Many important figures have contributed to our understanding of marine exploration though not as pivotal as Christopher Columbus and his accidental discovery. Columbus is considered to be one of the greatest and well-known mariner of all time for challenging and developing ideas which allowed him to become successful. He is the reason that Europeans had come to a realization of undiscovered land of the Americas. Christopher Columbus took a voyage westward in search of Asia to look for an efficient way to trade by sea. The outcome of the westward voyage resulted in an accidental discovery of the New World. The first voyage leads to a deep exploration of the newly discovered Americas and their native inhabitants causing a devastating effect on their civilization. After the first voyage, Columbus leads three more expeditions to the New World which highly impacts the course of history in a significant manner.
The renowned Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in the year 1451. He learned how to sail at an early age and was self-taught. He would often read navigation and astronomy books which sharpened his skills to become a well-known mariner. Columbus was a strong believer of a spherical earth and suggested the idea of finding a more efficient way of conducting trade for a profit by sailing West to end up East (Hale pp.7). He suggested his idea to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain who surprisingly agreed and financed his expedition after being turned down by other Kings. Little did they know; the expedition would change the course of history.
Christopher Columbus prepared for the Great Voyage readies three ships known as the Nia, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. He sets sail westward on August 3rd, 1492 from the Canary Islands in hopes to find the Eastern lands. After the eighth day of being at sea Columbus and crew had lost sight of the land they had left and had not seen land for a period of thirty days. The voyage was not as easy as Columbus had expected it to be, and it was uneventful as well consisting of disputes among crew members and harsh living condition. Columbus was faced with a sudden rebellion by the crew members as they had become anxious and truculent (Philips pp.147).
According to Columbus’s diary, he had made two sets of calculations evidently to deceive the crew into believing that they had sailed less to avoid gaining their distrust and being thrown overboard for their lack of patience (Hale pp.20-21). Then came the thirty-third day, Columbus and his crew come across land since their departure. They discovered the Caribbean Islands on October 11th late at night where they eagerly waited until morning to explore the island (Philips pp.153).
As Columbus arrived at the island with his crew members he believed he had landed in India, therefore, calling the habitants Indians. He also began naming the islands that surrounded him and named the one he arrived to after their savior, San Salvador. Documents and letters written by Christopher Columbus himself drew a vivid picture of what he came across in San Salvador. He befriends the natives of the island and gave them treasures that gave them pleasure and amusement, but Columbus had something else planned. He converted the Natives into Christian Spanish speakers through harsh and forceful ways. In his diary, he states, As soon as I reached that sea, I seized by force several Indians on the first island, in order that they might learn from us (Columbus pp.7). Columbus discovers the Americas yet sails throughout the islands in search for gold and other valuable goods that may interest the King and Queen and comes across Cuba, Haiti and other Caribbean islands. His intentions with the natives were not good since his arrival to the islands as stated in a letter he wrote, I might induce them to take an interest in seeking out, and collecting, and delivering to us such things as they possessed in abundance, but which we greatly need (Kishlansky pp. 302). His desire was to obtain anything valuable that they possessed in abundance to take back to Spain.
After returning to Spain Columbus had plans of taking back a bigger fleet to the Caribbean. He exaggerated reports and documents involving the islands of China he had discovered knowing that he had a profitable future ahead of him. Although he faced hardships and mutiny during the first voyage, Columbus was determined to bring back valuable goods, materials and native slaves. He became greedy and wanted to make a profit off the islands he had discovered which prompted him to launch the second voyage to the Americas. On September 25th, 1493 Columbus sailed back to the Americas with a bigger fleet than the first voyage (Philips pp. 194).
