03 Christopher Columbus
Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) was an Italian navigator working for Spain, but Columbus, unlike other explorers of the time, wanted to find a way to reach Asia by going West, through the Atlantic. Because Queen Isabella of Spain had finally disposed of the last Muslims in Spain, she decided to pay for Columbus' voyage. With the Pinta, the Niña, and the Santa Maria, Columbus sailed from Spain in the August of 1492. Although Columbus had greatly misjudged the distance from Europe to Asia, luck was on his side. Instead of finding Asia, Columbus landed in America. When Columbus landed on one of the Bahaman Islands, he believed that he had made his way to Asia and named the natives 'Indians'. After leaving the Bahamas, Columbus sighted Cuba and crashed one of his ships onto Hispaniola before heading home. When he returned to Spain, he was celebrated for finding a new sea route to Asia. Columbus made two more trips to America in later years, never knowing that he wasn't actually going to Asia. Although some may say that Columbus should be the greatest explorer ever for discovering the New World, Columbus was pushed back because he discovered the New World on accident and he wasn't even the first European to land in the New World (Leif Erikson landed in Canada around 1000 A.D.), but because he brought back the first news of land in the West, Columbus is the third greatest explorer of all time.