Columbus, Christopher -

(1451-1506): Genoese explorer and adventurer. He first crossed the Atlantic at its widest and discovered the trade wind route from the Canary Islands to the Bahamas. Commonly credited with discovering America, he commanded three modest-size vessels, the "Santa Maria", the "Niña" and the "Pinta", which set out from Spain to discover a westward passage to India. On making landfall in the Bahamas in October 1492 after a 36 day voyage across the Atlantic, he wrote in his logbook: "What will we get to see? Marble bridges? Golden-roofed temples? Spice gardens? People like us, or some strange race of giants? Did we reach an island or Japan itself?" What he found were harmless natives, "mighty forests", a clear brook, and "enormous unknown fruits" - but no signs of wealth. Columbus named the island "San Salvador", made contact with the friendly "Indians", claimed their land for the Spanish Crown, and started looking for Japan, thinking it could not be far off.