9 Real Stops On Christopher Columbus’s Voyages

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In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue … and totally missed his mark. His journey may not have gone exactly as planned, but there were some interesting detours along the way. 

1. THE CANARY ISLANDS 

When Columbus set sail from the Spanish port of Palos on August 3, 1492, he already had his first pit stop planned. The Niña, Pinta, and Santa Maria headed to the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco for last-minute preparations and restocking. It's a good thing, too. By the time they arrived, the Pinta's rudder had disconnected and the ship was taking on water. (Columbus suspected some of the crew had second thoughts about the voyage and sabotaged the vessel.) There was talk of leaving the ship behind—but what were they going to do, order another one online? The men repaired the Pinta during the layover and officially headed west on September 6. 

2. SAN SALVADOR ISLAND 

We know Columbus—or perhaps a sailor on the Pinta named Rodrigo de Triana—first spotted land on October 12. But what we don't know is where exactly they were. Not that there's anything wrong with that—Columbus thought he was in the East Indies! The island was definitely in the Bahamas and already inhabited by the Taino people, who called it Guanahani. Columbus named it San Salvador and recorded that it was "very flat and with very green trees" with a surrounding reef and laguna in the middle. A number of islands fit the description, but many scholars later agreed that it was probably what used to be known as Watling Island. The Bahamanian government renamed it San Salvador Island in 1925. 

3. CUBA 

Columbus didn't stay put for long. After naming the small surrounding islands Santa Maria de la Concepcion, Fernandina, Isabela, and Las Islas de Arena, the fleet took off again. On October 28, Columbus and his men arrived in what they believed to be China—but was, in fact, Cuba—most likely through the Bay of Bariay. Columbus christened the island Juana after Queen Isabella's son and soon discovered the joys of tobacco. Long before Cuban cigars, the Arawaks smoked with Y-shaped nostril pipes. 

4. HISPANIOLA 

After China, which was actually Cuba, Columbus set off for Japan. The trip was no pleasure cruise: On Christmas Day, the Santa Maria ran aground after hitting a reef. Columbus ordered his men to dismantle the ship and build a temporary fort called Villa de la Navidad with some "help" from the locals. Columbus headed back to Spain on the Niña a few weeks later, leaving 39 sailors behind on La Isla Española, with his mistress's cousin Diego de Arana acting as governor. When Columbus returned a year later, the fort was destroyed and all of the men were dead. Today, Hispaniola is one of only two shared Caribbean islands, split between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

5. SANTA MARIA ISLAND

The journey back to Spain was miserable. After a number of storms, the crews of the Niña and Pinta disembarked in the Baía dos Anjos on Portugal's Santa Maria Island around February 15. Columbus set off seeking boat repairs while half his crew went to church (presumably to thank God they were still alive). Alas, the locals were wary of strangers after numerous pirate attacks and quickly arrested the sailors. So first Columbus lost the ship Santa Maria, and then he almost lost half his crew on Santa Maria. Fortunately, he was able to reason with the Portuguese to get the sailors released, plus to get some boat repairs. Then they finally headed home.   

6. DOMINICA 

Columbus didn't have much to show for his adventures when he returned to Spain, but he quickly secured funding for a second voyage. Returning to the fort on Hispaniola was his first priority, but he got a little distracted. On November 3, 1493, Columbus spotted a heavily forested island and had to take a look-see. The Kalinago natives weren't very welcoming—and the Europeans thought they were cannibals—so Columbus quickly named the island Dominica and headed out to explore the neighboring tiny islands, including modern-day Antigua and Montserrat. Why did he call this new place Dominica? Because it was Sunday (Domingo in Spanish) and, if you haven't noticed by now, Columbus wasn't especially original in the naming department. 

7. JAMAICA 

Columbus was horrified when he finally returned to Hispaniola and found La Navidad in shambles. He and his men built a new settlement called La Isabela, which was later struck by two of the earliest hurricanes ever observed in North America in 1494 and 1495. But before the natural disasters, Columbus made his own trouble by mistreating the locals and alienating his fellow sailors, who were hungry, sick, and mutinous. When they failed to find gold, Columbus headed back to Cuba and soon found his way to St. Ann's Bay in Jamaica. The Taino natives were hostile, so Columbus continued exploring and landed at Discovery Bay, Montego Bay, and Portland Bight. He didn't find gold in Jamaica, either, so he went back to Hispaniola before returning to Spain. 

