Amerigo Vespucci is an interesting figure in history. It’s because of his observations that the New World would be given its name. “America” comes from the Latin version of this explorer’s name. At the time the New World was being explored, it was quite common for people to believe that it was an extension of Asia. It was Vespucci who was first to realize that what had been discovered was a brand new continent.
1. He Was a Kidnapper
Over his career, Vespucci claimed to have made 4 total trips to the New World. Not all of those trips were sponsored or known about. What we do know, however, is that Vespucci stopped in the Bahamas in the year 1499 and captured 200 people from the island. He brought them back to Spain and used them as slaves. He also wrote a number of letters about them, including how they practiced childbirth.
2. He Discovered South America Twice
Vespucci took a trip in 1501 to explore the Americas once again and it would be during this journey that he would see the areas of Brazil that would one day become Rio de Janeiro. While he was sailing, Vespucci took time to travel through the Azores and Sierra Leone. When he discovered land once again, he called it the New World because he believed it had never been seen before. In reality, he had left South America so that he could discover South America a second time.
3. A Man of the Stars
The constellations of the Southern Hemisphere are different from those in the Northern Hemisphere, so using the stars as navigational aids from a European standpoint could be difficult. When Vespucci looked up into the night sky, he realized that if he could give the constellations some names, then they could be used more effectively as a navigation aid. Some of his names, such as the Southern Cross, are still used today.
4. He Might Have Been a Liar
Vespucci claimed that his first journey to the New World occurred in a letter that was dated with the year 1497. There is no actual evidence beyond this letter to show that this journey actually took place. He claimed to set sail with a fleet of Spanish ships, and although anything is possible, it is believed that Vespucci put an earlier date on a later letter to enhance his reputation as an explorer in his early days. If he had known that two continents would be named after him, then maybe his choices might have been different.
5. A Journey For Nothing
Vespucci was given the ability to take a voyage under a Portuguese flag in 1503. It turned out to be a bust because he didn’t discover anything else that was new. He returned in 1504 completely empty handed, an entire journey to the New World wasted.
Amerigo Vespucci is an interesting character from history, having had some tremendous highs and some deep disappointments during his exploration efforts. He will always be remembered thanks to the names of the continents, however, and that’s about anything an explorer could hope to have.