The Thorny Road of Discovery
Fearless to betrayal and disdain, Columbus's fiath lit up the road to a whole new wolrd.
But the Earth is flat! This was the most common critique of Christopher Columbus’s grand proposal. At that time, the flat Earth modelwas so prevalent that everybody believed this Italian explorer would just fall off from the edges of the Earth, rather than reaching any land.
Despite being condemned andinsulted, Columbus made his mind up that the voyage was not to be stopped.In 1492, Columbus set sail across the Atlantic Ocean, to what he dreamed to be the Spice Islands. His fleet, consisted of only three little wooden ships,travelled 15,000km and discovered an unknown world – the Americas. Thisled the Europe into the Colonial Age, one of its most prosperous eras.
As a veteran navigator, Columbus certainly knew that travelling across the ocean is never an easy task. WhywasColumbus so determined and fearless? Let’s find it out through exploring the thorny life of this brilliant explorer and navigator.
What has motivated Columbus?
“It is well-believed that Columbus’s desire to sail west originated from the travels of Marco Polo,” said Brian Bush, a historian specialized in medieval European history.Marco Polo was a European merchant in the 13th and 14th century who claimed that he had travelled to China. In the book the travels of Marco Polo, Macro Polo correctly described many unique features in the Far East, like the asbestos, paper money and grand canals.
“Themarvelous writing of Marco Polo sparks an interest and desire of many later explorers, including Columbus, to visit the mysterious and fascinating Asia,” said Bush. “Without it, Columbus might not even notice that another continent exists in the East.”
Columbus’s strong belief in the model of the Spherical Earth also motivated him a lot. Columbus has once written,
“I have always read that the world, both land and water, was spherical, as do the eclipses of the moon and other experiments that are made from east to west, and the elevation of the North Star from north to south.”
Instead of simply trusting authorities’ flat Earth model, Columbus believed more in experimental results. He was confident that he would finally reach India if he kept on sailing west. “Without that strong belief, Columbus would probably lose hope during his 70
days journeywithout sights of any land,” said Bush. “Unlike what his crews did. They were over-scared by the dragons waiting at the edge of the Earth.”
Rome wasn’t built in a day
Columbusspent lots of time to equip himself. He claimed that he had been sailing since he was 10.When he was told that Portugal possessed some state-of-the-art navigation technologies, Columbus decisively sailed to Portugal and spent almost 15 years helping the Portuguese explore the Africa. This fifteen years’ experience turned Columbus into a world-class navigatorwho is capable to handle the challenging transatlantic voyages.
Yet, Columbus’s preparation hasn’t made his life any smoother. He still confronted countless problems and challenges in his adventure life.
Cape of Bad Hope
Columbus started planning the great voyage during his exploration in Africa. He realized that what he lacked most was not skills and knowledge, but monetary support and manpower. He then lobbied English and Portuguese monarchto bankrollandback his voyage. Unfortunately, he got turned down quickly by the former one. Although the Portuguese monarch seems interested in his proposals due to the tension with Spain, Columbus’s quest was finally rejected.
“In 1488, Cape of Good Hope, the southernmost tip of Africa, was discovered by Portuguese explorers. This revealed a highly possible and practical route of travelling to Asia.” said Bush. “There is no longer any reason for the king to waste money on Columbus’s impractical plan.”
Disappointed with the King, Columbus left the country, and headed for Spain.
Columbus worked very hard to persuade Queen Isabellaof Spain. Columbus’s passion finally touched her that she agreed to subsidize Columbus’s adventure.
“Then, Columbus facedthe problem of recruiting crew members,” Bush said.“It was hard for Columbus to find enough sailors, as everybody knew they are not likely to survive Columbus’s voyage.”
With no better alternatives, Columbus recruited some convicts, who were offered amnesty for signing up for the voyage. This made his crew vulnerable to conflicts – the veteran sailors felt frightened by those criminals and deeply distrusted them. Intensified by the fear of falling off from the edge of the Earth and stress from prolonged sailing, at least three crew rebels happened during Columbus’s first voyage.
“Columbus managed to settle the crew rebels with his optimism,” Bush said. “He interpreted anything seen, like birds flew by, as the signs of their success. It seems nonsense, but this really reassured his sailors.”
At last, Columbus fulfilled his dream and stepped on the shore that no European had seen before. When he returned to Spain, he wrote a meaningful sentence,
”You can never cross the ocean until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.”
His story tells us that, success is for those who are well prepared, confident and more importantly, with the courage to lose everything.
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