Tomorrow is 28th October. The day in 1492 Columbus landed in Cuba.
To commemorate the occasion Ning and Nong start pestering me. They want to go shopping in Miami. Christopher Columbus never had this kind of trouble. No women on his ship that’s why. Course he may have been amusing himself with the cabin boy but I somehow doubt it. He was a funny bugger old Colon but I don’t think he swung that way. Could be wrong.
He ‘discovered’ America. The locals were pleased to see him at first. Until he started roasting them over fires.
Nobody’s sure to this day where he came from. He said Genoa. But historians say he was Catalan. Maybe he was Jewish. He spent a lot of time on ships and studied map-making with his brother in Lisbon. He somehow got the idea of finding a new route to the Indies by going due West. Did he know there was land out there? Looks like he had a pretty good idea. How could he be sure he wouldn’t just drop of the planet? A lot of people thought the earth was flat. Not Christopher. He knew it was round. He just didn’t know how big it was.
For instance, Columbus calculated that the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan was 2,400 nautical miles (about 4,444km. In fact the distance is about 10,600 nautical miles (19,600km), which is why so many European sailors and navigators thought CC was nuts to try it. He didn’t listen. To his dying day he’d thought he’d found the Indies. Stubborn old sod.
There was no GPS in those days either. He did it by dead reckoning, which works like this. You start from a known point and figure out how much distance you travel by measuring your speed every hour. You do this by tossing a log (on a knotted rope) off the bow and watching for it to go past the stern. There’s a chant that goes with it so you know how long it takes. Course you needed an hourglass that somebody turned every half hour otherwise you basically relied on the sun, and it helps if you sail in a straight line.
This wasn’t much help when it came to longitude. Tell the truth Columbus wasn’t too hot on latitude either. He used a quadrant a couple of times when he was in Cuba and got 42 degrees. Over 20 degrees off. He blamed the quadrant. No more readings till someone gets that fixed, said he.
Another funny thing was what happened to his body. Hope you don’t mind me going on like this? He died in Spain in 1506 but his journeys didn’t end. First he was buried in Valladolid then moved to Seville. Then his son Diego had him shipped back to Santo Domingo in 1542 until the French took over and he was moved to Havana. When the Cubans became independent they shipped him back to Spain but some still think he’s in Santo Domingo. The indigenous folk were just happy to get rid of him.
The box in Seville was opened recently. Not much in it. Few fragments and some dust. Somebody tried to take some DNA samples so they could match it with his brother’s. No joy. Back in the box you go Christopher. R.I.P.
His epitaph reads "Non confundar in aeternam" (in Latin). Some people translate that to mean ‘Let me not be confused forever.’ But there’s even some confusion about that.
Here’s a picture of the man himself. Well not really. If was done in 1519 by Sebastiano del Piombo who never saw Columbus.