Christopher Columbus Facts

  • Christopher Columbus was born in Genoa, Italy in 1451. He loved the sea. He became a sailor when he was fifteen years old.

  • After many years and many travels, Columbus became an excellent sea captain. [He had many maps that showed that the earth was round. The maps showed that it was possible to sail west to get to the East.]

  • Columbus's maps showed that Japan was across the Atlantic Ocean, 2,700 miles away. Columbus did not know that his maps were wrong. Japan is really 12,200 miles to the west! And North and South America are in the way.

  • Columbus asked King Henry of Portugal for ships and sailors to discover the way to China and Japan. King Henry said no.

  • Then Columbus went to Spain and asked Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand. There was a war in Spain. "Wait until the war is over," Queen Isabella said.

  • Columbus had to wait many years. The war was over, at last, in 1492. Then Queen Isabella said yes.

  • The city of Palos gave Columbus three ships: the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. Queen Isabella gave Columbus money and ninety sailors.

  • The three little ships sailed from Palos on August 3. First they stopped at the Canary Islands for more food and water. They left the Canaries on September 6.

  • The weather was good and the trip was easy. Columbus promised the sailors that they would all become rich. At first the sailors were excited. But day after day passed and they did not see land. The sailors became afraid.

  • After four weeks the sailors wanted to go back. They thought they would die if they didn't turn around.

  • Columbus said, "If we don't find land in three days, we will go back." He offered a prize to the first man to see land. Two times someone shouted, "Land!" but it was a mistake.

  • At last, they saw some birds. They followed the birds. On the thirty-fifth day, two hours after midnight, a sailor on the Pinta shouted "Land!" He could see land by the light of the moon.

  • That morning, October 12, all the men went ashore. They were very happy to be on land. They kissed the sand on the beach.

  • The people who lived on the island were the Arawak. They called their island Guahanal.

  • The Arawaks came to see the large ships and the sailors. They were amazed at the sailors' strange clothes. They were amazed at the beards on the sailors' faces.

  • The Arawaks thought the ships and the men had sailed down from the sky. They brought the sailors presents, food, and parrots.

  • Columbus and his men gave presents to the Arawaks, too. He tried to ask them if this island was part of Japan. "They could only use sign language. Columbus thought that he was in the Indies. He called the people Indians.

  • Columbus named the island San Salvador. He claimed San Salvador for the King and Queen of Spain. He did not ask the Arawaks if they would like to belong to Spain.

  • Columbus sailed to other islands. He left forty sailors on the island of Hispaniola. He returned home to Spain with just two ships. He took home many things to show Queen Isabella. He brought parrots, pearls, gold, and six "Indians."

  • When the two little ships returned, the people in Spain were very, very excited. As the ships came into the port of Palos, cannons thundered, church bells clanged, and people cheered.

  • Queen Isabella made Columbus the ruler of the lands he discovered. She was very happy with his discoveries.

  • Many sailors wanted to go with Columbus on his next trip. They thought they would find gold and become rich. The next year Columbus sailed again. This time he had seventeen ships and fifteen hundred men.

  • He sailed to other islands, and to Honduras, the coast of Florida, Venezuela, and Panama.

  • The men who went with him did not find a lot of gold. They were disappointed. Some of them said Columbus was a cruel leader. They sent him to jail in Spain.

  • Isabella freed Columbus, and he went back to Hispaniola. He lived there for ten years. He was rich, but be was not healthy. He went back to Spain where he died in 1506.

  • Americans remember Columbus in many ways. Places are named for him, such as the District of Columbia; Columbus, Ohio; and Columbia, South Carolina. Columbia is a nickname for the United States in several songs. Columbia University is named for Columbus. Hundreds of schools are named for him. There is a famous statue of Columbus at Columbus Circle in New York.

  • Americans celebrate Columbus Day with parades, parties, and good times. The year 1992 was the five hundredth anniversary of Columbus's discovery of America.

  • Excerpted from ESL Teacher's Holiday Activities Kit.

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