BEFORE COLUMBUS BORN
If Columbus could have foreseen how determined historians are to prove that he was not the first to discover America, he certainly would not have taken the trouble to make a single trip. Though we are two decades away from the 500th anniversary of Columbus’ first voyage to San Salvador (Antilles) in 1492, there are already plans for a big celebration. At the same time, during the next two decades, there will be an increasing number of books refuting Columbus as the first discoverer of the Americas.
HISTORICAL FABRICATION: It was Columbus himself who first exaggerated the importance of his discovery. He was convinced he had landed in China and Japan. Not finding the expected riches, he misled the King and Queen of Spain into thinking that he had found great wealth in these islands.
As the race to India intensified between Portugal and Spain, Columbus continued to persuade the Spanish sovereigns to support his voyages. As Columbus set out on his third voyage, Vasco da Gama was arriving in India (1498) . Columbus was so persuasive, that on his fourth and final voyage (1502) the Spanish sovereigns gave him a letter of introduction to Vasco da Gama in the hope that they would meet in India.
When Europe finally realized that Columbus had failed to reach India, he fell into disgrace. Both Columbus’ self-propaganda and the competition between the Spanish and Portuguese crowns caused attention to be diverted from the Portuguese discovery of North America by privately financed voyages.
Washington Irving was the first American writer to popularize the idea that Columbus was the first to discover America. (The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus, 1828) . Actually, Protestant Americans had ignored Columbus until Irving’s book came along. The Anglo-Saxons had always played down any major accomplishment from the Catholic Latin countries. Fortunately, this attitude has been disappearing in the last few decades.
Columbus never set foot on the land which is now called the United States. Yet, yielding to Italian - Americans, our largest immigrant group (25 million) , it is in this country that Columbus’ voyage is most widely commemorated
COLUMBUS’ INFORMATION: It is irrelevant to involve ourselves in the question of whether Columbus was Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, or Jew. What is more important is our understanding of the prior information Columbus had before his voyages:
(a) He acquired his nautical knowledge in Portugal.
(b) For ten years he sailed in Portuguese caravels along the African coast.
(c) He married Filipa de Perestrelo (1479),daughter of the Governor of Madeira Islands.
(d) Only after his father-in-law died, leaving him access to maps and secret information about the lands to the west, did Columbus begin making plans for a voyage across the Atlantic.
Columbus, however, underestimated the circumference of the globe by 4,000 miles. But the Portuguese mathematicians knew the actual distance, therefore King John II wisely declined (1482) to support Columbus’ plan to discover a western water route to India.
NIGHT SAILING: It was a well-established rule that any navigator sailing in an unknown sea would anchor at night by putting the sails down so as not to risk being wrecked on a reef in the darkness. It was Professor David Tsukernik of the Soviet Geographic Society who first commented on the fact that Columbus’ ships traveled full speed day and night. More astonishing is that on the return trip (first voyage) Columbus navigated 300 miles more during the night than during the day. This seems foolhardy for a man who supposedly did not have any prior knowledge of the prevalent water and wind currents of the Atlantic.
Some American scholars are pro-Columbus to the extent of claiming that Columbus knew of the favorable winds of the North Atlantic through ‘inspiration and instinct’’, thereby allowing him to sail day and night. How ridiculous can one be? The ‘‘genius’’ that American historians so quickly attribute to Columbus is actually a strong indication that Columbus must have had prior nautical information. Columbus was honest enough to admit that his nautical knowledge came from the Portuguese. The historians on the other hand, could learn much from Columbus himself.
Las Casas, the chronicler who sailed with Columbus, wrote that they “navigated 700 leagues day and night because the Admiral had not expected to sight land sooner than 750 leagues west of the Canary Islands.” The last 50 leagues were sailed only during the day, Las Casas informs us. Noteworthy is the fact that the distance of 750 leagues is almost exactly the distance from the western islands of the Canary Archipelago, where the flotilla began its voyage, to the eastern islands of the Caribbean Sea.
Las Casas also says that, while in Madeira, Columbus learned from the crew of a Portuguese ship that they were returning from a land further west. Moreover, Fernando Columbus states in his father’s biography that Columbus had previous information of the existence of land in the West Atlantic and even possessed a map “with chartered islands in this sea” (Caribbean.) Columbus learned celestial navigation from the Portuguese pilots. He was also taught to sail through the great circles of navigation (1480-1490) when returning from Africa: Arc of Mina, Arc of Azores, and Arc of Sargasso Sea. Before Columbus was born, the Portuguese sailors were already familiar with the water currents and winds which later brought him to the West Indies.
We have already stated that, once the Portuguese navigators were locked in the Canary current and the North Equatorial Drift (Trade Winds) , they were practically forced to terminate their voyage at the West Indies or in South America. This is a conclusion that can be verified today with modern scientific methods of navigation.
The more American historians study the epic of the discoveries, the more convinced they will become that Columbus learned all about the previous discoveries of the Portuguese and was not “self-taught”, as Professor Samuel Eliot Morison would like us to believe.
PRIVATE ENTERPRISE: We have stressed before that the Corte Reais and other Portuguese navigators financed their own expeditions to the New World. They were not required to give a detailed report of their voyages to the king, as was the case in the voyages to Africa, India, and Brazil sponsored by the Portuguese crown. For similar reasons, Columbus kept a log which he was required to present to the Spanish monarchs.
