Christopher Columbus (Cristóbal Colón) was probably born in the Italian seaport of Genoa.  He spent most of his life at sea and he became the first European to reach the New World – and then return – since the Viking explorer Leif Ericson in the 11th Century.

 In all, Columbus made four trans-Atlantic voyages: 

On August 3, 1492, Columbus with 90 men and 3 ships set sail into the unknown on the First Voyage (Aug. 3, 1492- March 15, 1493). They sailed in the Santa Maria, the Nina and the Pinta.  There was no need to send a fleet, because this was just a scouting expedition.  During this first voyage Columbus explored the Bahamas and Hispaniola (now Haiti and the Dominican Republic).

On the Second Voyage (Sept. 25, 1493-June 11, 1496), Columbus sailed with 17 ships and 1,200 to 1,500 men to find gold and capture people he called Indians as slaves. Columbus established a base in Hispaniola and explored the Lesser Antilles, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba and Jamaica.

On the Third Voyage (May 30, 1498-October 1500), Columbus sailed farther south, to what we know today as Trinidad and Venezuela (including the mouth of the Orinoco River).

On the Fourth Voyage (May 9, 1502-Nov. 7, 1504), Columbus was searching for the Strait of Malacca, a route into the Indian Ocean that cartographers declared must exist.  He sailed to the countries known today as Mexico, Honduras, Panama and Jamaica.

When Columbus arrived in Jamaica in 1494 he was 43 years old.  Most conquistadors were considered mature men for the time with an average age of 34.


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