The year 1492 was bound to become a memorable year in the history of Spain. On January 2nd the city of Grenada, last rampart of the Moors in Europe, was destroyed by the army of King Ferdinando. On October 12th of the same year Christopher Columbus, at the service of Spain, set the Spanish flag on an island of a completely unknown world to Europe.
That deed opened an era when Spain took the leadership in maritime exploration and become the ruler of the richest empire Europe had ever known. It is important to point out that this extraordinary adventure was not due to the courageous initiative of the Spanish Crown, but to the strong perseverance of a foreign man, a commoner, haunted by the conviction that the Atlantic Ocean was but a sea narrow enough to be cross in a few days by boat.
Christopher Columbus had been thinking about his project for 15 years and then spent 8 years looking for someone who could accept it. First of all he addressed his project to Portugal, who paid no attention to it. Neither did England and France, still engaged in old quarrels. On the contrary Spanish Kings were ready to undertake new enterprises and they permitted Columbus to undertake his epic journey across the Atlantic Ocean.
The report of his adventure lives through two documents of the time: one is the ship’s log-book and the other is the touching biography of Christopher Columbus, written by his son Ferdinando. Preparations for leaving started in May in Palos, the city of Pinzon and Nino. In fact these two families supplied the enterprise with the two famous caravels: the Pinta and Nina. The third caravel was chartered by Juan de La Cosa, a Galician who found himself in port during preparations.
Columbus took the command of his small fleet and at the dawn of August 3rd weighed anchor, leaving South towards the Canary Islands. Navigation was not at all easy: ‘Here people cannot stand it any more and complain over the length of the journey’ noted Las Casas. The fleet had been at sea for 34 days and was still sailing hopelessly, towards an unknown destination. ‘If the Captain wont decide to sail back home, we’ll throw him into the sea and, once back in Spain, we’ll tell everybody that he fell overboard accidentally. Nobody will argue with that’, wrote Ferdinando.
Around 10pm on October 11th Columbus noticed a dim light. Nothing was told to the sailors and they didn’t notice anything. Four hours passed. Then around 2am a sailor on the Pinta perceived the coat of an island, lit by the moon. Columbus was right! After 36 days at sea and a voyage of 2400 mile, he landed exactly as he had promised. Even so he had not reached the Indies. Columbus arrived at Watlings Islands in the Bahamas.
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