The Portuguese navigators to the New World were more preoccupied with discovery than writing about it. In fact, they usually kept their discoveries “top secret”. This explains why much of the coastline and many of the islands of the American Continent were known to the Portuguese navigators many years before they were first documented on logs or charts. The best example is the Cantino map (1502), taken secretly from Portugal, which shows Newfoundland, West Indies, and the Florida Peninsula, eleven years before Ponce de Leon arrived there.
THE FOUR CAPES OF GOOD HOPE: The main objective of the Portuguese voyages was to find a water route around Africa to India. Every navigator hoped to pass that tip of Africa which would be properly named the Cape of Good Hope. This was accomplished by Bartolomeu Dias in 1488.
During his voyage of circumnavigation Fernão de Magalhães rounded the second “Cape of Good Hope” in South America by passing the strait that today bears his name (Strait of Magellan) . He then sailed into the largest ocean in the world to which he gave the Portuguese name: Pacífico the search for the fourth “Cape of Good Hope” the Portuguese failed to find a passage to India.
From the Danes, the Portuguese learned that the geographic configuration of Lapland took the shape of the third “Cape of Good Hope” on the north of Europe and that only the frozen sea prohibited passage to the East. It was only in 1660 that the Portuguese navigator David Melgueiro succeeded in his amazing voyage across the Arctic Ocean, down to the coast of eastern China to India.
TWENTY YEARS BEFORE COLUMBUS: We should know that Christian I of Denmark was first cousin to Prince Henry the Navigator. (Their mothers were both from the Royal House of England). Thus, by 1448 we find a Danish navigator in the Portuguese Court.
From the Danes the Portuguese tried to learn about the fourth “Cape of Good Hope”. The search for a “Cape of Good Hope” persisted for many years in the Corte Reais’ quest for the North American passage to India.
The Danish historian, Sophus Larsen, in his book “The Discovery of North America Twenty years Before Columbus” (1925) presented evidence that João Vaz Corte Real made a voyage of discovery (1472) to Greenland and Newfoundland with two Danish pilots named Pining and Pothorst. For the discovery of the fourth “Cape of Good Hope” João Vaz Corte Real was given (1474) the governorship of Angra (Island of Terceira) as a reward.
SEVENTY YEARS BEFORE COLUMBUS: The period of the Portuguese discoveries is one of the most amazing studies of universal history because even today we can experience the same navigational conditions that existed 500 years ago.
Admiral Gago Coutinho sailed 31,000 miles into the Atlantic aboard a caravel, similar to those of the 15th century. On these extensive voyages he made observations of water currents, winds and stars with modern navigational instruments. In 1952, he wrote: “Childish conclusions are easily dispelled by anyone navigating under sail, and seeing for himself, as I have for the last sixty years there are proofs that the Portuguese pilots who sailed the Sargasso Sea prior to 1446 — before the birth of Columbus — had the experience of sailing to the American coast before 1472. Based on my technical and nautical experience, I find the Corte Reais to be the undisputable discoverers of America.”
PORTUGUESE CHART OF 1424: In 1954, Coimbra University published a book on The Nautical Chart of 1424, uncovered in the William H. Robinson London Collection, by Professor Armando Cortesão This map was bought for a large sum of money by the Minnesota Library and placed in the James Ford Bell Collection. This Portuguese chart shows the Antilles or West Indies.
In 1965 there was much excitement about the so-called Vinland Map published by Yale University. This map is important because it shows portions of North America, but the map has no date on it. The date has been estimated to be 1440 at the earliest. The Portuguese chart has the date 1424 written very clearly on the map. No one as yet believes that the Vikings made the Vinland map. It is yet to be proven that this map was not copied from older Portuguese maps.
NATIONAL MONUMENT: Dighton Rock should have been made a national monument long ago.
First, because there is no other monument in the United States that has merited the attention of so many scholars and stimulated so many theories.
Secondly, it should be properly protected and preserved for further study, using new scientific techniques.
Thirdly, because the U. S. Secretary of the Interior would be able to give research grants to specialists, not only to study the inscriptions, but also to excavate in the vicinity of Dighton Rock. The State of Massachusetts alone, with its limited funds, cannot project the national importance of Dighton Rock.
Fourth, it must be emphasized that Dighton Rock is not a Portuguese monument. It is an American monument. It should be preserved and cared for as such — a very important cornerstone of American history.
Filth and most important, it is a document in rock — the only witness to the discovery of our great nation, the first chapter of American History.
DIGHTON ROCK AND THE PLANETS: With the exploration of outer space we have taken over where the Portuguese left off. The United States has been in a race to the moon with Russia, just as centuries ago Portugal and Spain were racing to India. The courage in face of the unknown is a characteristic of both the Portuguese explorers and the American astronauts.
the XV Century the Portuguese were the first Europeans to make transatlantic
voyages and be able to return home because they had invented the caravel. Today
Americans are the first to go to the moon and return because they have developed
the Apollo rockets. Just as long ago the Portuguese planted landmarkers in the
lands they discovered, the astronauts will place on the planets, planet-markers
with the American National Symbols.
IN SEARCH OF THE "FIFTH CAPE OF GOOD HOPE." The American Astronaut's footprints in the soil of the moon and the American flag.
THE FIFTH “CAPE OF GOOD HOPE”: Somewhere deep into outer space, beyond the reach of the sextant and the astrolabe, blown by solar winds and bounded by falling stars is the mystical celestial entity, the “Cape of Good Hope”, the fifth, a double symbol of the conquerable unconquerable. The explorers of the space age — the sailors of the stars, the astronauts, the reincarnation of the Portuguese spirit of exploration, — will round this mystical cape as they did the others. And what will they see beyond this Cape — who knows? They may even meet The Navigator, face to face.
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