Christopher Columbus

Columbus was born in the Italian port of Genoa.Columbus was born in the Italian port of Genoa. In 1492 Christopher Columbus (1451–1506) sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean. His aim was to find a sea route to the rich lands of East Asia—the lands of spices and silks. These lands were known to Europeans as the Indies. When Columbus set foot on one of the Caribbean islands he was convinced that he had found the Indies. He called the local people that he met “Indians”. To this day, the Caribbean islands are sometimes called the West Indies. Columbus's four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean made Europeans aware of the existence of the Americas.

Columbus gets ready to set sailColumbus gets ready to set sail

Financing the expedition

By the late 15th century, most educated people agreed that the Earth was round. While other explorers attempted to reach Asia by sailing around Africa, the Genoese sailor Christopher Columbus believed that China and Japan could just as easily be reached by sailing west across the Atlantic Ocean as by taking the long and hazardous route eastwards.

Queen Isabella I of CastileQueen Isabella I of Castile
The Vikings had been the first Europeans to reach the Americas, in the 11th century—but their discovery had long been forgotten. No one in Europe knew of the existence of the Americas, and Columbus had no idea that his voyage westward would lead him to a new continent. 

Columbus initially asked King John II of Portugal to sponsor his expedition. However, the king thought that Columbus had miscalculated the size of the Atlantic Ocean, so he refused to give him money. Columbus then turned to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. They were impressed by his plan and agreed to finance his voyage. 

When Columbus set sail in August 1492, he had estimated that Japan should lie about 3000 Italian miles (3700 km, or 2300 miles) to the west, while in fact it lay 19,600 km (12,200 miles) to the west.

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