Essay on Christopher Columbus1

This essay has a total of 2079 words and 13 pages.


Christopher Columbus1




Christopher Columbus was born in the port city of Genoa, Italy in 1451. His father

was a wool weaver named Domenico Columbo. As a boy, Christopher had no schooling. He

and his younger brother Bartholomew helped their father by carding raw wool. Christopher

grew up to be a tall, red-haired, quiet and deeply religious man. He worked for his father until

he was 22. He went out with the sardine fishing fleets, as other Genoese boys did and he sailed

along the coast to Corsica on business for his father. Genoese traders had their own schooners as
did Christopher Columbus’ father. He made at least one trip to the North African coast. On

long trips such as these, Christopher learned the elements of seamanship.

In 1476, Columbus sailed as a common seaman aboard a Genoese merchant ship

that was headed for Lisbon, England and Flanders. Since the Mediterranean nations were at war

at the time, the ship Columbus was on was attacked and went down. Luckily, Columbus was

able to swim to shore and make his way to Lisbon where he settled.

At this time Portugal was the world’s greatest seafaring nation. Many Genoese had

become rich and had prospered in Lisbon and Columbus saw his chance to do the same by

becoming sea captain under the Portuguese flag. First, however, he had to educate himself. He

learned to speak Portuguese and Castilian which was the official language of Spain at the time.

He also mastered Latin so that he may be able to read scholarly books on geography.

To earn his living, Columbus became a chart maker. He also made voyages as an

agent for a Genoese merchant in Lisbon. In 1479 he married Dona Felipa Perestrello, whose
father had been one of Prince Henry’s captains. They had one son, Diego. Felipa’s high social

rank enabled Columbus to meet important officials. She also gave him her father’s collection of

charts and documents. From these Columbus gained more knowledge of Portuguese discoveries
and plans. In 1481, he entered the service of King John II of Portugal and voyaged to the gold

coasts of Africa.

During that time the wealth of Asia was being discovered and Europeans were eager
for more of it. Asian goods had to be brought over to Europe through a perilous overland route

which made them scarce and expensive. Ships could carry the good more cheaply and with

greater quantity. To reach India, China, Japan and the East Indies the Portuguese were trying to

make a route that stretched all around the coast of Africa for trading. Another possibility was

across the Atlantic Ocean. At the time all educated men knew that the world was round and that

Asia was west of Europe. But, no one knew how far it was.

Columbus’ studies lead him to believe that the Earth was much smaller than it really
was so Asia was a lot farther than he thought. He made his calculations based on evidence from

sources such as the Bible, the writing of Marco Polo, and Pierre d’Ailly’s ‘Imago Mundi’

(picture of the world). He only accepted the information that supported his beliefs and he

rejected everything else.

Columbus was determined to cross the Atlantic over to the ‘Indies’ but he could not

accomplish this without ships and men. He asked King John II of Portugal for support but his

committee decided that his plan was too unsound and he was refused. Meanwhile, his wife had

died. Columbus took his son Diego and went back to Spain to seek supporters. He left his son

in the care of Friars in the monastery of La Rabida.

In Spain, Columbus made a number of influential friends who helped him present his
plan to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. Even thought they were busy conducting a war

against the Moors in Grenada, they appointed a commission to examine Columbus’ proposal.

The commission postponed making the decision and Columbus was left waiting. In Cordoba,

Columbus took Beatriz Enriquez as his mistress and they had a son, Ferdinand.

King John invited Columbus back to Portugal. During the second review of

Columbus’ expedition plan, Bartholomew Diaz returned from discovering the Cape of Good

Hope at the southern tip of Africa. This meant that the eastern sea route to India was open and

the Portuguese were no longer interested in a western route. Columbus returned to Spain.

Finally, after the fall of Grenada in January of 1942, the Spanish Sovereigns agreed to finance

the expedition. They promised to make Columbus admiral of the Ocean Sea and viceroy of all

islands and continents if he should succeed. Now preparations had to be made.

The Spanish rulers ordered the harbor town of Palos to furnish two ships for the

expedition as a penalty for offending them. These two ships were the Nina and the Pinta. A

third ship, The Santa Maria (flagship), was chartered. Columbus commanded this ship and he

selected two Palos captains to command the other ships. The crew was recruited from Palos.

On August 3, 1492, the three ships hoisted anchor and left Palos harbor. Columbus

had planned to stop at the Canary Islands for only fresh provisions and water but it turned out the
Nina needed a new lateen rig and the Pinta needed a new rudder. On September 9, the three

ships spread their sails and headed west.

For the most part, the passage was smooth and the winds were steady. As the day

passed, however, the men could not see how they could sail home against winds that had blown

them steadily west. The compass was also not working properly and the men started worrying.
A falling meteor and thick growing plants in the sea increased their fears. On October 8, the

men were ready to rebel but Columbus agreed to turn back if land was not sighted within a few

more days.

On October 12 at 2 AM, Rodrigo de Triana, a seaman aboard the Pinta, cried loudly
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