Christopher Columbus Day is celebrated this year on October 11th, so now is the perfect time to freshen up the facts you forgot from high school. Actually, scratch that, those were boring and dull. We brought you the little-known facts, the spicy details, and the interesting anecdotes from America's discoverer's life. What was his real name? When did he start traveling? Where did he land when he reached America, and how did the moon save his life? Read on.
1. His Life Was a Mystery
For such a well-known historical figure, there sure are many confusions about something as trivial as the man's name. He went by many names: Christoual, Christovam, Christofferus de Colombo, and even Xpoual de Colón. One theory even suggests he adopted his name from a pirate named Colombo! All this confusion makes sense when you take into consideration the fact that he left home and started traveling the world as early as he was 10 years old. His place of birth is Genoa, which is a part of today's Italy, but there are also theories that he originated in Spain (he wrote in Spanish and was sponsored by Spanish monarchs) or even in Poland or Greece.
2. He Never Set Foot in the USA
According to the encyclopedia Britannica, Columbus only explored central America. He never set foot on the North American mainland. According to the History channel's website, the first European to cross the Atlantic Ocean and reach North American land was the Norse Viking Leif Eriksson. In around 1000 A.D. (almost 5 centuries before Columbus) he landed in present-day Newfoundland. Some historians claim that even he wasn't the first. Eriksson Day, by the way, is on October 9.
3. The Reason He Found America is a Happy Mistake
Columbus' initial distance calculations were a bit off. He underestimated the circumference of the earth and the size of the oceans he had to cross. At the time, overseas travel was half luck and half guesswork. The exact size of the planet Earth was unknown. Columbus just happened to land on a happy mistake that brought him to America: he thought the planet was about 25 percent smaller than what it is in reality.
4. A Lunar Eclipse Saved His Life
Let us not forget, Columbus was an explorer. After the famous 1942 discovery, he set sail again a few times more in 1493, 1498, and 1502. These voyages led him to the Caribbean islands, South America, and again to Central America. In 1504, stranded on an island in Jamaica, he was denied food by the suspecting locals. Columbus knew a lunar eclipse was coming soon, so he warned the islanders that his god was upset with their refusal of food and that the moon would “rise inflamed with wrath”. Once the moon had risen, the terrified islanders asked for mercy.
5. He Was At The Right Place, Right Time
Had Columbus been born 10 or 20 years earlier, he never would have amounted to what he was. Until 1453, there wasn’t much reason to sail to Asia. There was the perfectly good Silk Road for trading goods. In 1453, the Ottoman Turks took Constantinople and forbade Christian traders to find new routes to the East. Columbus' newly discovered lands were a good solution to this problem.