The figure of Christopher Columbus is known as a European sailor who discovered the Americas in his search for the New World. The term New World refers to the lands in India, China, and South Asia that Columbus and the Europeans at that time believed were sources of abundant spices and gold.
Columbus’ voyage in search of the New World began on August 3, 1492, financed by the rulers of Spain, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella. The expedition consisted of 3 small ships, the Santa Maria; Ask; and Nina.
On October 12, he discovered land, namely Watling Island in the Bahamas, Caribbean Islands, which he thought was part of Asia. Then he also saw Cuba which he thought was mainland China, and in December 1492, he landed in Hispaniola – now Haiti and the Dominican Republic, which he thought was Japan.
Christopher Columbus. Photo: Doc. Wikimedia Commons.
So, Columbus got lost on the American continent which he thought was the mainland of Asia, the destination of his voyage. This was because at that time the Europeans were not familiar with direct sea routes to south Asia, and routes through Egypt and the Red Sea were closed to Europeans by the Ottoman Empire, as were many land routes.
Meanwhile, Europeans did not know of the Pacific Ocean, so they thought that the Asian Continent was located right where the Americas were.
After establishing Spanish colonies in these areas, the sailor who was born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451 returned to Europe with gold, spices, and Indian captives – who were actually natives of the Americas, later called the Indians– in March 1493. He received an award from the Kingdom of Spain and the title Admiral of the Ocean Sea.
Illustration of Columbus landing on a Caribbean island in the 1893 painting “The Landing of Columbus” by Albert Bierstadt. Photo: Doc. Wikimedia Commons.
But actually Columbus was not the first person to land on the American continent. According to the washingtonpost report , Columbus never landed in North America from his first voyage in 1492 to his last in 1502, and only explored the coasts of Central and South America.
Until his death on May 20, 1506, Columbus also claimed to have landed in Asia, and did not know he had explored parts of Central and South America.
Explored by the Vikings
Illustration of Leif Eriksson setting foot in North America in Hans Dahl’s painting “Leif Erikson Discovers America”. Photo: Doc. Wikimedia Commons.
Nearly 500 years before the birth of Columbus, a group of European sailors from the Vikings had already explored the Atlantic Ocean on their legendary ships and set foot in North America. The Norsemen explorers, led by Leif Eriksson, explored the mainland of Greenland and Canada in 1000 AD.
Eriksson, who was born in Iceland around 970 AD, was the son of Erik the Red, a Viking explorer who had founded a colony in Greenland in 985 AD. His landings in North America were made by accident while returning to Iceland after his voyage from Norway.
According to the Saga of Erik the Red, the Vikings discovered a rocky and barren land in Canada that is now Baffin Island. They then sailed south to a location they called Markland (Forest) – modern Labrador, and eventually established a colony on the northern tip of the island of Newfoundland.
Map of Viking voyages and settlements. Light green is the main settlement, including Vinland (1000 AD) and Greenland (982 AD). Photo: Doc. Wikimedia Commons.
After exploring what they call Vinland or Wineland – a coastal region in North America with grasslands and wild vines, Eriksson and his crew sailed to Windland in Greenland and settled there.
Archaeologists have found historical evidence that supports the story of the Norwegian expedition to North America. In 1960, Norwegian explorer Helge Ingstad explored the coasts of Labrador and Newfoundland and discovered the remains of Viking settlements at L’Anse aux Meadows, in the northern tip of Newfoundland.
Ingstad’s wife, Anne, who was part of a team of archaeologists unearthed artifacts of Viking origin dating from around 1000 AD at L’Anse aux Meadows, and the remains of this Norse village in North America are now part of a UNESCO World Heritage site.