99. Prince Henry, the Navigator, Seeks an All-Water Route to India. We have said that the Turks broke up the old Italian trade routes to India. Prince Henry of Portugal determined to find an all-water route to the Far East. He first opened a sort of school for sea captains and sailors, and here gathered many wise teachers of geography and of subjects bearing on the sea and the art of sailing ships. He gave his work a practical turn. by sending sea captains down the west coast of Africa to find out about an all-water route to India. There had been stories, of the long ago, about men who had sailed around Africa, and into the Indian Ocean. Prince Henry was now determined to have his men find out if these stories were true.

At last, after several trials, a great captain returned with the news that his vessel had succeeded in passing one of the most dangerous capes of that coast. Prince Henry rewarded him and urged his other great sea captains to push farther on. Other attempts carried the brave sailors around to the Gulf of Guinea, but they were dismayed at finding that the coast of Africa again turned southward. This seemed to prove what some geographers taught, that Africa extended so far south no man could sail around it, Stories of the "gold coast" aroused their (see map) greed, however, and finally Bartholomeu Dias rounded the Cape of Good Hope and looked out upon the Indian Ocean (1486). The old stories of men sailing around Africa were true, but Prince Henry had been long in his grave before they were proved.

Vasco da Gama, a wise and brave sailor, set out from Portugal (1497) and reached the long-sought India by an all-water route around the Cape of Good Hope. Portugal was happy, but the way to the Far East was far longer than any one had imagined. 100. Christopher Columbus, Seeking India, Finds America. Already another man, Columbus, had thought he could find India and the East by a shorter way. He sailed to the westward to test his plan. The land he discovered was America, but he returned fully convinced that he had reached the land of his dreams.

Da Gama’s voyage to India was indeed a great event, but the dikovery of America proved far greater. The Atlantic rose in importance above the Mediterranean. The eyes of all Europe gradually turned westward. The rich cities of Italy fell into decay, while the great ports on the Atlantic began a growth which has never ceased. The sailors of Genoa and Venice were already leaving for Portugal and Spain.

We have already learned about the wonderful work of Genoa in the Crusades and in the wars with Venice. Now we see this old city as the birthplace of Christopher Columbus. He spent his boyhood in this old town of ships and sailors. Every day, as the boys played along the wharves, they listened to wonderful tales of adventure such as only the sailors of that old time could tell Columbus was eager to go to sea. As he was growing to manhood a kinsman often took him on the Mediterranean, where they had to face storms and sea robbers.

We have also seen how the breaking up of the trade routes to the East sent sailors flocking to Portugal and Spain, where great events were taking place. Bartholomew, a brother of Columbus, was already living in Lisbon, whence he went on the great voyage with Dias around the Cape of Good Hope.

Columbus, too, hastened to Lisbon, and soon was in the midst of great happenings. Prince Henry, though long dead, had so aroused Portugal that she was doing her best to uncover the ancient route to India.

Columbus had figured out that tife world is round and that he could find India or Japan by sailing directly westward. From all the charts, maps, and books of travel he could obtain he reached the conclusion that the East Indies were where the West Indies really are. The blunder in geography proved useful. For what king would have granted aid to sail twelve thousand miles, even though Columbus had wanted to go?

101. Columbus Seeks Aid. Tradition tells us that, still loving the land of his birth, Columbus gave Genoa the first opportunity to be the discoverer of America, but she refused. Then, armed with all the proof he could gather, he put his plans before the King of Portugal, only to have them rejected.

He now made his way to Spain, where he hoped for better treatment. But Spain was busy fighting the Moors— Mohammedans who had come from Africa. Spain’s king and queen did indeed give him a hearing before their wise men: some were for him and some were against what they called the wild scheme of a madman. Columbus had to wait many years. He grew tired. His money was almost gone, and his clothes were shabby. He was a man of noble bearing, but the boys on the street tapped their heads when he passed by, as if to say, "He is a bit crazy."

He resolved to go to France. On his way, near the harbor of Palos, he stopped at a convent to ask food and drink for his little son Diego. The old prior, the head of the convent, was struck by his dignified and noble appearance. He asked questions, and the answers of Columbus led him to send for Pinzon, a great sea captain, and others from the port of Pos. There in the room of that little convent was told to eager ears the tale of Columbus’ ambition, of the proofs he had gathered, and of the misfortunes he had met.

No time was to be lost. The prior hastened to Queen Isabella and begged her, for her own sake and for the glory of Spain, not to allow Columbus to depart. She sent for him, and entered into an agreement by which she pledged hef jewels, it is said, to the great work of discovery. Columbus was happy in the opportunity he now had to prove his point. He had waited and worked nearly twenty years for it.

102. The Discovery of America. It was a sad time in the old town of Palos when the queen commanded its sailors to go with Columbus where man had never sailed before. Three vessels and ninety sailors set out on August 3, 1492. The Santa Maria, the largest ship, was ninety feet long by twenty broad. On this ship Columbus raised his banner as admiral. The Pinta was smaller, a faster sailer, and commanded by that great sea captain, Pinzon. The Niña called "the baby" from its name, was the smallest and was intended for use in shallow waters, for running near the shore or up narrow rivers.

They sailed directly southwest to the Canary Islands. After repairs they plunged westward into an unknown sea. As the Canaries faded from sight many of the sailors broke down and cried. They never expected to see

Spain again. The imaginary terrors of the deep were too much for them. The trade winds caught them up, and wafted them along. "How shall we ever get back?" the men cried. Then came vast fields of seaweed, often stretching out farther than they could see. They feared sunken rocks, or that they might run aground. Even that faithful friend, the compass, began to vary from its first position.

Finally they plotted to throw Columbus overboard, but be quieted their fears by pointing out the signs of land— the green branches they had seen upon the water, and the flocks of birds which now and then came flying by.

One beautiful evening, after the sailors had sung their vesper hymn, Columbus made a speech, pointing out bow God had favored them with clear skies and gentle winds, and telling them that they were so near

land the ships must not sail any more after midnight.

That very night, far across the darkening waters, a light was seen to rise and fall, as if carried on land. In a few hours the Pinta fired a joyful gun telling that land

had been found. All was excitement on board, and not an eye was closed that night. Overcome with excitement, some of the sailors threw their arms around Columbus’ neck and cried for very joy. Others fell upon their knees and begged pardon, and promised faithful obedience to his every wish.

On Friday morning, October 12, 1492, Columbus landed on the shores of the New World—on an island of the Bahama group, He was dressed in a robe of bright red and carried the royal flag of Spain. Around him were gatheied his officers and sailors, dressed in their best clothes and carrying flags, banners, and crosses. They fell upon their knees and kissed the earth, and with tears of joy streaming down their cheeks they gave thanks.

Columbus drew his sword and after the manner of that age declared the land belonged to Spain.

The natives, frightened by the strange scene, were looking on from behind bush and tree. They imagined that the ships had come up out of the sea or down from the sky, and that Columbus and his men were gods. Columbus was almost as much mistaken as were the natives. He believed the people were "Indians," that is, people of India, and it was many years before the Europeans knew better.

Columbus and his men were deeply disappointed, for instead of rich people wearing all sorts of fine clothes and ornaments of gold and silver, they saw only half-naked savages, with painted faces, living in rude huts.

After a few days of exploration Columbus came upon Cuba, the largest island he had seen. He thought this was surely Japan. His ship was wrecked, and the Pinta had gone he knew not where.

103. The Return to Spain. Collecting gold and silver articles, plants and birds, animals and Indians, Columbus began his voyage home, January 4, 1493. After terrific storms he reached Palos in the spring, when nature is at its best in southern Spain.

The joy in that old seaport! The people, who had given them up as lost, now ran shouting through the streets. The king and queen sent for Columbus. What a journey! The villages and country roads swarmed with people anxious to get sight of the wonderful man and of the products he had brought. The Indians were the center of all eyes.

Columbus entered the city a hero. The very housetops, to say nothing of the streets and windows, were crowded with happy people. He went directly to the court of Isabella. As the king and queen arose, Columbus fell upon his knees and kissed their hands. When he had finished telling his story, the people, shouting, followed him to home. How like a dream it all appeared to the man, who, only a year before, was begging bread from those very people! (See map)

104.0ther Voyages to America. All Spain was eager for a second voyage. Now every port was anxious to furnish ships and sailors. Fifteen hundred people sailed in seventeen fine ships to search out the rich cities of their imagination (1493). After four years of disappointment, they returned to Spain. They had not found the riches of India.

On his third voyage Columbus sailed along the northern shores of South America, but did not know he had found a continent. When he reached the West Indies an officer sent from Spain put him in chains and sent him back, broken-hearted. Isabella set him free and started him on his last voyage to America (1502). He met with shipwreck and returned, deeply disappointed that he had not reached the Indies with their fabled wealth. He died soon after this, never thinking that America lay between him and his dreams. Spain was so busy with exploration that she took little note of the passing of this great man, and it remained for America to do fitting honor to his memory in the great Columbian Exposition held in Chicago (1893).

105. Voyages of the Northmen. Columbus never knew that he had discovered a new continent. Had he known it, he probably would not have realized that it was a part of the same continent that had been discovered many years before (1000) by some of the bold sea-rovers from the North. In our study of England we have already learned about these hardy Danes and Norwegians, who were called Vikings. Some of the boldest of the Vikings settled in the snow-clad island of Iceland. One of them, named Eric the Red, sailed farther away to the still colder island which we now know as Greenland. Later, many Northmen went to that new land. Finally Leif Ericson, son of Eric the Red, and some companions sailed around to the south and discovered the coast of North America. He was afterward called "Leif the Lucky." The exact place where the Nortiimen settled for a time is not known, but it is supposed to be somewhere in New England. They were so delighted with the new land, where beautiful flowers grew and birds sang gayly among the trees, that they would gladly have made it their home. Finding vines with grapes, they called the new land Vinland. But there was one great obstacle to making it a permanent abode. Brave as they were in venturing out into an unknown sea, they were no match for the savage Indians in a land fight. For eight or ten years the Vikings continued their voyages to the new land, but the growing hostility of the Indians led them to abandon it. They sailed away never to return.


The Leading Facts. 1. The famous old "school" of navigation established by Prince Henry. 2. News from the Gulf of Guinea and from the "gold coast." 3. The voyages of Dias and Da Gama. 4. Columbus’ dream and its consequences. 5. Genoa, and the boyhood of Columbus. 6. Columbus goes to Portugal and then to Spain. 7. Visits Palos on his way to France. 8. The queen’s pledge, and the preparations for the voyage. p. The first voyage, and its events. 10. What the Indians thought, and what Columbus thought. 11. Columbus’ reception at Palos and at the court. 12. His treatment by Spaniards, and his death. 13. The Northmen discover a new world but make no use of it.

Study Questions. 1. What caused Prince Henry to start his "school," and what was his purpose? 2. What was Columbus’ dream? 3. Prove that Genoa was a good place for a sailor to be born. 4. What causes sent Columbus to Portugal? to Spain? 5. Why was the convent near Palos a good place for Columbus to stop? 6. What were the motives leading Columbus to make his voyage? 7. Tell the imagined feelings of Columbus and his men when landing. 8. Why was Columbus disappointed? p. What effect did his discovery have in Spain? in the rest of Europe? io. What did he not know when he died? 11. Who were the first to discover America? 12. What name was given to the new land? 13. Why were Marco Polo’s travels of more importance than those of the Vikings?

Suggested Readings. Beazley, Prince Henry the Navigator. COLUMBUS: Hart, Colonial Children, 4-6; Wright, Children’s Stories in American History, 38-60; Higginson, Young Folks’ Book of American Explorers, 19-52; Brooks, The True Story of Christopher Columbus, 1-103, 112-172. THE NORTHMEN: Glascock, Stories of Columbia, 7-9; Higginson, Young Folks’ Book of American Explorers, 3-15.

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© 2001 by Lynn Waterman