By John E. Carey
October 8, 2008
First we salute Christopher Columbus, a wise mariner and colonizer. Mostly we think of him as a great navigator but let’s not forget that he also had to raise his own money for his adventures by “pitching” his plans around Europe. On May 1, 1486, Columbus laid out his plans before Queen Isabella, of Spain, who funded the project. Columbus then built, manned and supplied a three ship unit.
Portrait by Alejo Fernández, painted between 1505 and 1536. Photo by historian Manuel Rosa.
Christopher Columbus faced immense challenges. His critics said the earth was flat and he would fall off. Few people had any idea how large the earth was or the distances between unexplored places. And finally, Chistopher Columbus had no accurate timepiece. Estimating longitude depends on accurate time measurement. No reliable chronometer existed in the 14th and 15th centuries. Time was kept on board ship by the use of sand filled hour glasses which had to be watched and turned hourly.
As a former Naval Officer who had to raise money, give some “pitches” and navigate in my own life, at sea and ashore, I have the deepest admiration for Christopher Columbus and his tenacity.
Pretty cool guy.
Notes from the shop
My wife and I run a small business — but she does all the work. I admit it!
I try to sit quietly at the computer doing research and cranking out newspaper articles.
And I also tell stories to people purely for the entertainment and fellowship (and I don’t mean just men: no offense intended to the women out there!).
Today I told stories about Columbus.
One customer today was born in Bolivia and I told him he might not be here if not for Chris Columbus. I told him he has two ties to Columbus: his life in the Americas and his Spanish language. The Bolivian man was impressed that Columbus found this land but he also convinced a Spanish Queen to fund the quest!
Another customer, who is a 49 year old mailman who walks five miles every day, was born in Brazil. He thought Columbus did an incredible job at navigation and said, “Whenever I get a new route I need a map. Columbus followed the stars and his dream.”
A woman born in Thailand added that the key to life is hope, your dream and determination. She thought Columbus would say that if he lived today.
Like a lot of Asian-Americans she spent time at sea as a refugee.
One customer, named Shaka, told me he is named for the greatest warrior of all time: Shaka who united the Zulu nation in Africa. He said Shaka is viewed and respected for his military adeptness like Attila the Hun or Alexander the Great. He said that Columbus was just as important as Shaka and maybe more so because Columbus had no idea what he would find or quite how he would find it. In fact, Columbus was searching for India (that is why Native Americans have been referred to as “Indians”).
I told two day laborers born in Guatamala that Columbus probably landed closer to what is today Guatamala than say New York! Their response: “We don’t know much because all we do is work.”
All we do is work: a common thread among many of first generation American immigrants.
Finally, my own wife escaped Vietnam with the “Boat People” after the fall of Saigon in 1975. She has no love of the sea’s vastness and perils.
About Columbus she said, “Don’t even think about it. He has to make that trip without me in the crew.”
Read more about Columbus: