Although Christopher Columbus did not meet his mission of finding a westward water route from Europe to Asia, nor did he “discover” America, he did complete four expeditionary ocean voyages sailing west from Spain to the islands of the Caribbean, and Central and South America that lead the way for European colonization.
During his first voyage, Columbus sailed with three ships, the Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria, leaving the small port of Palos, Spain in August of 1492. The expedition sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean landing on an island in the Bahamas. Columbus named the island San Salvador. Upon landing, he encountered the Arawak people whom he called Indians thinking that he landed on islands close to Asia. After further exploration of the area he sailed north and then east finding a favorable route to Portugal and finally back to Spain. He shared his artifacts with Isabella and Ferdinand II of Aragon.
In 1493, Columbus undertook his second voyage; he sailed under the Spanish flag with a much larger fleet of ships. They sailed from Cadiz to the Lesser Antilles, Puerto Rico, and Navidad. Columbus sailed on to Cuba where the expedition set up the colony of Isabella. Columbus proved to be less than capable of governing the colony and had his brother move it to the coast of Hispaniola. The new colony was named Santo Domingo, which is considered the first permanent European settlement in the New World.
His third voyage in 1497 took six ships to the coast of South America. It returned to the colony of Santo Domingo finding it in disarray. The colonists showed their dismay for Columbus; he was imprisoned and sent back to Spain in shackles.
Columbus was allowed a fourth voyage in 1500 that took him to Martinique, and islands along the coast of Central America.
Therefore, the four voyages that Columbus made provided a plethora of information about sailing westward from Europe to Central and South America, and about the inhabitants of those areas.