The First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

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.

It was August 3, 1492 when Christopher Columbus left from Spain for his initial journey. The Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Niña made up his small fleet of ships with teams of men joining him from nearby towns. At the outset Christopher Columbus planned to land for a short period on the Canary Islands but ended up with a month’s layover. This was due to a lack of wind and the requirements of ship maintenance.

First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus Voyages

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 crews of his ships became restless and some argued that a return to Spain was in order. 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, land was sighted by Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodriguez), a sailor aboard the Pinta. 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.

First Voyage of Christopher Columbus

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.

Interesting Facts About Christopher Columbus

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 12, a sailor aboard the Pinta sighted land in the present-day Bahamas. Columbus set foot on land he believed to be an island in Asia and named it San Salvador. The adventurous explorer did not find the riches he expected, so he sailed in search of China. He visited the island of Cuba and then an island later called Hispaniola (shared today by Haiti and the Dominican Republic). Everywhere he went, he encountered native people he called Indians. (He assumed they were inhabitants of the Indies.) Initially, relations between the newcomers and the Indians were friendly.

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