Great Explorers Christopher Columbus, Sir Francis Drake and Neil Armstrong

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Christopher Columbus

Columbus was an explorer. In 1492, he sailed from Europe to America. He and his sailors crossed the Atlantic Ocean, not knowing where they would land. It was a voyage into the unknown.


BBC School Radio - Columbus and Magellan


BBC Radio Four - Christopher Columbus - hero or villain?


BBC Historical Figures - Christopher Columbus


BBC 1 - Andrew Marr's History of the World - Christopher Columbus and the new world

Christopher Columbus Top Ten Facts

  1. Columbus did not discover the Americas. An estimated 100 million people were living there already, a number roughly equal to the population of Europe at that time. The first European to reach the North American coastline was the Norseman Leif Ericson who landed in Newfoundland c1000 AD.
  2. People in Europe wanted to find a new route to the Indies, which was the name they gave to the Far East. Since the fall of Constantinople in 1453 the old Silk Route, along which silk, spices and other luxury items had been traded for centuries, had become difficult and costly to use.
  3. Columbus hoped to find a new route east. He believed he could do this by sailing west. When he landed in the Americas he was convinced he was actually in the East Indies and so called the native people Indians.
  4. Columbus approached the monarchs of Portugal, England, France and Spain seeking support for his plan. Finally Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain agreed to back his voyage of exploration.
  5. Columbus left Palos in Spain on the 3rd August 1492 with ninety men and three small ships, the Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria. Their first stop was the Canary Islands where they collected supplies before settling out across the Atlantic on the 6th September of the same year.
  6. Land was first sighted on the 11th October 1492 and on the 12th October Columbus landed on an island in the Bahamas which he called San Salvador.
  7. The second voyage on the 24th September 1493 was made by 17 boats with 1200 men. The aim of the voyage was to colonise the new discoveries and convert the native people to Christianity.
  8. Columbus made four voyages to the New World. He explored the Greater and Lesser Antilles, Venezuela and central America.
  9. The native people of the Americas were treated very cruelly by Columbus and his men who exploited and enslaved them. Allegations of mismanagement on Hispaniola led to Columbus being returned in chains to Spain in 1500 and being stripped of his governorship.
  10. It was Amerigo Vespucci who realised that a new continent had been discovered, so the Americas were named after him rather than Columbus.

Sir Francis Drake

English admiral Sir Francis Drake circumnavigated the globe from 1577-1580, helped defeat the Spanish Armada of 1588 and was the most renowned seaman of the Elizabethan era.


BBC Historical Figures - Sir Francis Drake


Royal Museums Greenwich - Sir Francis Drake


The Golden Hind

Sir Francis Drake Top Ten Facts

  1. Drake was born in Tavistock, Devonshire. His family was very religious and his father was a Protestant preacher. Although the family were respectable they were not very wealthy and Drake was sent to sea at the age of twelve.
  2. Drake was apprenticed to a merchant and his seafaring skills brought him to the attention of his cousins, the Hawkins family, who were privateers. He participated in illegal slave trading expeditions with his cousin Sir John Hawkins.
  3. Privateers were allowed by the government to commit acts of piracy against Spanish property; in return their sponsors received a share of the plunder. In 1572 Drake received his own privateer's commission from Elizabeth I.
  4. In 1568 Drake and Hawkins were trapped by the Spanish at the port of San Juan de Ulua in Mexico. Many of their men were killed and Drake had to swim to safety. This incident resulted in him developing a life-long dislike of Spain.
  5. Between 1577 and 1580 he successfully sailed around the globe becoming the first Englishman to do so. The first circumnavigation was made by Ferdinand Magellan some fifty years earlier.
  6. The ship which Drake used to circumnavigate the world, the Golden Hind, was originally called the Pelican.
  7. One of Drake’s most famous exploits was the ‘Singeing of King of Spain’s beard’. This refers to his attack on Cadiz in 1587. Drake and his fleet managed to destroy 20-30 enemy ships and their supplies, delaying the launch of  the Armada.
  8. Drake was allegedly playing bowls on Plymouth Hoe when news reached him of the imminent arrival of the Spanish Fleet. He is said to have remarked that he had time to finish the game before defeating the Spanish.
  9. Drake was a vice admiral of the English fleet at the time of the Armada. He is credited with the idea of using fire ships to scatter the Spanish Fleet, making the individual ships more vulnerable to English gunfire.
  10. Drake’s final expeditions against the Spanish were unsuccessfully. In 1589 he lost 20 ships and 12,000 men trying to help the Portuguese who were rebelling against Spanish occupation. He died of dysentery after engaging with the Spanish in the Caribbean.

Neil Armstrong

Neil Alden Armstrong (August 5, 1930 – August 25, 2012) was an American astronaut and the first person to walk on the Moon. He was also an aerospace engineer, naval aviator, test pilot, and university professor.  


Neil Armstrong - Astronaut


BBC Class Clips - The Moon


BBC School Radio - Neil Armstrong Describes the view of Earth from space


NASA Biography - Neil Armstrong


BBC Two - Neil Armstrong - The first man on the moon

Neil Armstrong Top Ten Facts

  1. He earned the Eagle Scout badge in Boy Scouts.
  2. He knew how to fly before he got his driving license.
  3. Six hundred million people watched the first moon walk on TV.
  4. The footprints made by Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin are still on the Moon. The dust is thick, but there isn't any wind to remove them.
  5. When Armstrong surveyed the surface of the moon, he collected a bag of dust for NASA scientists to examine.  In 2017, the bag was sold for a whopping $1.8 million at a Sotheby’s auction.
  6. Neil Armstrong went to the North Pole with Sir Edmund Hillary (first to climb Mt. Everest) and other prominent explorers. He said that he was curious to see it from the ground since he’d only seen it from space.

  7. When Neil Armstrong return to Earth he was quarantined in s sealed chamber for three weeks in the event he had picked up any strange space virus.

  8. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, which is the highest honor a civilian can earn from the US government.
  9. He stopped signing autographs after he found out that people were selling them on the internet.
  10. Following his retirement from NASA in 1971he accepted a job as a professor of engineering at the University of Cincinnati and remained on the faculty for eight years.