On 3 August 1492, the day after the expulsion of the Jews from Spain, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus started his first voyage across the Atlantic Ocean with a crew of 90 men and three ships— a larger carrack, the Santa María, and two smaller caravels, the Pinta and the Santa Clara, nicknamed the Niña (“Girl”).
He left from Palos de la Frontera, Spain, in search of a route to India shorter than the overland route through Arabia. The goal was to enter the spice trading business at a time when European kingdoms were beginning to establish new trade routes and colonies, motivated by imperialism and economic competition.
He completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean, sponsored by the Spanish Crown.
In the Americas, he had been preceded by a Viking expedition in the 11th century, but Columbus’s voyages led to the first lasting European contact and inaugurated a period of exploration, conquest, and colonization that lasted several centuries.