Christopher Columbus: Facts, Information and Trivia

Here are some facts about the Italian explorer, Christopher Columbus. Some of the facts you’ll probably know already, but hopefully you will also learn something new.

  • Christopher Columbus was born in 1451 and he died in 1506 (aged 54).
  • Columbus was a skilled sailor and navigator.
  • He was certain that the Earth was round. Although this was the view of most scholars and navigators at the time, it was not what most of the people alive in Tudor times believed. Many in the 15th century still thought that the Earth was flat and that it was possible to sail off the edge of the world.
  • Columbus wanted to find an easy way to reach the East Indies (South-east Asia). He decided that the best route would be to travel west from Europe, around the globe. Other navigators had also thought about this option, but they didn’t try it because they thought the distance would be too great.
  • Christopher Columbus struggled to get financial support for his planned westerly voyage. He approached the King of Portugal, John II, in 1485, asking for three ships. He was turned down. Columbus then tried to get funding from Genoa and Venice. They also turned him down. Henry VII, King of England also wasn’t interested in putting money into the voyage. Christopher Columbus finally got the money and ships he needed from Queen Isabella of Spain. This was in 1492.

Christopher Columbus’ 1492 Voyage

  • On 3rd August 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew set sail from Palos de la Frontera in Spain in three ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina. They stopped at the Canary Islands to restock their provisions before setting sail again on 6th September.
  • Land was spotted on 12th October. Columbus named the island, which is located in the Bahamas, San Salvador. Columbus went on to explore the northerly coast of Cuba, Hispaniola and the Samana Peninsula.
  • Although Christopher wasn’t the first European to visit the Americas – we now know that the norseman Leif Ericson made a voyage in the 11th century – he was responsible for bringing about lasting links between Europe and the Americas.
  • Columbus never believed that he had discovered a ‘new’ continent. He thought that he’d established a new route to the East Indies. For this reason, he called all of the native inhabitants of the island he visited indios, the Spanish for Indians.
  • Christopher Columbus finally returned to Spain in March 1493. He was welcomed as a hero and given the titles of Admiral of the Ocean Sea and Viceroy of the Indies.

Further Voyages to the Americas

  • Columbus made three more voyages across the Atlantic Ocean. He explored the islands of the Lesser Antilles and gave them European names (for example, Antigua and St Kitts).
  • He also visited Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Trinidad, Jamaica, Honduras, Nicagragua and Costa Rica.
  • Christopher Columbus set up colonies during his voyage, leaving groups of men to form settlements. The largest of these was the one he founded on the island of Hispaniola. Columbus was a poor ruler who often was very harsh and brutal when governing.

Other Facts About Columbus

  • The anniversary of Columbus’ first landing in the Americas, is celebrated in Spain on 12th October. This is known as Columbus Day. In the US it is celebrated annually on the second Monday in October.
  • No one knows exactly what Christopher Columbus looked like because all of the portraits of him that have survived were painted after he had died.

Here are the first few lines of a well-known poem that was often told to children to help them remember the date in which Christopher Columbus first set sail from Spain.

In fourteen-hundred ninety-two,

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain,

He sailed through sunshine, wind and rain.

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