Saturday, February 14, 2009

Columbus Navigational Genius Even on Land

Navigational Genius Even on Land

"We have not hesitated to call Christopher Columbus a consummate seaman, the first sailor of his or of any other time. It is not merely that he made the most memorable voyage ever made by man, but because he navigated all seas with skill, prudence, daring, and success. He was a scientific sailor. He studied the seasons, the planets, the winds, the tides, the atmosphere, the flight of birds, the habits of fish, things over the sea, things on the sea, things under the sea. He was familiar with the coasts known to man and, partly by instinct and partly by the employment of his skill, he made his way in safety along shores never known and reported by any sailor until his day. In the following letter we are in communion with Columbus, the sailor. He is not making parade of his knowledge. The Sovereigns, as they had done before on many occasions, and notably in the spring of 1497, have required of him a dissertation... Columbus then reminds the Sovereigns that no one pilot may be expected to know all courses. The pilot who can safely conduct a ship from the Guadalquivir to Fuenterrabia in the Bay of Biscay may not take a ship to Lisbon. The pilot who goes to the Eastern countries by way of the south may be entirely unfitted to sail ships to Flanders. And this leads the Admiral to refer to the intimate correspondence by water between Spain and the Low Countries. By the month of January the Bay of Biscay becomes so wild from the resistless winds that prudent navigators have returned to their own countries. Yet, a skillful sailor, watchful of conditions, quick to seize a moment when the wind lulls, may escape and finish his journey, particularly should he avail himself in an emergency of some welcoming French or English port on the way. Then the Admiral becomes reminiscent. He recalls a time early in the year 1497 when the Sovereigns, the gallant Prince Juan, the Spanish Court,-all were anxiously awaiting the ship which was to bear them a new Princess; but the ship came not and fear was in every heart. Then the Sovereigns appealed to Columbus, and he told them where, by the blowing of the wind and the probable course, he thought the ships to be, and predicted their safe arrival within a day or two.

...enfadados yban a Soria y partida toda la corte un sabado quedaron VUESTRAS ALTEZAS para partir lunes de manana y aun cierto proposito en aquella noche en un escripto mio que envie a VUESTRAS ALTEZAS dezia tal dia comenzo a ventar el viento. El otro dia no partira la flota aguardando sy el viento se afirma partira el miercoles y el jueves o viernes sera tant avant como la ysla de Huict y sy no se meten en ella seran en laredo el lunes que viene o la razon de la marineria es toda perdida. este escripto mio con el deseo de la venida de la prinzesa movio a VUESTRAS ALTEZAS a mudar de proposito de no yr a soria y espirmentar la opinion del marynero y el lunes remaneszio sobre laredo una nao que refuso de entrar en Huit porque tenia pocos bastimentos...(- Christopher Columbus, Granada, 6 February, 1502)

And his prophecy was fulfilled. The ships, indeed, had been where he said they were, driven by winds which he knew and on courses which he knew, to a neighboring English harbour. It was a triumph for Columbus which history has not hitherto recorded. ... It was in August, 1496, that a mighty fleet of vessels gathered in the port of Laredo in the Bay of Biscay to escort the Princess Joanna to Flanders for her marriage to Philip. The fleet was under command of Don Fadrique Enriquez, the Admiral of Castile, ... Six months passed before the Princess Margaret of Austria was landed on Spanish soil. ... The Court was at Burgos early in March, 1497, awaiting news of the expected fleet. Days passed, and the ships came not. Then the Court was moved southward-away from the coast to Soria, and the Sovereigns were about to follow, when a letter reached them from Columbus, saying that if the fleet had started from Flanders on a certain Wednesday, the weather was such as to cause the ships to put in to the Isle of Wight (Huict) on Thursday or Friday, and from the conditions of wave and wind, the Admiral predicted that the fleet would enter the port of Laredo on the following Monday. The words of the sailor weighed with the Sovereigns, and, with the young Prince, they changed their purpose and went to Laredo, where the prediction was fulfilled, and promptly on the succeeding Monday one of the fleet appeared in the harbour of Laredo. Truly, the Admiral of the Indies was the first pilot of his time." (Christopber Columbus HIS LIFE, HIS WORK, HIS REMAINS AS REVEALED BY ORIGINAL PRINTED AND MANUSCRIPT RECORDS JOHN BOYD THACHER VOLUME III, G. P. PUTNAM'S SONS, NEW YORK AND LONDON, 1904)