What Happened in 1492?

The year 1492 is when Christopher Columbus set sail on his first voyage from Spain and discovered the Americas. He left in early August 1492 and reached an island in the Bahamas in October of the same year.

Near the close of the 15th century, the only way for Europeans to reach the Far East for trading was to sail around the Cape of Good Hope in Africa, which was a very arduous and time-consuming voyage. Columbus's theory was that it would be much easier and quicker to sail westward. For years he tried to convince the monarchs of Portugal and Spain to finance an expedition. Finally, after winning their war with the Muslims and expelling them from Spain in January of 1492, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella granted his request.

On Aug. 3, 1492, Columbus sailed to the Canary Islands aboard the Santa Maria, accompanied by the Pinta and the Nina. After resupplying, they continued on across the Atlantic. Five weeks later, they sighted land. Believing he had reached Asia, Columbus went ashore and named the island San Salvador. Because he found no riches, he continued sailing, discovering Cuba and Hispaniola, the islands now known as Haiti and the Dominican Republic. After leaving 40 men at a fort he established on Hispaniola, Columbus voyaged back to Spain. He arrived in March 1493, still fully convinced he had reached Asia.