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Christopher Columbus was an Italian navigator and colonist who completed four voyages across the Atlantic Ocean under the auspices of the Catholic Monarchs of Castile and Aragon. While pursuing a route to the Far East, he discovered a viable sailing route to the Americas, then unknown to the Old World. He led the first European expeditions to the Caribbean, Central America, and South America, initiating the opening of the New World for conquest and settlement by Europeans and the permanent European colonization of the Americas.