was looking for a SEA route to India and China because 40 years earlier
Muslim Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 cutting off the LAND routes.
A biography of Columbus was written by
A History of the Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus,
was filled imaginative dialogue, such as Europeans arguing that the Earth was flat.
was known for imaginative stories such as "Rip Van Winkle," "The Legend of Sleepy Hallow," Dutch tales of visits from St. Nick, and coining New York City's nickname "Gotham."
Europeans knew the Earth was round from as far back as
in the 4th century BC.
In the 3rd century BC,
computed the circumference of the Earth with geometry and measurements of shadows cast by tall objects in Alexandria and Aswan.
In the 1st century BC,
used stellar observations at Alexandria and Rhodes to confirm Eratosthenese's measurements.
In the 2nd century AD, astronomer
had written a
Guide to Geography
, in which he described a spherical earth with one ocean connecting Europe and Asia.
St. Isidore of Seville
, Spain, wrote in the 7th century that the earth was round.
Around the year 723 AD,
Saint Bede the Venerable
wrote in his work "Reckoning of Time" that the Earth was spherical.
The Book of Isaiah
40:22 states: "It is He that sitteth upon the
of the earth." (Douay-Rheims Bible)
Columbus knew the Earth was round, but
the question was, how far around
The confusion was over the length of a mile.
Columbus read Cardinal Pierre d'Ailly's "Imago Mundi," which gave
estimate that a degree of latitude (at the equator) was around 56.7 miles.
did not realize was that this was expressed in longer
rather than in
incorrectly estimated the Earth to be smaller in circumference, about
, rather than the actual nearly
Columbus knew there was land to the west, as he had heard stories of Irish monk
sailing in 530 AD to "The Land of the Promised Saints which God will give us on the last day."
He knew of the Christian Viking
voyage in the year 1000 to Vinland.
Columbus read of
s travels to China and India in 1271.
"Natural History," Sir John Mandeville, and Pope Pius II's "Historia Rerum Ubique Gestarum."
Columbus may have possibly seen maps, rumored to have been in Portugal's royal archives, from
China's treasure fleets
which were sent out in 1421 by
Ming Emperor Zhu Di
, led by Admiral Zheng He.
Columbus corresponded with Florentine physician
Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli
, who suggested China was just 5,000 miles west of Portugal.
Based on this, Columbus estimated that Japan, or as Marco Polo called it "Cipangu," was only 3,000 Roman miles west of the Canary Islands, rather than the actual 12,200 miles.
Since no ship at that time could carry enough food and water for such a long voyage, Columbus would have never set sail if he had known the actual distance.
Get the book America's God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations
As a young man, Columbus began sailing on a trip to a Genoese colony in the Aegean Sea named
In 1476, he sailed on an armed convoy from Genoa to northern Europe, docking in Bristol, England, and Galway, Ireland, and even possibly Iceland in 1477.
When Muslim Turks conquered Constantinople in 1453 and hindered land trade routes from Europe to India and China, Portugal, which had been freed from Muslim domination for two centuries, began to
search for alternative sea routes
Prince Henry the Navigator,
led the world in the science of navigation and cartography (map-making), and developed a light ship that could travel fast and far, the "caravel."
Portugal's Golden Age of Discovery under King John II
, Columbus sailed along the west coast of Africa between 1482-1485, reaching the Portuguese trading port of Elmina on the coast of Guinea.
In 1498, Portuguese sailor
Vasco de Gama
did make it around South Africa to India.
But six years before that, in 1492, the
Catholic Monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella
finished driving the Muslims out of Spain and wanted to join the quest for a sea trade route to the India.
They backed Columbus' plan.
Though Columbus was wrong about the miles and degrees of longitude, he did understand trade winds across the Atlantic.
On August 3, 1492, Columbus set sail on the longest voyage to that date out of the sight of land.
Trade winds called "easterlies" pushed Columbus' ships for five weeks to the Bahamas.
On OCTOBER 12, 1492, Columbus sighted what he thought was India.
He imagined Haiti was Japan and Cuba was the tip of China.
Naming the first island "San Salvador" for the
, Columbus wrote of the inhabitants:
"So that they might be well-disposed towards us, for I knew that they were a people to be. ..converted to our Holy Faith rather by love than by force, I gave to some red caps and to others glass beads...
They became so entirely our friends that...I believe that they would easily be made Christians."