300-400 years ago a big part of the world was remaining unknown. But now there seems little more to explore, the wild north was conquered, the jungle was conquered too. And it seems that all the pages of the great book called “The Earth” has been filled in, but exploration still goes on. In the 15th century people knew only 3 continents: Europe, Asia and Africa. They knew nothing about America. The man who was thought to be the discoverer of America was born in 1451 in Italy. His name was Christopher Columbus.
Knowing that the earth was round he decided to reach India by sailing to the west. It was very difficult for him to organize an expedition as nobody wanted to help him. At last the Spanish government gave him some money. In the 1492 he sailed with 3 small ships into the Atlantic ocean. They had been sailing for more than 2 months and at last they saw land. Columbus was certain that the lands he discoveried were part of India and he called these islands “The West Indies”. He made 3 voyagers to America. His last voyage was made in 1502-1504. After that, heavily ill, he remained in Spain until his death. He died believing that Cuba was part of Asia. These voyagers gave Europe the first information about the new world. Many places have been named in his honour. America however was named after another explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
Americus Vespucius (or Amerigo Vespucci, as the name is spelled in Italian) was born in Florence, Italy, in 1454. He was in Spain at the time of Columbus’ first and second voyages. In a letter, written in 1504 and printed in 1505, he claimed to have made four voyages, on the first of which, in 1497, he explored the South American coast. This would make him the first European to land on the American continent, for at that time Columbus had only reached the outlying islands. Most scholars reject his version of this voyage. Vespucius perhaps did accompany a Spanish expedition that of Alonzo de Ojeda to South America in 1499, and in 1501 and 1503 he probably went with Portuguese expeditions. Probably he never commanded an expedition himself and, of course, was not the first person to set foot on the continents to which his name is given. Vespucius died in Seville, Spain, in 1512.