1451-1506. Italian explorer and navigator. After finding Spanish backing for his plan to find a short way to the Orient, he sailed in 1492 and landed in the Bahamas, then explored a portion of the Caribbean before returning. His voyage opened the path for Europeans. He made three more voyages before his death, frustrated at not finding a way to China and Japan but proud to have found a new world, one unknown to Europeans. As a navigator his dead reckoning was careful and precise, better than any of his companions. While the phenomena of magnetic compass variation was known, Columbus was the first to note the westerly variation, something not observable in Europe and Asia.