October 12, 1492 After sailing across the Atlantic Ocean, the Italian explorer saw a Bahamian island, believing he has reached East Asia.
His expedition went ashore the same day — on what was probably Watling Island in the Bahamas — and claimed the land for Isabella and Ferdinand of Spain.
Columbus had set sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships, the Santa Maria, the Pinta and the Nina, on August 3.
He was attempting to find a western ocean route to China, India and the fabled gold and spice islands of Asia.
Instead, Columbus became the first European to explore the Americas since the Vikings set up colonies in Greenland and Newfoundland.
Over the next century, the riches of the New World would help make Spain the wealthiest and most powerful nation on Earth.
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