History: People in History Junior Cert

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The Age of Exploration

People in history: A sailor on a named voyage of discovery during the Age of Exploration

I was a sailor on Columbus’s first voyage of discovery. I lived in Palos, where Columbus began his voyage. I was an experienced sailor but others were freemen who came along with promises of fame and riches. In all there were about 90 of us on the three ships which Columbus got from Ferdinand and Isabella, the king and queen of Spain. I sailed on the Santa Maria which was the flagship, and the others were the Nina and the Pinta. The Santa Marie was about 18 metres long and it had a lateen sail and two square sails.

Columbus believed the world was round, that it was smaller then it really is and that if he sailed westward she would reach Cipango (Japan) and Cathay (China). He wanted to discover the riches described by Marco Polo in his book of travels. He was promised by Ferdinand and Isabella that he would become the governor of all he discovered and would get the title ‘Admiral of the Ocean Sea’.

We first sailed for the Canary islands to take on board fresh water and food. This was our last stop before we sailed out into the Atlantic Ocean. As we headed westwards, we were helped by the trade winds and were able to sail about 100 mile a day.

Conditions on board were rough. Our food was dry and salted. We were given one hot meal a day, which was cooked in the firebox on deck. We also got wine or water

As we sailed on, we were afraid that if we went too far we may not be able to get back. But Columbus kept two logbooks – one recorded the true distance we travelled, the other one recorded a shorter distance. We were told the shorter distances. Very soon, we forced him to promise to turn back if land was not discovered in a few days. But soon after, the Pinta fired a shot – the signal that its crew had sighted land. I was with Columbus as we landed on this new island, which Columbus called San Salvador.

We next sailed to Cuba and...
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