17 May 2019 | 37:55N 042:01W
Trip:1192 Distance to Waypoint 632; Bearing to Waypoint 083deg 37deg 55'N 042deg 01'W COG: 081 SOG:6.0 Wind SSW f4-5
Boat time 05:20 (UT-3)
SUNRISE AND ALL THAT
On voyage such as this, especially as we head east towards the rising sun, and my first watch of the day being the dawn watch, 04:00 to 08:00, I get to look straight into the sunrise every morning, and have done so for the past 10 mornings, and I have plenty of time to ponder about such things, much as did those early mariners who explored our oceans millennia ago. We know that it was of much interest to early man whether he be on land or at sea as is testified by structures such as Stonehenge, Avebury Ring etc. such edifices where created so that all knew the dates of midsummer, preparations could be made, gods needed to be appeased, sacrifices be made...blah blah blah.
The sun and its timings and changes throughout the year has always had significance to mankind as it has to all animals and plant life. Earths tilted axis ensures that the time of sunrise changes everyday and it follows a regular pattern, an annual pattern that marks out our seasons, it sets our biological clocks. The vernal equinox when daylight equals night and the days start to get longer, winter is being left behind and summer is coming, plants start to grow and flower as the temperature increases, animals have their young such that they may have the summer to grow and put on weight before the harshness of winter comes. The ancient people knew that mid-summers day, 21st June to us is significant, as from now on the days were going to get shorter, to early man this was very significant. we must make hay whilst the sun shines, if they did not work to seasons their crops would fail and their civilisation's would fail.
That all be very good for early man, but what significance did it have for the ancient mariners and early astronomers and philosophers. Where do all these sun's keep on going to. 'there must be a whole stack of those behind that mountain over there I see one set behind it every night' said Eric as he looked out to the west 'that's ok' said his mate Barny 'a new one comes up every morning from over there' as he looked out to the east. Surely if the earth was flat and infinite there would be nowhere for these sun's to rise from or set to, it would not be possible that the sun was orbiting around the earth, the earth being the centre of the universe, as was believed until relatively recently. Likewise if the earth was flat how could it orbit the sun. Having looked at the horizon that encompasses me for the past 10 days day in and day out, I can see the curvature of the earth, perhaps if lived in Terry Pratchet's Disc World, where by the word was a flat disc I might see the edge and it might appear curved, but that would mean that the world would only be as large as the horizon I could see which is no more than 5 miles in any direction, giving disc world a diameter of 10NM, I can sail that in 2 hours and fall off the edge. No, I do not think that these early mariners were that ignorant, they knew that they were not going to fall off the edge of the known world but find a 'New World'. I do not believe that it was not in the within the with of early man to look up at the skies above and see the sun as a disc, or even an orb, and in particular to look up at the moon and see its different guises as it waxed and waned and notice too that it sometimes appeared as a silver disc and others a crescent but yet still see the shaded part of the moon. They would have grabbed two rocks and rotated them around each other and realised that these celestial bodies where in actual fact spherical, and would have quickly put two and two together and surmised that the the Earth the very land that they trod upon was similar, why would it not be.
The sun and the stars had been studied for millennia since the down of early man. Man had soon worked out the patterns of the sun, and the other celestial bodies, how they moved, when sun and the planets would rise and set, when the moon would wax and wane, and their elliptic routes across the sky, along with the discovery of loadstone and the earths magnetic field this information was all a powerful tool. Once they had worked out how this information could be used to navigate the world. Armed with this information and know how they had the the most powerful weapon with which to conquer and rule the world. This information was top secret. Perhaps to guard this secret notions that the world be flat should be perpetuated...propaganda. Even today there are 'flat earther's' those that believe the world to be flat, not even convinced by the irrefutable evidence from pictures from space showing the earth to be circular from which ever angle it is viewed, this would could only happen if the world where a sphere. Ah but of course the Apollo missions where all a hoax and the pictures faked. I tend to think that the conspiracy was the other way round. It was in the interest of the authorities, the powers that be, the Church and in particular the Catholic church to make the mere mortals believe that earth was flat as such, that theory was perpetuated and any dissenter crushed as a heretic. As were those who believed that the sun was the centre of our universe and not earth and that in fact the earth spins round the sun with the stars motionless, rather than the official held belief that the earth was the centre of the universe and all the heavenly bodies circle slowly round us. It was Copernicus who let the cat out of the bag, probably as controlled leak from the Church as there too many who believed otherwise and they would look stupid if they held onto the deceit.
Well how big is Earth, according to Christopher Columbus who in 1492 discovered the West Indies, so named as he was sure that after sailing west from the Canary Islands some 2400NM to the 'New World' on no less than four occasions was insistent that he was actually in the East Indies and part of Asia of which he knew to be on the other side of the world, he apparently maintained this notion until his death in 1506. Apparently this crossing took 36 days, an average speed of 2.77kts ((2400/36f.66nm a day 66.66/24=2.77 knots)), thus believing that only 2500nm or so separated the Asian Indies from Europe whilst heading west, instead of the 15000, or so miles that does actually separate them.
I do not believe a great navigator and mariner like Columbus could be that ignorant, nor Queen Isabella of Castile. This was calculated plot that did not go entirely to plan, but achieved the same goal...the accumulation of wealth to satisfy the greed of the Spanish Hierarchy and to fund their wars to achieve world domination as they believed was Gods will. Yes, Columbus set of to find a direct western route to the Asia and the riches that lie there, the spice trade, without needing to use the dangerous Silk Road. He would have known that the Americas existed, may be not to what extent but he knew they were there, hey may not have known about all the islands he would encounter, in particular the 'useless islands' as he called the Lesser Antilles, he may not of even knew that South America existed, although I think this unlikely. What he hoped to find was a way through in Central America, the 'Western Passage' if you like, a bit like the North West Passage but only further South and not covered in ice. He knew what he was doing and he knew exactly where he was, he just had to find a way through Central America, and of course a way through to the Pacific was eventually established in 1914 with the opening of the Panama canal, the idea of which was first muted in the sixteen hundreds and indeed the french had started to build the 48 mile long canal in the 1880's. Perhaps Columbus had notions building such a canal once he had found that there was not a waterway through this narrow part of the Americas. he would have surely soon discovered that the Pacific Ocean and the route to the East was only a few hundred miles away.
The reason that he maintained until his dying day in 1506 that these lands he had found were the Asia Indies was that he had a contract with Queen Isabella that if he succeeded, he would have a title and great riches...he would have lost all he had and his riches to come. The Queen was quite happy to be deceived as he was bringing home ships laden with gold and riches...they would have both been fools not to go along with this charade, and besides he was the greatest navigator that ever lived who would dare to contradict him. His crew would not have known one way or the other, and the ratings where probably earning a cut of the share, so would not say otherwise. Meanwhile Columbus continued to find that way through. Therefore his exploration had been a success of sorts. The reason to find the route to the Indies was wealth, he found wealth in abundance, possibly more than he would have done if had found a way through. Of course if he was really a mariner and navigator he could have ventured round the nasty Cape Horn...but why should he risk his life and cosy lifestyle for that. Did he deliberately lie? was he being just economical with the truth? or was he just deliuded?
Richard and Alison yacht Cerulean of Penryn
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