Today on September 24, 1493, Christopher Columbus began his Second Voyage to the New World.
Columbus led four major voyages to the new world from between 1492 to 1502. His discovery of the Americas ultimately set the stage for future European exploration and colonization of the region. For the longest time, it was commonly held that Columbus was the first European to land in the Americas. However, he had been preceded by a Viking expedition in the 11th century led by Leif Erikson.
Columbus commanded a much larger fleet on his second voyage compared to the first. He had two large carricks (3 or 4 masted sailing ships) as well as 15 caravels, which were smaller and more maneuverable ships. In total, over 1,200 men departed Spain with the Italian-born explorer. The second voyage was a huge logistical effort, as the mission was centered on colonizing the New World. For the first time ever, they traveled with livestock, including horses, sheep, and cattle, as well as settlers.
The expedition’s transatlantic crossing was remarkably fast, taking only 21 days to reach the West Indies from the Canary Islands. Columbus named the first island they reached, Dominica. They went on to discover several more well-known Caribbean islands throughout November, including present-day Montserrat, Antigua, Saint Martin, Saint Croix, the Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Haiti and Jamaica. Columbus set up a number of small colonies, however, the main settlement was built at La Isabela in the Dominican Republic.