--On Thursday, October 09, 2003 22:55:26 -0300 "Marc G. Fournier" <[EMAIL PROTECTED]> wrote:

You know, its this attitude that would have kept Christopher Columbus in
Europe ... all the "big scary warnings" said that the world was flat back
then, no?

No, not at all. Because by the time of Columbus, every educated European knew that the Earth was spherical. Hell, the ancient Greeks and Romans knew that. (Anybody who's ever stood on the shore and watched a ship sail over the horizon should be able to figure out the most likely reason why it disappears from the bottom up; and why you can see it for longer from a higher vantage point.)

Where Columbus differed from his contemporaries was in the estimates
of the size of the sphere and of the land distance between Europe
and Asia.  The commonly accepted estimates were fairly accurate.
Columbus grossly under estimated the size of the earth and over-
estimated the land distance between Europe and Asia.  Which is why
he thought that the East Indies were part of India - they were about
the right distance west of Europe, according to his badly flawed

There is also strong reason to believe that he -knew- that there
was a land mass between Europe and Asia.  Why else would he take
the longer southern route against the currents of the Gulf Stream
instead of the more northerly route that would have shortened the
distance and time travelled out of site of land?  And there is
evidence that Welsh fishing fleets were regularly fishing off the
coast of Newfoundland for at least 200 years before Columbus.
(But at the time, the location of good fishing sites was considered
a valuable trade secret.  There is evidence of contemporary rumors
of a land mass in the northern ocean to the west; but not a precise
location; and it was thought to be a large island, not a continent.)

And there is also considerable evidence that an Irish monk sailed
to Canada in a small tarred-hide boat around 800 AD.  That certainly
wasn't any secret in Columbus' time.  Nor were the Norse stories
of Vinland.

So let's stop giving Columbus credit for things that he didn't actually do. And particularly stop giving him credit for being more insightful than his contemporaries when his success actually came from being grossly wrong in almost every respect.

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