Columbus’s second voyage back to the Americas was relatively faster than the first but still faced hardships from his crew members because he ordered for small rations until land was sighted and many of the members became ill. Columbus and his crew spotted land on November 4th, 1493 and he came across many new islands which he named Dominica, Virgin Islands, Santa Maria and many more. He returned to Hispaniola where he had left crew members from the first voyage to build a fort, but all were brutally killed by the natives of the island. Diego Alvarez Chanca a witness who sailed with Columbus wrote many letters regarding the voyage and experience. Many of those letters contained brutal and disturbing experiences involving; cannibal Indians, treatment on other conquered Indians, as well as the slaughter of other Indians by the Europeans. A huge amount of the native population was dying of diseases as they were not immune to the diseases the Europeans had brought. Columbus continues to explore the newly discovered islands further and left more men behind in a small settlement called La Navidad. He also found nuggets of gold that he would then take to the king and queen. He also tries to raise funds for importing and exporting goods from the Americas by taking a great number of Indians back to Europe to sell them into slavery (Philips pp. 196-202).
Not long after the second voyage, Columbus was still determined to look for valuables as well as new land that they could discover further along the already explored islands. The reason Columbus was desperate was because he was growing poor, and his slave trade was condemned by the queen which cost him a lot. On May 30th, 1498 Columbus sets sail to the new world for the third time. Sailing westward Columbus sends three ships to Hispaniola where the settlements his brother Bartholomew had been in charge of were located. Meanwhile Columbus and the rest of the fleet traveled towards the Island of Trinidad and eventually made their way to the Paria Peninsula present day Venezuela. This was Columbus first time landing on South American soil. He briefly explored Venezuela and found natives that showed him the way to find gold and pearls. Columbus in poor health returned to Hispaniola where he encountered chaos and disaster after Indian and European uprisings had occurred. Columbus was unable to take control of the problem which led to settlers leaving the colony as soon as possible. Columbus had again exaggerated and lied in his reports stating that everything was going well in Hispaniola. However, when Columbus arrived back to Spain, settlers complained about him and his brother, framing them for injustice actions and oppression towards them and the Natives. All these people that stood up against Columbus cost him his royal property as governor, his ships and houses. The royal officer of the King and Queen put Christopher Columbus into custody right after his return (Hale pp. 67-73).
During the time Columbus was in custody he wrote letters to the King and Queen stating that he had really found the mainland of Asia and he’s the reason for Spain’s increase in wealth. The King and Queen then responded by ordering him to be released from custody and sent him to court in Granada. They also gave him back some of his property as well as the permission for one last voyage. On May 11th, 1502 Columbus and his fleet of old ships made way towards the new world for one last expedition. Christopher Columbus’s last voyage was rough throughout. The fleet had was hit by strong storms and hurricanes, they landed in Panama where they decided to leave settlers behind to build a settlement, but they were all attacked by the natives of the area. Columbus and the crew managed to escape the attacks but lost major numbers of people. When sailing back they were hit by another storm that stranded them, they seeked help from the Natives that admiringly helped them giving them sustenance and shelter. The whole trip was a disaster for Columbus and the crew. They managed to get to Hispaniola with help from the natives and were able to get back home on November 7, 1504, which marked the end of Christopher Columbus’ journey. He died on May 20th, 1506 and left behind a legacy that has become controversial in our society today (Philips pp. 230-235) (Hale pp. 81-83).
The four voyages led by Christopher Columbus one of the most important marine explorers changed the course of European and later to be American history. His accidental discovery of the Americas brought centuries of marine exploration to Europe and neighboring countries it brought forward the Columbian exchange, friction between colonies and the death of huge populations of Natives. His discovery was overwhelmingly beneficial to Europe but had a negative impact on the natives in the Americas. Written accounts of Columbus himself state, In the name of the Holy Trinity, we can send from here all the slaves and brazil-wood which could be sold …. In Castille, Portugal, Aragon … and the Canary Islands they need many slaves (Mark and Tink pp. 41). Columbus had no good intentions after the discovery of the Americas which dooms the Natives and their native inhabitants but marked the beginning of New World explorations.
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