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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus was an explorer, discoverer of the Sargasso Sea and the Caribbean, the Bahamas and the Antilles, the part of the northern coast of South America and the Caribbean coastline of Central America.

There are many legends about Columbus. His life is full of unsolvable riddles. From the pages of numerous biographies and scholarly studies, it appears that he was a man seduced with divine revelation, or a big-minded scientist, or a hardened adventurer, or a mere mortal, who went with three ships to search for fortune.

It is not known exactly about the appearance of Christopher Columbus. There are no reliable portraits, all portraits are known now - and there are not less than three hundred - were created posthumously. The Spanish explorer and missionary who saw him in spring 1493 wrote: “The height was high, above- average, a face was long and inspired respect, his nose was aquiline, his eyes were blue-gray, skin was white with redness, beard and mustache were rusty in his youth, but turned white in the works”.

Until now the veil of secrecy shrouded the Columbus’s childhood. Long time biographers argued about the place and time of his birth, called several cities in Italy and Spain and dates in the range from 1436 to 1455. The twentieth century seemed to dispel doubts on this point.

Columbus was born in Genoa, in the Italian Republic. Columbus’s father to support his family worked as a weaver, wool seller, landlord, and even politician. Christopher had three younger brothers and a younger sister. Two brothers took part in Columbus’s expeditions to the New World after 1492.

Judging from the letters, Columbus became a sailor in an unusually early age  and sailed on merchant ships. Perhaps he was a merchant, and at least once commanded the vessel. In the mid-1470s, Columbus settled in Portugal and joined a small colony of Italian merchants in Lisbon. Under the Portuguese flag, he sailed to the north of England and Ireland, and possibly, to Iceland. He also visited the Madeira and Canary Islands and went along the west coast of Africa to the Portuguese trading post of São Jorge da Mina. In Portugal Columbus married and became a member of the mixed Italian-Portuguese family. His father-in-law introduced him to the principles of navigation and encouraged to the study of geography and cosmography.

 Over many centuries, the lucrative Asian goods attracted the attention of European merchants. However, in the late 15th century traders from Europe were still not able to get to Asia by land and had to buy Asian goods from the Arab merchants. Therefore, Europeans were interested in finding a sea route to Asia that would allow them to buy Asian goods without intermediaries. In the 1480-s Portuguese tried to circumnavigate Africa to penetrate the Indian Ocean to India. Columbus suggested that he could get to Asia, moving west. He based his assumptions on the discovery of the islands in the Atlantic, on rumors about the other islands, the various findings, as well as reading numerous scientific books on geography.

Columbus based his theory on two misconceptions: firstly, that the Asian continent extended about 30 ° degrees to the east, farther than in reality, and, secondly, that Japan was 2,400 kilometers east of the mainland. Columbus also incorrectly set the circumference of the Earth. Columbus came to the conclusion that using the spherical shape of the Earth he could get to India by the Atlantic Ocean, bypassing traditional, dangerous path across Africa.

With this fantastic project, Columbus addressed to Portuguese King Juan III in 1483. King had to give ships, people and provide them with food. Columbus demanded the execution of such conditions: if he went to Asia and opened new grounds, it would make him the Viceroy (Deputy of Spanish King) of these lands, a quarter of all profits from trade with the newly discovered countries would go on his favor, and he would be given the rank of Admiral. But the king refused to fund the expedition - the idea seemed unreal, the risk was very great, and remuneration was very high.

Columbus and his family traveled to Spain, hoping that his idea would be met more favorably there. Spanish King Ferdinand and his wife Isabella did not deny, but still thought that the design was quite fantastic. Besides, the financial situation of Spain deteriorated annually, and it did not allow doing ill expenses. The rulers of Spain hesitated several years and finally decided to sign the contract with Columbus. They only twice reduced the proportion of Columbus in future earnings. August 3, 1492 three small ships - caravel "Nina," "Pinta" and the "Santa Maria" came from the port of Palos. The largest of them was only 20 m in length. Crew consisted mostly of prisoners. Together, there were 90 sailors on ships.