Columbus later returned to—well, was shipwrecked in—Jamaica on his fourth voyage in 1503 after losing his four-boat fleet in a series of storms. He and his men were stranded for a year, until captain Diego Mendez rowed a canoe to Hispaniola. By that point, Columbus wasn't even allowed to visit Hispaniola, and it took months of negotiations before Mendez could charter a rescue caravel. 

8. TRINIDAD

Back to the chronology! The King and Queen allowed Columbus to go on a third voyage in May 1498 to resupply the colonists on Hispaniola (before he was blacklisted) and find a new trade route. The six-ship fleet split up: three went to Hispaniola and three went to new islands. Columbus chose the latter, of course. He and his men had almost run out of drinking water when they spied three peaks in the distance. Columbus named the land Trinidad and quenched his thirst in the Moruga River. 

9. VENEZUELA 

Contrary to what many people believe, Columbus did not discover America. But he did reach South America on August 1, 1498. As he and his men gathered water in Trinidad, they spotted the coast of South America. They explored the Gulf of Paria for eight days, discovering the "Pearl Islands" of Cubagua and Margarita and reaching the Orinoco River in Venezuela. Ever wrong about geography, Columbus admired this verdant new land and concluded he'd reached the Garden of Eden. Sigh. 

10 Enchanting Places That Align with the Vernal Equinox

A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
A shadowy serpent appears at Chichen Itza on the equinox.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

On Thursday, March 19, the vernal equinox heralded the first day of spring in the Northern Hemisphere. Ancient civilizations built calendars and observatories to track the movements of the stars and mark this monumental time. Now, people still partake in a variety of traditions and rituals to honor the day when light and dark become equal. To take your celestial celebrations to the next level, here are 10 places that align with the spring equinox.

1. On the vernal equinox, a massive snake appears on the temple at Chichen Itza.

Legend says that on the spring and fall equinoxes, the Maya city of Chichen Itza receives an otherworldly visitor: Kukulcan, the feathered serpent deity. On these days, a shadowy snake slithers down the side of the god's namesake pyramid. As the temple darkens, a single strip of light stretches from the top of the northern staircase to the snake head resting at the bottom, creating the illusion of a wriggling reptile.

2. A beam of light illuminates a petroglyph within Arizona’s Boulder House each vernal equinox.

The Boulder House in Scottsdale, Arizona, looks like a strange home wedged amid a jumble of rocks. But it’s actually a modern house built around a sacred Native American site. The Empie family, who bought the parcel of desert land in the 1980s, commissioned architect Charles Johnson to transform the cluster of 1.6-billion-year-old boulders into a functional house. Johnson crafted a unique structure, incorporating the rocks into the house’s foundation and preserving the prehistoric carvings. On the equinox, sunlight pierces between two boulders in the unusual abode, striking a spiral petroglyph on the wall to create a dazzling piece of home decor.

3. On the vernal equinox, a group of Moai on Easter Island stare directly at the sunset.

Seven Moai gaze face toward the horizon
On the equinox, these Moai stare directly at the setting sun.
abriendomundo/iStock via Getty Images

People aren’t the only ones who pause to watch the sun slip beneath the horizon on the first day of spring. On Easter Island, at a sacred site called Ahu Akivi, a line of seven Moai—the island’s giant, mysterious heads—gaze directly at the point at which the sun sets in the sky on the equinox.

4. Each vernal equinox, light drenches a petroglyph-filled cairn at Loughcrew.

The hills of Loughcrew, one of Ireland’s four main passage tomb sites, are crowned by 5000-year-old megalithic structures. At dawn on the equinox, sunlight fills Cairn T, a passage tomb carved with astoundingly well-preserved examples of Neolithic art. As the light dissolves the darkness, the cup marks that dimple its walls and the symbols adorning its back stones blaze into view. The illumination lasts for about 50 minutes, giving observers ample time to take turns squeezing into the cairn.

5. On the vernal equinox, light streams through one of the Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples.

The Mnajdra Prehistoric Temples on Malta’s southern coast are archaeological wonders. They were built between 3600 and 2500 BCE and are believed to be among the world’s oldest freestanding stone buildings. Not much is known about the people who created these megalithic masterpieces, though it’s clear they constructed one of the temples with an eye to the heavens. On the equinox, the sun streams through the South Temple’s main doorway, flooding the structure’s major axis with light.

