Christopher Columbus was an Italian explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean in 1492, funded by King Ferdinand II and Queen Isabella of Spain. His goal was to find a better route to India and the spice trade. Columbus made a total of four trips to the Caribbean and South America during the years 1492-1504.
1. Columbus’s First Trip
On Columbus’s first trip, he had three ships in his expedition: La Niña, La Pinta and Santa Maria, which Columbus captained. Columbus sailed with a crew of about 90 sailors. On this trip, they spotted the Caribbean Islands and landed on an island that Columbus later renamed San Salvador. On that island were Taino Indians. Columbus’s men captured some of these Indians and later sold them into slavery. While exploring, the men traveled to the islands of Hispaniola, known today as Haiti & the Dominican Republic, Cuba and many other smaller islands. On the return trip, the Santa Maria was wrecked and the captain of La Pinta sailed off on his own to try to beat Columbus back to Spain.
2. Columbus’s Second Trip
Columbus’s second trip was larger than the first. 17 ships and 1,200 to 1,500 crew members made the trip. Their goal was to find gold and capture Indians as slaves in the Indies. Columbus established a sailing base in Hispaniola. On this trip he also spotted and named the island of Dominica.
3. Columbus’s Third Trip
On a third expedition Columbus sailed farther south, to Trinidad and Venezuela. It was on this trip that Columbus became the first European since the Viking Leif Ericsson to set foot on the mainland of America.
4. Columbus’s Fourth Trip
On his fourth and final expedition Columbus sailed to Mexico, Honduras and Panama, in Central America and Santiago (Jamaica). Columbus was buried in eastern Hispaniola but his remains were moved to Seville, Spain, where they remain today. His goal was to search for the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean. On this trip he was accompanied by his brother Bartolomeo and his 13-year-old son Fernando. Columbus spent two months exploring the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa Rica, before arriving in Panama. About two months later Columbus and his crew were hit by a storm so terrible that Columbus described his crew as “wanting for death.” Following the storm Columbus sighted the Cayman Islands and named them “Las Tortugas” after the numerous sea turtles there. His ships next sustained more damage in a storm and for a year Columbus and his men remained stranded on Jamaica. The closest help was in Hispaniola but the governor there did not like Columbus and refused to help him. Eventually, Columbus was able to convince natives to help him and his crew and they were able to return to Spain.
5. European Awareness
Columbus’s voyages brought general European awareness of the American continents in the Western Hemisphere. Columbus initiated widespread contact between Europeans and indigenous Americans.
6. Trade Routes and Colonies
Columbus’s goal was to receive funding and employment from wealthy monarchs by finding better trade routes and establishing colonies along the way. Having securing employment from Queen Isabella of Spain, Columbus set out on his quest. Columbus grossly underestimated the circumference of the Earth and never accomplished the initial goals of positioning Spain productively in the price trade.
7. Columbus Day
The anniversary of Columbus’s 1492 landing in the Americas is observed as Columbus Day on the second Monday of October. In Spain, Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12.
Columbus spent a great deal of time presenting plans and proposals in order to receive funding for his trips. Prior to receiving funding from the Spanish monarch his proposals were rejected because experts believed that he was grossly underestimating the distances that he would have to travel. When the king and queen of Spain gave Columbus the go ahead they also agreed to making his the “Admiral of the Seas” and allowing him to receive a portion of all profits. His son would later write that the monarchs were more generous than usual because did not really expect him to return.
Columbus’s stint as governor and viceroy of the establishments that he discovered was physically and mentally draining. Following complaints that he was a tyrannical leader he asked the Court of Spain to appoint a royal commissioner to help him govern.
Columbus became a religious man, stating that he frequently heard voices and council from God.