Sunday, 16th November

Sunday, 16th November


We departed Calabash Bay on Long Island at 10:30 this morning with 20 knots of wind out of the east. As we head to our final anchorage at George Town, Great Exuma, we attach our last update which consists of our conclusions from the 2014 Following Columbus Expedition.

This early November season, corresponding with Columbus’s 12 — 25 October navigation among the Lucayan Islands, is a season of sporadic rainy squalls and varying winds following a meteorological pattern caused by cold fronts heading southeast from the American continent. Because these fronts differ each year, it is impossible exactly to recreate Columbus’s track among the islands.

Despite this reality, we’ve succeeded in examining eight of the nine anchorages Columbus is presumed to have made according to the Grand Turk landfall theory. They are:

Guanahani/Pillory Beach, Grand Turk.
Pine Cay north of Providenciales.
Near the southeast point of Mayaguana.
Just outside the southeast entrance to Abraham’s BAy, Mayaguana.
Just southwest of the southwest cay of Hogsty Reef
off to the west of Northwest Point, Great Inagua.
somewhere off the north coast of Great Inagua between its Northwest Point and its north point (caravels only, not the flagship).
Off the protected reefless shore of the north point of Great Inagua.
In the shallows south of Ragged Island. Adverse winds and the need to refuel have prevented us from verifyingthis anchorage. However, since scholarly agreement on this anchorage is practically unanimous, the necessity of visiting it is less than that of the above eight anchorages.

Besides this, we have proved the value of the shelter of Hawk’s Nest Anchorage southeast of Grand Turk in a northwest wind. While the entire west coast of the island was pounded by the sea, we enjoyed a tranquil evening and night. This serves to vindicate Columbus’s judgement in commending it as a serviceable harbour — a judgement subsequently twice confirmed by the Royal Navy.

In 1934, the philosopher Sir Karl Popper described his falsifiability criterion. Using this criterion a scientist seeks to discover and observe an exception or contradiction to a postulated rule. Absence of refutation or contradictory evidence thereby becomes corroboration of the theory under examination. In other words, a good theory, a scientific theory is one that is susceptible of disproof, yet is not disproved.

Popper’s criterion is a Viennese restatement of John Stuart Mill’s mid-nineteenth-century thoughts on reaching certainty through science. But even this is anticipated by the Greek philosopher Epicurus around 250 BC. In a letter to his disciple Herodotus he observes:

“Falsehood and error always depend upon the intrusion of opinion when a fact awaits confirmation or the absence of contradiction …”

In testing the corrected inter-island route proposed in the Grand Turk landfall theory, we have found no refutation or contradiction of it. We therefore conclude that the track we’ve examined among the islands is a corroboration of the theory.

In addition, we’ve gained firsthand sailing knowledge of the variability of the wind among the islands at this time of year. Normally, the wind here is easterly, but when a cold front reaches the islands, the wind generally clocks around the compass windrose and sometimes dies altogether. This short season is almost always accompanied with massive thunderheads, squalls, and violent rain.

It now appears possible to infer a good deal more about Columbus’s inter-island track deduced from probable wind directions based on the effects of cold fronts reaching the Southern Bahamas and Turks and Caicos Islands.

We’ve also had opportunity to examine the west coast of Long Cay/Fortune Island. We conclude that, without major alterations to the text of Columbus’s Diario, this island simply cannot serve as Samoete/Isabela, the fourth island that Columbus visited and at which he spent almost four nights. On the contrary, Great Inagua presents a natural conformation with Columbus’s various descriptions of his fourth island.

We’ve identified several likely places to search for Lucayan habitations, which may well serve the work of specialists in Lucayan archaeology.

Finally, we do not propose that the track we can now plot from Grand Turk to the Ragged Islands proves the Grand Turk landfall theory. Rather, we may now say that it corroborates a theory whose proof reposes in the evidence of the attached analysis of Castilian texts closely contemporary with Columbus’s epochal transatlantic landfall.

Team Columbus of the 2014 Following Columbus Expedition thanks Governor and Madame Beckingham for their encouragement, its readers for their attention and Captain Tim Ainley for organising it.

Respectfully submitted:

Dave Calvert, Captain of sailing vessel Destiny II
Josiah Marvel, Expedition Scholar
Jon Nickson, Expedition Photographer
Tim Ainley, Expedition Leader