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In the News: Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus made the news in Scholastic News Editions 3, 4, 5/6 on October 10, 2005.
By Alexandra Cale

Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus taking possession of the new land.
(Photo: Library of Congress)
We all know the rhyme, "In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue." But who was Christopher Columbus and where was he sailing?

Columbus was an explorer who sailed across the Atlantic Ocean despite many challenges. He wanted to reach India and Southeast Asia to trade for silk and spices. He decided he could find a shorter route by sailing west, all the way around the globe, to get there.

In his time it was difficult to estimate the circumference, or the distance around something, of the earth. Although most people knew that the earth was round, they did not agree on one calculation for figuring out its circumference. This meant Columbus did not know how far he would have to sail to reach land.

Another obstacle Columbus faced was funding. He first turned to the Portuguese government for money. The Portuguese thought the distance was too long and would be impossible to travel.

After seven years of working for the Spanish government, Columbus finally convinced King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella to finance his trip. They probably did not expect him to return.

Columbus set off on his first voyage from Spain on August 3, 1492 with three ships: the NiƱa, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria. He reached land on October 12. Although John Cabot, not Columbus, was actually the first to reach the present-day United States, Columbus's trip was still very important. Most people throughout Europe knew about the new continent within 20 years after his return.

Columbus made three more trips to what became known as the New World. He brought back many new things, including gold, tobacco, pineapples, and turkey.

Unfortunately Columbus also brought things with him to the New World: European diseases that infected the native peoples he met. He also brought the first slaves back across the Atlantic to Europe. Columbus was a great explorer, but his legacy has been tainted by his treatment of native peoples.