6. On the vernal equinox, the sun sits directly atop the main temple at Angkor Wat.

Watching the sun rise over Angkor Wat would be a magical experience any day. Crowds hush as colorful hues paint the world’s largest religious structure with a gilded glow. Dawn at Angkor Wat is even more special on the equinoxes. Then, the sun rises behind the main temple before briefly seeming to balance on its tip like a fiery halo.

7. On the spring equinox, the sun rises through the entrance to Stonehenge Aotearoa.

Stonehenge has inspired replicas around the globe—including as far away as New Zealand. Stonehenge Aotearoa, which opened in 2005, was built by the Phoenix Astronomical Society. The structure is an astronomical tool for observing the local skies, and blends modern astronomy with ancient starlore. If you stand in the center of the circle on the Southern Hemisphere's vernal equinox, you can watch the sun rise directly through the Sun Gate, two carved pillars that flank the entrance to the henge.

8. The shadow of the intihuatana at Machu Picchu disappears at noon on the equinox.

A curious stone structure stands atop a temple at Machu Picchu. It’s one of the rare surviving intihuatanas that wasn’t demolished by the Spanish conquistadors. This “hitching post of the sun” is believed to have been an astronomical tool. At noon on the equinox, the granite pillar’s shadow briefly vanishes. Unfortunately, the invaluable object now looks a bit battered. In 2000, a crane toppled into the intihuatana during the filming of a beer commercial, smashing part of it.

9. At sunrise on the spring equinox, the sun bursts through the door of a temple at Dzibilchaltún.

Sunrise at Dzibilchaltún
Each equinox, the sun appears within the door of the Temple of the Seven Dolls.
renatamsousa/iStock via Getty Images

Though now reduced to a medley of ruins dotting the jungle, Dzibilchaltún was once the longest continually inhabited Maya administrative and ceremonial city. The star attraction here is the Temple of the Seven Dolls, a building named for the mysterious human-like figures discovered inside. At dawn on the equinox, the sun shines through the temple’s main door. It’s believed the sacred structure was aligned with the equinoxes to mark the beginning of the planting season and the end of the harvesting season.

10. The 'Woodhenge' at the Cahokia Mounds aligns with the sunrise on the equinox.

During the Mississippian cultural period, Cahokia's population exceeded that of London. In addition to giant pyramids, the North American city also featured circles of wooden posts, since dubbed “Woodhenge.” The wooden markers were likely used to track the sun’s movements. One of the posts aligns with the equinoxes, as well as with the front of Monks Mound. On sunrise on the equinox, it looks as though the sun is emerging from the enigmatic earthwork.

Goat Your Own Way: In North Wales, a Herd of Goats Is Taking Advantage of the Empty Streets

"We gon' run this town tonight!" —These goats, probably.
"We gon' run this town tonight!" —These goats, probably.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

While residents stay indoors to prevent the spread of coronavirus, the deserted streets and flower gardens of Llandudno, Wales, have become a playground for a people-shy herd of wild Kashmir goats.

The animals live on the Great Orme, a nearby stretch of rocky limestone land that juts out over the Irish Sea, and they’re known to sojourn in Llandudno around this time when rainy or windy weather makes their high-ground home more treacherous than usual. This year, however, the goats are being especially adventurous.

“They are curious, goats are, and I think they are wondering what's going on like everybody else,” town councilor Carol Marubbi told BBC News. “There isn't anyone else around, so they probably decided they may as well take over.”

The goats have spent their jaunt balancing atop stone walls, trotting through the town center, and munching on flowers and hedges in people’s yards. But nobody seems to mind—Marubbi told BBC News that the locals are proud of the animals and happy to watch them gallivant through the streets from their windows.

While the herd has been living on the Great Orme for more than a century, the goats aren’t native to the region. According to Llandudno’s website, Squire Christopher Tower bought two goats from a large herd in France that had been imported from Kashmir, India. He then used them to breed his own herd in England. Sometime during the 18th century, he gifted two of them to King George IV, who developed another herd at Windsor. The goats’ wool was used to produce cashmere shawls, which became particularly popular during Queen Victoria’s reign in the mid-19th century. She then gave two goats to Major General Sir Savage Mostyn, who took them to his family estate, Gloddaeth Hall, in Llandudno.

It’s unclear why or how they were eventually let loose on the Great Orme, but they managed to acclimate to their new environment and thrive in the northern wilderness.

Today, there are more than 120 goats in the herd, and it certainly looks like they’re enjoying their all-inclusive vacation.

[h/t BBC News]

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