The Admiral of the Ocean Sea
My Early Life:
I was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. I was named Cristoforo Colombo. I was the oldest of five children. My family did not have enough money, so I worked with my father, Domenio Colombo, who was a wool weaver. Wool weavers knit or weave yarn.
I had little schooling, and I always wanted to be at sea. As a young man, I went sailing and was shipwrecked by pirates. I ended up in Portugal where I became a Portuguese captain.
I wanted to find a shorter route to the Indies to find spices and gold, but King John II of Portugal would not pay for ships and a crew for me to explore.
While I tried to find someone to pay for my explorations, I lived in Madeiras, Portugal and married a woman named Felipa de Perestrello in 1479. She died shortly after our son, Diego, was born.
After Felipas death, I went to Ferdinand and Isabella, the King and Queen of Spain, and asked them to buy ships and a crew for me to sail west. I believed that a shorter route to the spices and gold of the Indies could be found by sailing west from Europe across the Ocean Sea. Until now, spices and gold had to be brought by caravan across Asia and Europe by land. This made them very valuable and expensive. Portuguese explorers were trying to sail around Africa to get to India, but I thought a western route would be better.
The King and Queen offered to buy three ships--the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria--and a crew of 90 men in August of 1492.
I went on many voyages, but my favorite four were the voyages to the islands I discovered off the coast of Japan or China. [Editor's Note: Columbus did not realize that he was not off the coast of Japan or China. He was really in what is now known as the West Indies, about 400 miles south of Miami, Florida. Columbus died believing he had made voyages to islands off Japan or China.]
My First Voyage:
My first route and voyage in August of 1492 was to sail across the Ocean Sea until we found land. [Editor's Note: The Ocean Sea that Columbus sailed across is today known as the Atlantic Ocean. Columbus and the rest of Europe's explorers believed that there was only one huge Sea.]
After many days at sea, I discovered land and claimed it in the name of Spain. [Editor's Note: Columbus actually claimed an island he called San Salvador in the Caribbean Sea. The Natives there called it Guanahani. Although he did not reach the Indies, he did find land unknown to Europe. In fact, Columbus and his crew were the first Europeans since 1000 AD to set foot on the "New World."]
When we landed, we encountered a group of Indians. They looked very different from us. They had dark skin and wore very little clothing. They were amazed by our giant ships with enormous white sails. They were as surprised by our clothing as we were by the lack of theirs! We befriended these Indians.
On December 24 the Santa Maria crashed into a coral reef and sank. Without the Santa Maria we could not take everyone back to Spain with us, so I found 40 volunteers to stay behind to build a a settlement.
When my crew and I returned to Spain, I was a hero. I was happy to be named the Admiral of the Ocean Sea by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Still, I was anxious to return to the land that I had discovered because I still had not found the gold that I knew was there.
My Second Voyage:
On my second voyage in September of 1493, I led 17 ships with about 1,000 colonists. When we arrived back in San Salvador, we found the 40 men we left behind from our first voyage dead. They had been killed by the Indians.
My Third Voyage:
On my third voyage in May of 1498, I set foot on new islands previously undiscovered. [Editor's Note: Columbus actually set foot on what would become the United States Virgin Islands in the Caribbean Sea on July 4, 1498.]
My Fourth Voyage:
On our fourth and final voyage in May of 1502, we sailed 4 ships--La Capitana, Santiego de Palos, La Gallega, and the Vizcaina. My son, Ferdinand, came with me. The purpose of this voyage was to discover a passage to the Indian Ocean between Cuba and the "Other World" that I found 4 years before. [Editor's Note: On this voyage Columbus set foot on Venezuela in South America. He thought that South America was a "very great continent which until today has been unknown." He called it an "Other World" because he thought that it was another huge land mass. He was right!]
Editor's Note: Columbus died from arthritis on May 20, 1506, never getting to the East Indies.
Columbus may have been the greatest sailor of his time. He sailed across almost 5,000 miles of open water and was able to find the same island over and over, without a compass or an accurate map.