On this day in 1493 explorer Christopher Columbus set sail for Spain at the end of his first voyage to the New World.
Just over a month before Columbus had arrived at the northern coast of Hispaniola, the island known today as Haiti and the Dominican Republic.
On Christmas Day 1492 his ship the Santa María ran aground. With the help of islanders materials from the ship were salvaged and used to build a settlement.
Mistakenly believing his voyage had reached Asia, Columbus set sail back for Spain with his two remaining ships while a group of his men stayed behind to occupy the settlement. Columbus returned to Hispaniola later in 1493 on his second voyage.
To mark his departure back home here are a few weird and interesting facts you may not know:
- Christopher Columbus was not his real name. He was actually named Cristoforo Colombo when he was born in Genoa, Italy.
- Those ships we've learned to identify as the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria were actually called Santa Clara, Pinta and La Gallega. The crew called La Gallega Marigalante (dirty Mary). Columbus rechristened her Santa Maria.
- Santa Maria was one of nine ships sunk under Columbus' management.
- During a 1502 voyage to Central America, Columbus tricked natives by convincing them he'd taken away the moon as a punishment for refusing to trade with him. He had merely consulted an almanac and observed that a lunar eclipse was imminent. Scared natives agreed to trade with him when the eclipse occurred.
- Even though his accomplishments were great, he was seen as crazy during his life and even spent time in chains.
- Columbus believed he was guided by the Holy Spirit toward a great destiny. At the age of 25 Columbus had survived a shipwreck and six-mile swim. He told his son Ferdinand that this was evidence that he was a man of destiny, that God had a plan for him.
- Some historians claim Columbus was a Portuguese double agent working for King John II, whose objective was to distract Spain from his monopoly of African gold trade and the soon-to-be-opened sea route around Africa to India.
- He is believed to have been an opium addict.
- No painter ever captured Columbus on canvas. Paintings depicting Columbus are works of fiction.
- Two cities – Seville in Spain and Santo Domingo, capital of the Dominican Republic – claim to be home to Columbus’ remains, each housing what could be his bones in a mausoleum.