The Navigation of Christopher Columbus and the Age of Discovery

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Before beginning the research for this work, I had planned on producing a paper and presentation which detailed the history of open sea navigation and the difficulties and dangers which would have faced sailors and seamen during the Age of Discovery. My premise was that we, living in the twentifirst century, had lost touch with the reality of just how hazardous a voyage such as that undertaken by Columbus was. I had hoped to be able to capture for the listener and reader a sense of wonder at the bold willingness to risk life and limb that was demonstrated by the explorers of this era as they left the safety of the waters and oceans that they knew, to challenge the unknown. I had wanted to capture that feeling of stomach-dropping fear that I believed these brave men must have experienced as the headlands they were leaving slipped out of sight below the horizon, possibly never to be seen again. Had I been successful in writing such a paper, I would have succeeded not in exploring history, but rather in producing fiction.

Although Columbus certainly deserves recognition as being the one to truly open the way to the New World for Renaissance Europe, and all that was to follow, he was not the high-stakes risk taker that some historians would have us believe. However, neither was he the bumbling quixotic figure presented by those who, for their own reasons, attempt to present him as some sort of insane idiot, or, at best, an extremely lucky savant. What is true about Christopher Columbus is that, for the times in which he lived, he was a well read and learned geographer. Columbus was a student of navigation and sailing, and as such, his understanding of the world in which he lived was based on works previously com...

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