. At two hours past midnight on October 12, the land was sighted for first time in the present-day island of  Bahamas by Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodriguez), a sailor aboard the Pinta.

 Columbus set foot on the land he believed to be an island in Asia. They claimed the land for Spain and gave it a name ” San Salvador”. The habitats living on that island called it a Guanahani.

Columbus had a firm belief that he was on the island situated on the off coast of Asia. When he encountered with the Native Americans there, he called them Indians. He began trading with the natives he met. Initially, relations between the newcomers and the Indians were friendly.

He later stopped at three other islands of the Bahamas for next two weeks that he named as Fernandina, Isabela and Santa Maria de la concepcion. His last stop in the Bahamas was at the Ragged island that was called as the Islas de Aena or sand island.

 Second Landfall at Cuba

The adventurous explorer did not find the riches he expected, so he sailed in search of China. After exploring San Salvador, Columbus went to explore the nearby island called Cuba. He was sure that Cuba was part of mainland Asia. Columbus spent many weeks in Cuba in search of gold and the Chinese civilization but he failed. He kidnapped some of the American Natives who guided him that gold was to be found on some other island located to the East.

While moving forward towards the north, the captain of ship Pinta left the other two ships without permission and hence Columbus was left with only two ships. He then sailed towards the island called Babeque. Continuing his exploration in Cuba he reached Hispaniola (shared today by Haiti and the Dominican Republic) on 5th December.

Third Landfall at Hispaniola

On Christmas Eve, his another ship Santa Maria was grounded and it sank the next day. Columbus then used the remains of the ship to build a fort on its shore which was named as La Navidad. However, the least ship Nina was too small and was not able to hold all the crew members. Hence 40 men were forced to leave behind at the island. Columbus then departed from La Navidad with his ship Nina on January 1493.

 Christopher Columbus carried on beside the shoreline of Hispaniola where, on January 6, they happened to find the previously rogue Pinta. At the very least Christopher Columbus was pleased to have another vessel on the homecoming journey although he was still unhappy with Pinzón.

 Columbus Return To Spain

The ship Pinta arrived on January 6 after which all ships were reunited and set their sail towards Spain on 16th January. All the ships arrived then in Lisbon of Portugal on 4th March.

After leaving on January 16 a strong storm, on February 14, split them from each other and both captains thought the other had been destroyed. Christopher Columbus arrived back on March 15, 1493. Captain Pinzón died days after arriving shortly after Christopher Columbus who had obviously reaped all the glory.

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