Happy Columbus Day by Jesse Bluma

Happy Christopher Columbus Day

Celebrate the spirit of exploration and discovery.
Columbus Day is celebrated in America on the second Monday of October.

"This photo shows replicas of the ships Christopher Columbus used to sail to the Americas in 1492.

An interest in discovery and exploration grew in Europe in the 1400s. Improvements in navigational tools, cartography, and shipbuilding allowed European sailors to go farther than they ever had before.

Why did people set off to explore the world in the fifteenth century? First, they wanted Asian spices. Italy and Egypt controlled the trade routes to Asia, charging very high prices for spices. In fact, pepper cost more than gold. Many countries wanted to find a route to Asia so they could get spices without having to buy from Italian or Egyptian traders.
 Religion gave explorers another reason to set sail. European Christians wanted to convert more people to their religion to counteract the spread of Islam in Europe, Africa, and Asia.
     Simple curiosity was also an important motivation for exploration. Many people read stories of Marco Polo’s travels and other explorers’ adventures. They learned about new lands and creatures, and they became curious about the world.
Imagination, daring, and a few mistakes enabled Portuguese and Spanish sailors to discover the Americas. They thought these lands were a “new world.”

     An Italian sailor thought he could reach Asia by sailing west across the Atlantic. That sailor, Christopher Columbus, told his idea to the Spanish monarchs, Ferdinand and Isabella. He promised them great riches, new territory, and Catholic converts. It took Columbus several years to convince the king and queen, Isabella eventually agreed to pay for his journey.

    In August 1492 Columbus set sail with 88 men and three small ships, the Niña, the Pinta, and the Santa María. On October 12, 1492, he and his tired crew landed on a small island in the Bahamas." 

Amerigo Vespucci worked for the Medici family bank, was a cartographer and explorer.  In 1499 he sailed from Spain to become the first European to see Brazil. North America, Central America, and South America were named after Amerigo.  Christopher Columbus remarked "It has always been his wish to please me; he is a man of good will; fortune has been unkind to him as to others; his labors have not brought him the rewards he in justice should have."  

"One of the famous lines written by the songwriter Ira Gershwin is 'They all laughed at Christopher Columbus when he said the world was round.' You can call that poetic license for a musical comedy,  it's important to know that that line is a lie, and it's unfortunate that it appears in many school textbooks. Christopher Columbus and his contemporaries knew very well that the earth was round. Medieval science had been built on the precise studies of Greek scholars, and every educated person of Columbus's time knew that the earth is round. Not only had the ancient Greeks discovered that the earth is round, the philosopher Eratostenes accurately calculated the earth's circumference in the third century before Christ. Medieval scholars debated such details as the earth's size and how big are the oceans, no serious scholar believed the earth to be flat. The great medieval religious scholars, such as the Venerable Bede, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas, added to the Greeks' knowledge with their own calculations."

Columbus Day Resources

One of the largest maritime museums in the world

Were the first Americans European?  

The Christopher Columbus Awards is a national, community-based science, technology, engineering and math program for middle school students.

Columbus quiz

San Francisco's Italian Heritage Parade

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credits:  hrw.com, http://www.marinersmuseum.org/, http://www.eagleforum.org/

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