On this day, 522 years ago, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus reaches an island in the Bahamas after sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. This week has been full of travel tales and wanderlust, so why don’t we cap it off with one of the iconic travels ever recorded in history?
On October 12, 1492, Italian explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus spots an island in The Bahamas after more than three months of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean. The goal of his journey was to find a western ocean route to Cathay (China), India, and the legendary gold and spice islands of Asia. Therefore, when he finally landed in the island which he called San Salvador, Columbus believed that he had reached East Asia. However, he actually landed in the Americas, which then came to be known as the New World.
During his time in the mid 1400s, Europeans did not know any direct route by sea to southern Asia. They would travel via the so-called “Silk Road” to reach China and India, where they could obtain precious goods like spices, silk, and opiates. However, the route became increasingly difficult and dangerous after Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
This eventually sparked an idea in the iconic explorer to come up with a plan to reach south and east Asia—collectively called the Indies—by sailing westward across the Atlantic Ocean.
Such an ambitious quest would need considerable funding, so Colombus presented his plans to several monarchs to obtain financial support—first to John II, King of Portugal, then to Henry VII of England, and finally, to Spanish monarchs Ferdinand II of Aragon and Isabella I of Castile. Ferdinand II, initially ignored his propositions, but eventually granted Columbus a portion of the funds. About half of the expedition’s funding came from private Italian investors.
It must be pretty obvious to us now why Columbus never reached Asia by sailing to the west. But, back then, aside from not yet knowing the existence of the Pacific Ocean, Columbus also underestimated the world’s size, and believed that East Asia must be somewhere in the area where North America is situated.
Even if he did not achieve his goal of establishing a western route to reach Asia, his quests paved the way for Europe’s expeditions to the New World. And the rest, as they say, is history.
If this article has, in any way, sparked your curiosity on Christopher Columbus and his expeditions, you might also want to check out some Ten Facts About Christopher Columbus that you probably don’t know yet (or don’t remember anymore)!
Do you have any epic journeys of your own to share with us? Wow and inspire us with your travel stories in brief with a comment below!