Christopher Columbus

“In 1400 and 92,
Columbus sailed
The ocean blue.

He sailed and sailed
And sailed and sailed
To find this land
For me and you!”

Did you learn that song in the second grade? Kids in the 1960s did. Of course, many people who learned that song in the 1960s sing it now to their own kids and grandkids.

No matter how many new generations are born, the story remains the same: On August 3, 1492, Christopher Columbus and his crew of 88 sailors set sail from Spain in three small ships, called caravels – the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. They were looking for a shortcut from Europe to the Indies, a series of islands in Asia.

They didn’t find that shortcut and they never made it to the Indies, either. They found America instead and called it the New World.

It took Christopher Columbus and his men ten long weeks of sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, seeing nothing but blue water and sky, before they finally sighted land on October 12. Their first stop in this strange, new world was in the Bahamas, a nation of islands in the Caribbean Sea just off the eastern coast of Florida.

Since they were expecting to land in the Indies, they called the people on the Caribbean island Indians. It was a mistake, of course, but nobody knew that yet. As they traveled from island to island, they found people everywhere and they called them all Indians. That’s why Native American tribal peoples are often called Indians even today.

The queen in Spain, Isabella, used her jewelry to get the money to buy the ships and supplies that Christopher Columbus and his men needed for their long voyage. When they returned to Europe to tell her of their discoveries, they brought her all kinds of new and exotic things they’d found in the Americas, including some of the people.

Along with some Indians, Columbus brought Queen Isabella parrots, sea turtles, and other animals never before seen in Europe. He brought new and delicious foods, too, including corn, sweet potatoes, pineapples, and chili peppers.

One very important find Columbus made in the Americas was gold, which helped Queen Isabella get her jewelry back. The discovery of gold added so much importance to Christopher Columbus’ voyage that Queen Isabella sent him back to the Americas, this time with 17 ships and 1,500 men. She also declared Columbus governor of the island he named Hispaniola, the first Spanish settlement in the New World.

Christopher Columbus’ New World covers most of the Western Hemisphere, including all of North America, Central America, and South America. If your long-ago ancestors lived here 1492, you can trace your family’s heritage to the Native American Indians. If your long-ago ancestors did not live in the Americas in 1492, it was Christopher Columbus’ historic journey across the Atlantic Ocean that helped your ancestors find their way to a new life in a whole new world.