1. Christopher Columbus wasn’t his name and he wasn’t Spanish. His actual name is Christof Colombo or Cologne.
2. The world didn’t believe the earth was flat. In fact by 1492 everyone had already known the earth was round for 1700 years. In 240 BC Greek mathematician Arotothanese proved it by using sticks stuck into the ground and measuring the shadows they produced based on light from the sun.
3. The “Columbus was an underdog who was out to prove to the whole world they were wrong about the earth being flat” was a fiction created by American author Washington Irving in the late 1800s in a biography he wrote about Columbus to “make the story more exciting.
4. Columbus’ original intention was to get to Asia. He was horrible at math but kept it secret, being an explorer and all; he falsely believed he could get there by sailing west because he was using Italian math rather than the more accurate (at the time) Arabic math. He calculated that the earth’s circumference was 15,000 miles, when in fact it is more like 25,000 miles.
5. He miscalculated the distance of the Atlantic Ocean believing it to be 2500 miles across when in reality it is actually 10,000 miles.
6. Without the Americas being where they were the ships’ entire crew would have long starved to death had they actually sailed to Asia.
7. Queen Isabella of Spain did not approve of Columbus’ scheme as is repeated in the common theme. She didn’t actually believe he was accurate in his measurements. It was her husband King Ferdinand who finally caved and funded the voyage. The Queen Isabella just sounded more romantic through the years and was added hundreds of years later.
8. Spain did not have the money themselves. They actually had to borrow the money from wealthier citizens of the royal court.
9. On the voyage Columbus kept two log books the whole time. In one he charted the actual number of nautical miles they were sailing but kept it private. In the other he shortened those numbers by half each day because he knew that his crew would commit mutiny if they knew how far off his calculations were.
10. The Santa Maria was in fact the name of one of the ships. The Nina was not. That one was owned by a man named Juanino De Santo Clara. Over the years it’s been shortened to The Niño. And then eventually just The Niña. The Pinta we still don’t know the actual name of that ship. But the word in spanish means “the painted one” which was a euphemism for “prostitute” in that period. The word sounded appropriate to the crew and as the history was told and retold over the centuries this little known fact was deliberately left out to clean the story up.
11. Columbus was not the first man on board to spot land as is reported. That honor goes to one of the crew members named Rodrigo Deltriana. Columbus didn’t give Deltriana the credit because he wanted the reward.
12. Columbus was not the first European to set foot on North America. He never actually even set foot on North America. Ever. The closest he came was some islands in the Caribbean and the northern coast of Central America.
13. Leif Erickson and his crew of Vikings were actually the first Europeans to set foot on North America 500 years earlier in Newfoundland.
14. We have no clue where Columbus actually landed still to this day. It is believed it is “somewhere on one of the islands in the Bahamas”.
15. Columbus refused to believe he hadn’t found Asia. Because of the indigenous peoples he encountered on his little island he decided he’d landed in India. Which is why still to this day Native Americans are mistakenly called Indians.
16. Upon his return to Europe Columbus unfortunately was unable to report that he had discovered any treasures for his his eager bankers and investors. A small bag of gold is disputed. But we know for sure that he brought back a hammock, a turkey, a pineapple and some tobacco.
The one fact that is not disputed is that Christopher Columbus’s voyage did start a cavalcade of future voyages by Europeans to the Americas where at the time there were 50 to 100 million Native Americans living. There are only 2 million now. These voyages are also responsible for starting the North African slave trade to help work the land and mine it for its natural resources and of course to build what would eventually be called the Colonies.