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Columbus discovers a new world

Christopher Columbus discovered America in 1492 - without knowing it. He was actually looking for a new sea route to India. Even as a child, the Genoa-born son of a wool weaver was eager to learn and devoured reports on distant countries.

Columbus went down in world history as the discoverer of America. Still, he died poor and embittered.Source: © Everett Historical, Shutterstock

Like most scholars of his time, Columbus no longer believed that the earth was flat. If it was a bullet, he was convinced, one would also have to get to India on the western route. This route had to be shorter than the land routes to India and to the trading posts on the west coast of Africa that were known at the time.

For Spain on a voyage of discovery

Not interested in Columbus' plans, the King of Portugal turned to the Spanish court. The royal couple Ferdinand and Isabella appointed the seafarer admiral at his request and equipped him with all kinds of barter goods, three magnificent ships and a crew of 90 for his Atlantic crossing. The famous fleet set sail on September 6th.

According to his calculations, Asia had to be reached by mid-October. When his crew actually sighted land on October 11th, Columbus was overjoyed to have landed in India. Without knowing it, he had discovered a new world: America. He called the natives Indians because of his misjudgment, and he took possession of the Bahamas island he had found under the name of San Salvador for the Spanish crown.

Celebrated as a hero ...

Returning to Spain in 1493, Columbus was celebrated as a great hero. And that although he had brought neither gold nor spices from his first trip. Christopher Columbus was appointed viceroy of what was supposed to be India and immediately entrusted with further expeditions. The discovery of America later made Spain the richest country in Europe. Gold, silver, crops, spices, tobacco and sugar were brought across the Atlantic in large quantities. But that only happened after Columbus' death.

... and soon forgotten

The great navigator fell in favor of the Spanish nobility soon after his discovery. On the one hand because he did not find any treasures, on the other hand because he failed to keep insurgent Spanish settlers in the colonies in check. He was even brought back to Spain in chains and exchanged for a successor. He made one last trip, but returned to Europe bitter and sick in 1504. Columbus died in 1506, still believing that he had reached Asia - without knowing that he had discovered a new continent.

Incorrect measurement

Today we know that Columbus' error was based on an incorrect measurement by the geographers of the time. They underestimated the circumference of the earth and settled China and Japan roughly where the seafarer sighted land. At the time, the scientists had no inkling that an entire continent was blocking the way, nor that the Pacific Ocean was spreading beyond it.

You can find out more in WAS IST WAS Volume 5 Great Explorers. Your travels and adventures