Heller Kit-Christophe Colomb
Seafaring explorer born in Genoa (1451-1506). Apprenticed to his father the young Columbus soon became fascinated by cartography. He went to Lisbon, where his employers had a trading post, then took two Genoese ships to Ireland, and perhaps even to Iceland. Thus he found himself at the limits of the known world. On returning from his trip, he already began planning his great project. He married in 1479. On Porto Santo, an island near Madeira, he found clues proving the existence of land to the west, such as trunks of trees of varieties unknown in Europe, carried along by the current. His efforts to convince the Portuguese sovereign, Joâo II, came to naught. In 1486, Columbus appealed to the king of Portugal once again, and then Charles VIII, king of France, and Henry VII, king of England. After the fall of Grenada, he was named « Admiral of the Oceane Sea » and viceroy of all lands he might discover for the kings. He was also promised one tenth of all gold, precious stones and spices discovered. The expedition was planned with the Santa Clara (which became the Niña), the Pinta and a third, larger ship outfitted by Columbus himself, the Santa Maria, and a slow and heavy «nao». The ships were manned by Andalusian sailors. The fleet got under way before dawn on August 3, 1492, following confession by all. To take advantage of the trade winds, Columbus sailed toward the equator, calling in at the Canaries. The voyage went smoothly, but early in October, to reassure the crew which was growing impatient, he minimized his estimates of the distance covered each day. The historic landing took place on October 12, 1492, at the Lucaye Islands in the Bahamas, which Columbus named San Salvador. The natives who came to meet him were naked and unarmed. Columbus immediately planned to convert – as well as to enslave – them. He set sail for Europe on January 16 with the Niña and the Pinta, the Santa Maria having run aground and broken up off Haïti.