Overseas travel, during Columbus’ time, depended more on guesswork; none knew the correct size of the Earth. There were two ways to measure latitude back then. One developed by Greek philosopher Poseidonius, and the other, by medieval Arabs. Columbus factored in both, ignoring, or rather forgetting that the Roman miles were smaller than the Arab miles. It ultimately rendered the planet 25 percent smaller. He assured his sponsors that the small wooden ships can reach Japan from Spain in 30 days flat. Some scholars believe he intentionally miscalculated the distance.
On the famous 1492 voyage, Christopher Columbus had promised gold rewards to whoever first saw land. Rodrigo de Triana, one of his sailors, was the first to spot an island in Bahamas archipelago on 12 October, 1492. Columbus promptly named the island San Salvador. A heartbroken Rodrigo never got his reward. The Italian colonizer kept that for himself and told everyone that he had noticed a hazy outline the night before but didn’t speak as he wasn’t sure. Rodrigo was rewarded much later with a statue in a Seville park.
Many of the Christopher Columbus voyages ended in disasters. His flagship Santa Maria, of the famed 1492 expedition, sank in the Atlantic. He left behind 39 men in La Navidad. His ships were supposed to return Spain with spices and other valuables. Instead they largely returned empty. He could gather no knowledge of a new trade route as promised. On his fourth voyage in 1502, the pilot ship rotted out and he had to spend a year in Jamaica with his men.
Stranded in Jamaica in February 1504, Columbus was denied food by locals. He consulted his almanac and found that a lunar eclipse was due soon. He warned the natives that his god was displeased with them and the moon will rise “inflamed with wrath” because of the behavior meted out to him. The eclipse happened on the supposed night and the moon turned red. The terrified natives offered Columbus food and beseeched him to save them from god’s anger.
King Ferdinand appointed Christopher Columbus the governor of Santo Domingo a new settlement, out of gratitude of exploring new lands for Spain. But as it turned out, Columbus was a lousy governor. He and his brothers ruled the land like kings, and siphoned all the wealth to their home. That antagonized other settlers. Things got so bad that the Spanish court dispatched a new governor. Columbus was arrested, chained, and deported back to Spain.
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