One of the most famous and daring navigators in world history is Christopher Columbus. He is the person responsible for the discovery of the Americas, a huge land mass unknown to the Europeans before. Columbus was one of the few navigators during his time who believes that the East can be reached by sailing west because he believes that the Earth is round.
Here are some interesting and historical facts about Christopher Columbus and his three ships - Santa Maria, Pinta and Niña, on his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean..
1. Columbus, an Italian, was born Cristoforo Colombo in 1451 CE in Genoa, Italy. His Spanish name is Cristobal Colon and his Swedish name is Kristoffer Kolumbus. Other sources say his real name was Chrisoffa Corombo, his Genoese name.
2. There are no known authentic portraits of Columbus. Paintings depicting Columbus are a work of fiction because no painter ever captured Columbus on their canvas.
3. He was married to Filipa Moniz Perestrelo, a noble woman. They had a son, Diego.
4. Diego Columbus, who was born in 1479 or 1480, became the 2nd Admiral of the Indies, 2nd Viceroy of the Indies and 3rd Governor of the Indies.
5. Ferdinand Columbus, was born on August 15, 1488, was the 2nd son of Christopher Columbus to Beatriz Enriquez de Arana.
6. At age 14, Christopher Columbus became a sailor and sold maps and charts. He was shipwrecked off the coast of Portugal in 1476 at the age of 25.
7. Europe’s top seafaring nation during Columbus time is Portugal and decided to settle there.
8. He studied geography and navigation and became a master sailor.
9. Columbus dreamed of reaching the Indies by sailing west and wanted to bring gold and treasures back to Europe.
10. He is rich in ideas but had no money to finance his expedition. The idea of sailing west is not a new idea but no one had tried to make the voyage.
11. Columbus thought the trip to the Indies west across the Atlantic Ocean would be much shorter than sailing around Africa.
12. He asked for support to the king of Portugal but the king neglected his proposal.
13. Columbus decided to leave Portugal and asked for the support of the king of Spain. At first, the king refused because his price was too high and that he wanted too many ships but finally decided to support Columbus’ proposal.
14. Columbus was given 3 ships namely: Pinta, Niña and Santa Maria. He was also given crews, four of which are prisoners who took advantage of a royal decree released on April 30, 1492 which ordered the suspension of judicial proceedings against criminals that agreed to sail with Christopher Columbus. He was also given supply for the expedition.
15. On August 03, 1492, he sailed from Palos, Spain; he stopped in Canary Islands and headed west.
16. On October 12, 1492, the group sighted the islands of Bahamas. Thinking that he reached Asia, he called the islands “the Indies”.
17. The people inhabiting these islands where the Arawak people and Columbus called them “Indians” because he though he reached India.
18. He was 41 years of age when he unknowingly discovered the Americas. He thought he reached Asia.
19. Columbus changed the world forever when he crossed the Atlantic.
20. Columbus spent two months exploring the Americas and headed home. One of his ships sank in a storm but was hailed as a hero in Spain. Only the Pinta and the Niña was able to return to Spain.
The Santa Maria
21. His flagship Santa Maria sank and was force to leave 39 men behind at a settlement named La Navidad.
22. As a reward, the king and queen of Spain made him “Admiral of the Ocean Seas” and were offered rich rewards.
23. He made 3 more expeditions to the Americas but he was not successful and never set foot on mainland North America.
24. His greed and stubbornness made him a bad leader and created enemies.
25. During his second voyage in 1493 to 1496, he claimed the land of the Caribbean people and made them slaves.
26. On the 3rd voyage from 1498 to 1500, as governor of Hispaniola, he and his brother Bartholomew ruled like kings taking most of the profits for themselves and antagonizing the other settlers.
27. He quarreled with Spanish settlers so violently and he was sent back to Europe as a prisoner in chains.
28. On his 4th and final voyage to the Americas from 1502 to 1504, he was marooned on an island for more than a year. He was rescued and was very sick when he returned home to Spain.
