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Who Was Christopher Columbus?

From pirates to miscalculations, Columbus never did have much luck on ships.

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Christopher Columbus discovered America on October 12, 1492. It was by accident, though. The explorer had been looking for an easier route from Europe to Asia when he came across the huge land that no one from Europe even knew about.

Christopher Columbus was the son of a wool merchant and was believed to have been born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. He started working on a merchant ship as a young teenager and continued working on the sea until pirates attacked his ship in 1476. Although his boat sank, he was able to reach shore safely by floating on a scrap of wood.

Young Christopher didn’t go back to work on ships for a while, instead he turned his efforts to studying mathematics, cartography (drawing maps), astronomy, and navigation. During this time, it was very hard to get to Asia by land from Europe. The journey was long and dangerous.

Columbus wondered about sailing west across the Atlantic instead. Although his idea was good, unfortunately his math was not. He believed the circumference of the Earth was much smaller than it is. He explained his idea to leaders in Portugal and England, but no one would help. But in 1492, Spain’s Ferdinand of Aragon and Isabella of Castile decided to take the risk. He set sail on August 3, 1492 with three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

On October 12, the ships reached land – but it wasn’t the East Indies, as Columbus had planned. Instead they landed on one of the Bahamian Islands. He and his crew spent months sailing from island to island trying to find riches. Disappointed by not getting as much treasures as he’d hoped, Columbus set sail for Spain in January 1493, but he left several dozen of his men in a temporary settlement on what is today Haiti and the Dominican Republic.

Christopher Columbus was eventually arrested for managing the settlement so poorly. They dropped most of the charges against him, but Columbus wasn’t allowed to keep his noble titles. He died in 1506.

National Correspondent at and Kelli Ballard is an author, editor, and publisher. Her writing interests span many genres including a former crime/government reporter, fiction novelist, and playwright. Originally a Central California girl, Kelli now resides in the Seattle area.

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