Age of Exploration

Like most young people I wasn't very enthusiastic when it came to learning about history. However, the Age of Exploration suddenly caught my attention. "How cool!" I thought to be on a sailing ship headed out to sea, not knowing when you will fall off the edge of the Earth and get swallowed by an enormous serpent!

It took a special person to got out and do this, and think they were going to survive to tell others what they found.  I have always had the urge to explore, and unlike most who joined me on any given mission, I always felt confident about where I was heading and how to get where I wanted to be, ... even when at a total lost for knowing exactly where I was. College buddies gave me the nick-name of Vasco DaGama because of this.

Early map of the World before anyone knew anything about
Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica.

Until the voyages of Captain Cook, Australia was called "terra australis incognita" --the unknown land of the south. Due to the Great Barrier Reef, ships could not circumnavigate the continent to determine its size or whether it was a contiguous piece of land.

Pinzon silly, not Columbus!

I do not celebrate Columbus Day, ... but it has nothing to do with Europeans exploiting native cultures and killing them with smallpocks --if not Columbus than the next guy would have. Instead, Columbus' right-hand man, Vicente Pinzon, piloting the Niña (Columbus was on the Santa Maria), knew there was an entire continent between Europe and Asia so he insisted Columbus sail northeast from where they first found land. After repeated disputes on the subject, Pinzon took his ship and discovered Florida while Columbus wandered around what is now Puerto Rico but believing he was in the Indian Ocean. Unfortunately, after weeks of exploring separately, Columbus' ship passed Pinzon only a few short hours before reaching port back in Spain. This was sufficient time to have Pinzon thrown in prison when he arrived, while Columbus bragged about the riches of having found a western short-cut to Asia --*not*!

Vicente Yáñez Pinzón pilot of Columbus' ship the Niña

While marooned on the island of Jamaica ...

Predicting a Lunar eclipse in 1504, Columbus insisted the rebelling natives continue bringing food and supplies for his men else he would have their Moon god eaten and they would all die.  The natives refused until the night of an eclipse, suddenly there was plenty to eat for all. Very cool --again *not*! --knowing an eclipse was coming and using it as power over the naive. Wait! Is Columbus wearing shades in that painting?!

Tall Ships, Whalers, Captains & Cartography

The book, Heart of the Sea, about the whaling ship Essex, is an incredible true story that inspired Melvill's Moby Dick. This is a "must read", but not for the feint of heart. Parts of it, well, *most* of it can be tough to handle emotionally for some people.

Whalers of Nantucket, a favorite spot to bicycle in the Summer

Another favorite place to visit is the Charlestown Naval shipyard where the U.S.S. Constitution (Old Ironsides) is moored.  Every Summer on the 4th of July they take her out and turn her around so the weathering is uniform.

Can you believe, Captain James Cook as a teen, sailing with the British navy in 1765 (before the Revolution), mapping the shores of New England, created the most acurate cartographs in existence until satellite imagery of the late 1980's?! His voyages as a Captain in the Royal Navy included verifying the existence of the Australian continent (not coincidentally saliing a ship named Endeavour --see STS-126), discovering many island chains in the Pacific including Hawaii, and searching for a Northern Pacific, i.e. Alaskan, access to the NorthWest passage.

Capt. Cook's death in Hawaii

Cook is facing war-hungry natives while his men are *behind* him shooting from off-shore. Read the Biography of Cook to find out why.

Mel Fisher

Mel and friends at Sloppy Joe's in Key West

While living in Key West, I had the pleasure to know Mel Fisher. Mel lived at #17 Houseboat Row, I think it was 17 anyway., could have been 14.  Houseboat Row was a string of wild and wacky home-grown exotic floating homes/boats, and one's address was determined by the palm tree in front at the roadside. To find someone's address, you counted the palm trees along U.S. Route 1southbound and looked for a mailbox bolted to a palm tree in front. I was the guy teaching his staff how to use a word processor on his first computer, of course. I remember it was called Select 1-2-3, and I'm probably the only person alive who remembers that product!  :)

Mel 's story is fantastic! The most unlikely of treasure hunters, he became an icon. I remember when he found Columbus' Pinta, and soon after I returned to New York in 1983, he hit it big with the Atocha. One of the gold pieces he brought up was worth so much its value couldn't be calculated acurately at the time.  If you ever get the chance, visit his museum in Key West ... and let me know if you see that old computer.

Seven Cities of Gold