On December 5, 1502, during his fourth voyage to the New World, Christopher Columbus and his crew were trapped in a storm. Columbus wrote:
For nine days I was as one lost, without hope of life. Eyes never beheld the sea so angry, so high, so covered with foam. The wind not only prevented our progress, but offered no opportunity to run behind any headland for shelter; hence we were forced to keep out in this bloody ocean, seething like a pot on a hot fire. Never did the sky look more terrible; for one whole day and night it blazed like a furnace, and the lightning broke with such violence that each time I wondered if it had carried off my spars and sails; the flashes came with such fury and frightfulness that we all thought that the ship would be blasted. All this time the water never ceased to fall from the sky; I do not say it rained, for it was like another deluge. The men were so worn out that they longed for death to end their dreadful suffering.
Today we celebrate the arrival of this courageous man Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) in the New World on October 12, 1492. Columbus Day has become more a generic Autumn holiday weekend for Americans than a specific commemoration of a historic and very dangerous trip. Italian-Americans, however, consider it a major annual event and feel proud because Columbus is widely believed to have been born Christoffa Corombo in Genoa.
We should put ourselves back in time and think about what type of person would set off onto an unknown ocean that some Europeans in that time said was flat. Of course the Greeks knew that the world was spherical, and its size was calculated by Eratosthenes in the 2nd century BC. But due to his inexperience in sailing and navigation, Columbus believed that the distance from Europe going west to Japan was only 2,300 statue miles or about 20% of the actual distance.
This mistake aside, sailing in those days truly was a dodgy pursuit into “uncharted waters” so to speak. Really uncharted. Or rather, never charted. Not even known, in any way, shape or form. Alien in the best sense of the word.
Who would make such a journey? A daring man, that is who. An adventurer and an individualist who wished to move the ball forward, to tempt fate, to lay down a marker rather than live out his life in obscurity and to die unknown. A swashbuckler not acting on a silver screen, but in real life, willing to risk it all. A God-ly man who believed that the Supreme Being was watching over his endeavor and certainly would never let him down. And in addition there was a certain confidence, arrogance and even recklessness at work, because the reward was eternal. Hundreds of years later, millions would celebrate his name…
Who would not make such a trip? The usual suspects… the epicureans, the elites, the pleasure seekers, the risk-averse, the effeminate, the actors and artists, the intellectuals. No, they want their comforts. They desire a safe and predetermined outcome and never are prone to facing any kind of danger. Yet today they are the ones most critical of the heroics of this singular explorer and navigator.
Columbus certainly was “a man” in every sense of the word, even physically tall. He faced danger that most of us today never would. He was born into a society in which disease and death were everyday occurrences, when you could die from plague, bad water, infected food, or a shallow wound that can be fought today with antibiotics. Life was simply hazardous. So why not risk it all for eternal glory?
He made four voyages to the New World in search of a route to the Far East after the overland trip was made more difficult by the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. He got half the financing from private Italian investors and the rest from the monarchs of Spain, Ferdinand and Isabella, with a cut of the profits guaranteed. Lore says that Isabella turned Columbus down and, dispirited, he was exiting town on a mule when Ferdinand intervened and saved the day for the Genoan. And for history.
Columbus set sail from the Canary Islands on September 6 and, on October 12 arrived on an island that is part of The Bahamas. He then continued south to Cuba and Hispaniola (Haiti) before returning to Europe to much acclaim.
His other voyages to the New World landed November 3, 1493, July 31, 1498 and, after being returned to Spain in chains for tyrannical governorship over Hispaniola, was released and restored to his former glory and wealth for his fourth voyage which landed June 15, 1502.
Today Columbus is celebrated by many particularly in the US and in Spain, and is despised by a small and vocal minority. He is said to have set the stage for the desecration of the virgin continent of North America by Europeans. And there indeed was cruelty in his rule. School children even are propagandized by leftist bias against Columbus and then are asked to vote if he should be celebrated. Many vote against him under the peer pressure tactics of public education. A 1992 film, 1492: Conquest of Paradise sums up the effete left’s opinion of Columbus.
Yet it is Christopher Columbus who opened up the possibility for America which has become the most noble experiment in the history of man and an example for the world. Today freedom has flowed out from America, a freedom not known before it took root almost 300 years after Columbus first landed. And it took a virgin land, unspoiled by political tyranny, to open up the possibilities for man.
Indeed it was Columbus who made the daring trip in the spirit of Western discovery and adventure. We should remember him in only the best light and should celebrate him in every way.
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