Christopher Columbus

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Genoese navigator in the service of Spain, credited with the discovery (1492) of America. Though the Vikings are believed to have previously landed (c1000) in North America, it was Columbus voyage that opened the great epoch of European exploration and colonization in the New World. Columbus became an experienced navigator while serving the Genoese and Portuguese, and his idea of sailing west to Asia was not new. It was not until 1492, however, that the Spanish monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella agreed to support his venture. He left Spain (Aug. 3, 1492) with three ships, (the Santa Maria, Nina and Pinta) and landed on the island of San Salvador in the Bahamas Oct. 12, just over two months later. Believing he had reached islands east of Japan, he briefly explored the Caribbean and then returned to Spain later in October. Three other voyages followed (1493, 1498, 1502), on which he discovered other Caribbean islands and reached the South American coast. Unable to adequately administer the Spanish colony in the New World he was removed as governor (1500), and died shortly after his disastrous fourth voyage (1502 04). Leif Ericson (Ericsson, Erikson, Eriksson) fl. 1000 was a norse explorer, son of Eric the Red. Raised among the Norse colonists in Greenland, he was converted to Christianity while visiting Norway. Sent back to Greenland to convert the colonists, he apparently went off course and landed somewhere in North America, which he called Vinland. He wintered there and then went on to Greenland. By another account, he first went to Greenland and then sailed westward on a voyage of discovery.

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