Columbus Day

It’s Columbus Day when we remember Christopher Columbus’s 1492 voyage across the Atlantic to the Americas. He was looking for a new trade route to Asia, and decided to sail due west instead of south around Cape Horn. He didn’t discover the Americas,  people lived here already, but he was the first to publicize the existence and wealth, sparking waves of exploration.  He carried with him a copy of several maps/books which showed the world was round. (For further information read The World of George Mercator, which is a fascinating historical account of maps, although mostly after Columbus’ voyage).  Columbus was turned down twice by the Spanish King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, until they conquered the Moorish kingdom of Granada and had some extra treasure.

Columbus sailed with three incredibly small ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. I have seen the replicas and they are smaller than a tennis court. How many people were onboard?? After sailing for nearly a month, they saw a light on the western horizon about 10:00 p.m. on October 11, 1492. Columbus said it was “like a little wax candle that was lifting and rising.” They went ashore the following day, probably on one of the islands of the Bahamas.

Before Columbus died in 1506, he  made several voyages to explore this new route to Asia, but never became a rich man as a result of his exploration.

I also HIGHLY recommend reading Tony Horwitz’s book : A Voyage Long and Strange, which has some wonderful direct translations of Columbus’ diary. Horwitz’s writing style is highly entertaining which makes for very interesting reading.

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