29. Columbus quarreled with the king and queen of Spain until his death in 1506 because he wanted authority over Spanish colonies and demanded larger share of the riches that were brought back from America.
30. His achievements were not much celebrated because his discoveries happened by accident.
31. Although he tried to take a short cut and ended up somewhere he never intended to go – he discovered 2 continents unknown to the Europeans – North and South America.
32. Although he himself never believed he discovered new lands, Columbus’ discovery of the Americas led to the exchanged of new ideas, plants and animals between Europe and the Americas.
33. However, the arrival of the Europeans in the Americas caused terrible tragedy because millions of Native Americans died as they rushed to take land and riches for themselves.
34. Columbus took command of the Santa María. The Pinta was commanded by Martin Alonso Pinzon while the Niña were commanded Martin’s brothers, Francis Martin and Vicente Yanez. Replicas of each of all three ships exist.
35. The whole company in all three ships numbered one hundred and twenty men.
36. La Pinta, which literally means The Painted One or The Spotted One, was the fastest of the three ships used by Columbus in his first transatlantic voyage in 1492.
37. A functional sailing replica of the Pinta is on display at Palos De La Frontera, a town and municipality located in the southwestern Spanish province of Huelva, in the autonomous community of Andalusia.
38. Pinta was launched in 1441. It is a caravel, a small, highly maneuverable sailing ship.
39. It has a length of 17 m or 56 ft on deck, a beam of 5.36 m or 17.6 ft and a draught of 2.31 m or 7.6 ft. The ship weighed approximately 60 tons.
40. The complete name of the ship Santa Maria is La Santa María de la Inmaculada Concepcion which means The Saint Mary of the Immaculate Conception
41. Santa Maria was the largest of the three ships used by Columbus and was the flagship in his first voyage.
42. It is 108 tons in weight with a length of about 17.7 m on deck, an over all length of 22 m, a beam of 5.85 and with a draught of 2.92 m. It was in 1460 and owned by Juan de la Cosa.
43. The Santa María was originally named La Gallega, Spanish for "The Galician", because she was built in Pontevedra, Galicia.
44. This ship was equipped with a 4 x 90 mm Bombards, 50 mm culebrinas.
45. A functional sailing replica of the Santa Maria is located in Funchal, Madeira Islands in Portugal.
46. Another replica is anchored in "Deep Sea Adventure Lake", West Edmonton Mall in Canada. The ship was hand-carved and hand-painted.
47. A non-sailing replica of the Santa Maria is on display in Columbus, Ohio, USA.
48. Santa Maria was the slowest of the 3 vessels used by Columbus but performed well in the Atlantic crossing.
49. This ship ran aground off the present-day site of Cap-Hatien, Haiti on December 25, 1492, and was lost.
50. Columbus's crew was not composed of criminals as is widely believed. Many were experienced seamen from the port of Palos in Andalusia and nearby region.
51. The crew of the Santa Maria is completely known including all the accounting and recording of the voyage which was kept in Seville, Spain.
52. The Niña, one of the vessels used by Columbus, was by far his favorite. The ship’s real name is “Santa Clara”.
53. The name Niña was probably a pun on the name of her owner, Juan Niño of Moguer. Like the Pinta, she was a standard caravel-type vessel.
54. La Niña, which literally means The Girl, has a length of 15.24 m on deck, a beam of 4.85 m and a draught: 2.07 m.
55. On Columbus’ first expedition, the Niña carried 24 men, the Santa Maria with 40 men and the Pinta with 26 men.
56. The Niña joined a grand fleet of 17 ships for the second voyage to Hispaniola, becoming the flagship for an exploration of Cuba.
57. Santa Clara, or more popularly known as the Niña, was the only ship to survive the 1495 hurricane. She returned to Spain in 1496.
58. The Niña logged at least 25,000 nautical miles or 46,000 km under Columbus’ command.
59. A USA one-cent postage stamp and a USA four-cent postage stamp were issued to commemorate Columbus’ Fleet and Columbus’ discovery of the Americas.
60. All the three ships used in the Columbus expedition were second-hand (if not third or more) and were never meant for exploration.
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