The ocean seemed limitless. It took 33 days as the expedition left the Canary Islands, and the land was not to be seen. The rebellion was about to happen. Columbus agreed to return if, within three days they reached the land. Fortunately for Columbus, on October 12, 1492 there was a long-awaited cry: "Earth." A new World was in front of travelers. Ships came to a flat island covered with lush tropical forest. It turned out that the island was inhabited. There were naked people with copper-red skin. It was the island of the group Huanahani Bahamas islands. Columbus gave it the name of San Salvador (Holy Savior). Columbus called them Indians. Soon after that Columbus discovered several more islands. The largest of them was southwest of the Bahamas - Cuba – Columbus adopted by the peninsula of Asia. Columbus sailed to the island, which he called Hispaniola (now Haiti), and examined its northern coast. Early in the morning on Christmas Eve the "Santa Maria" ran aground and broke. Columbus reached the shore, and founded the first settlement of Navidad ("Christmas Town"), where he left 39 people. In, such a way, he opened the islands near America. “Columbus was naturally arrogant, firmly entrenched in his belief that he and his crew had reached Asia” (Kneib 6). 

In January 1493, ships moved back to Spain. People greeted Columbus as a victor. The royal couple gave him great honors; Spanish aristocrats gave a banquet in his honor. Columbus reported opening a new route to Asia, spoke about his most notable events during the traveling. He demonstrated stuffed animals and birds, rare medicinal and aromatic plants. Columbus showed "Indians", whom he brought with him. So Columbus brought the news of the discovery of new lands. October 12, 1492 considered the official date of the discovery of America.

King and Queen gave him permission to the second, more extensive expedition. Ferdinand and Isabella helped Columbus, giving him ships and men to be sent to Hispaniola. Queen ordered to convert natives to Christianity. Columbus found 1,200 people who agreed to go with him as future settlers.

To the great surprise of the newcomers, they found that all 39 people, left in January in Navidad, were killed, mainly as a result of clashes with the natives. Despite this, Columbus founded a new settlement, calling it La Isabela.

Leaving his brother Diego in Hispaniola, in spring 1494, Columbus undertook an expedition along the southern coast of Cuba. He believed that Cuba was a part of the Asian continent, and even forced the crew to sign a document in which he assured his Coronation patrons that he actually found Asia. An open war began between the Spanish and the local population. Unwilling to tolerate oppression and robbery by strangers, Indians attacked small Spanish troops. Columbus knew nothing about that; he only cared about his wealth. Columbus’s return to Spain in 1496 was not so triumphant.

The third expedition started with a long delay. The expedition set off from the port of Sanlucar only in 1498. There were six ships and the crew, consisted of criminals, as volunteers did not want to travel. Two months later travelers got to an unknown island, which Columbus named as the island of Trinidad. Opening on the road a few small islands, the expedition landed at Espanyol. Events that unfolded there impressed Columbus: there was a revolt. Columbus quelled the uprising, but complaints about injustice and war terror were sent to Spain. The judge arrested brothers and ordered to send them to Spain. All their property was confiscated. Brothers were released, and Christopher was paid an additional amount as a reward for his services. Nevertheless Columbus lost his popularity.

In May 1502, Columbus organized the fourth expedition, which this time consisted of four ships with 150 crew members. They went to the island Hispaniola. But the new governor did not allow Columbus to go ashore. A willful wanderer still continued searching the shores of India, and opened the current coast of Central America. After years of staying in Jamaica, where Columbus lived in poverty, he managed to return to Spain. No one took interest in the traveler. Columbus tried to get past wealth, honor and regain the title of Viceroy. Subsequently the explorer collapsed that eventually led to the severe disease. May 20, 1506 Columbus died.

The great merit of Columbus was that he brought to completion the trip, which his contemporaries considered fantastic and unreal. Columbus showed the possibility of traveling across the ocean. The era of ocean shipping replaced the era of coastal shipping, which allowed learning much about the Earth for a short time. The main result of the voyages of Columbus was the discovery of the New World - America. The discovery of America by Columbus became one the greatest geographical discovery in history.

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