The connection between Ibiza and Christopher Columbus's enigma(Text of the lecture given on October 14, 2000 in the 41st Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries, Library of Congress, Washington D.C.)
I will begin by saying that I first entered the fascinating world of the discoverer of America in Havana, as first mate aboard a Swedish ship in November 1962, when a copy of Salvador de Madariaga’s El Muy Magnífico Señor Don Cristóbal Colón fell into my hands. There, in the Caribbean, I asked myself how it was that Columbus managed to navigate without nautical charts, with no weather reports nor any of the modern navigational instruments nowadays at our disposal. On leaving the merchant marine in 1963, I entered the world of journalism, and faced with the enigma of Christopher Columbus, treated it as I would an investigative report. This work has actually become the most important in my life.
I have endeavoured to become familiar with the various different theories in existence regarding the explorer. I have been particularly interested in his place of birth, his identity, his scientific, cartographic and nautical knowledge, his maternal language, his religious beliefs and the possibility that he was of Jewish origin.
After a good many years, I have arrived at the conclusion that two important elements have come together in my character which have helped me to establish the truth on this matter: firstly, as a Catalan speaker fluent in the Catalan dialects of the Balearic Islands and the Catalan spoken in Valencia, and secondly from having been a man of the sea. To be sure, these are characteristics that have allowed me to understand many areas of Columbus’s life, which the overwhelming majority of researchers do not understand and which therefore go over their heads.
To sum up my long years of research, I would say that I have become firmly convinced that Christopher Columbus can only be understood as a Catalan-speaking crypto-Jew and born in one of the territories which comprised the old Catalan-Aragonese confederation, the former Crown of Aragon. My research indicates that he was a member of the powerful Colom family of Ibiza, merchants who filled important political posts on the island and who were a branch of the Coloms of Catalonia. In other words, of the family which owned properties in Barcelona’s Call judio (Jewish Quarter).
Furthermore, I am convinced that Columbus knew and had documentary proof that some 2,800 nautical miles west of the Canaries, on the other side of the Atlantic, there were lands which were neither Asia, China, nor Japan.
Alexander von Humboldt(1) [Cristóbal Colón y el Descubrimiento de América, appendix II], in his work Admirabiles Auscultationes (Chapter 94, p. 836), says that “in the sea which extends beyond the Pillars of Hercules (the Strait of Gibraltar), an island was discovered by the Carthaginians [...], a number of days distant by boat.” Diodorus Siculus differed in attributing the island’s discovery to the Phoenicians.
When we turn to Ramon Llull (Mallorca 1235 – Bougie 1315), writer, philosopher, mystic, missionary and notable traveller, in question 154 of his work Questiones per artem demostrativan solubiles(2), on explaining the phenomenon of the tides in the Atlantic Ocean, states that “the arc which the water, as a spherical body, forms is precisely that which opposed spurs have to back each other up, as they could not otherwise be supported; and it follows, just as one spur is formed by our continent (referring to the coasts of England, France, Spain and Africa), which we see and know, in the opposite part to the west there lies another continent, which we neither see nor know of here.
We find other important facts in the fragment of a letter(3) which Christopher Columbus wrote to the Aragonese monarchs in January 1495 from Hispaniola, detailing his experience as a sailor, in which he wrote the following: “I navigated in the year 1477 in the month of February, hundred leagues from the ultra Tile (which means 400 miles beyond the west of Iceland).” Moreover, Columbus says that “at the time I went there, the sea was not frozen, although there were great tides, such that in some parts the sea rose twenty-five fathoms a day, and fell the same amount.” In fact, it is known that in that year there was an expedition organized by Christian I of Denmark and Alfonso V of Portugal, and the cited fragment from Columbus’s letter indicates that he participated personally in the voyage in question. During the expedition to Iceland, and possibly Greenland, Labrador and Terranova, Columbus would have obtained information, if not already in his possession, concerning the Vikings’ voyages to the lands which lie north-east of North America. But, above all, he obtained confirmation that a new continent existed between Europe and Asia.
Let us now look at what the Settlement of Santa Fe(4), signed by the monarchs Ferdinand and Isabel and Johan de Coloma, secretary, on 17th April 1492. “The things requested and which Your Highnesses hereby award to Don Christoval de Colon, in recognition of that which he has discovered in the oceanic seas and of the voyage that he predicts, with God’s help, it is necessary to make for them in the service of Your Highnesses...”
Dr Frederic Udina Martorell(5), who has been Director of Barcelona’s Archive of the Aragonese Crown, points out that “the tense of the verb in the document which we have underlined will not have escaped the notice of the reader: in April of 1492 and in a document from the Chancellery there appears an expression alluding to lands already discovered. One cannot claim,” continues Dr Udina Martorell, “that there might be a mistake in this expression, since in the Catalan-Aragonese Chancellery in the 15th century, they carried out their duties with great precision and in subjects as important as this weighed their words very carefully.” By way of conclusion, Dr Udina Martorell wonders what is meant by “has discovered” and answers the question himself: “it is obvious that one can deduce from this a very solid case for the so-called pre-discovery”.
Let us now consider the letter from Columbus(6) to Luis de Santàngel, in which he informs him of what occurred during the first voyage. Referring to Cuba, the Admiral says that “in it [there are] many ranges and very high mountains, not to be compared to the island of centrefrei.” The letter was printed in April 1493 in the workshop of Pere Posa of Barcelona and is now kept in the New York Public Library. Strangely enough, the great majority of Spanish and Italian historians – with the exception of Martín Fernández de Navarrete – maintain that the word centrefrei is a typographic error, which should really read ‘Tenerife’. And they argue that in the ship’s log from the first voyage(7), it says on 20th December 1493 that “... there are mountains there higher than those of the island of Tenerife in the Canaries” and in the entry for 21st December we read that “... there are very high mountains which seem to touch the sky, so that the island of Tenerife appears as nothing in comparison to these in elevation and beauty.” I have personally arrived at the conclusion that Fray Bartolomé de las Casas was the first to modify the ship’s log of the first voyage, in some passages, to fit his knowledge, and it appears very probable that he changed the word centrefrei, which meant nothing to him, for ‘Tenerife’. In actual fact, while sailing along the north and north-east coasts of Cuba(8), Columbus would only have been able to see the high plateau of Nipe (995 metres above sea level), Mt. Cristal (1,231 m), the peaks of Moa (1,175 m) and the Sierra del Purial (1,176). It is worth remarking, on the other hand, that on the island of Tenerife, the summit of Teide rises 3,715 metres above sea level and is the highest in Spain.
Even so, as there is an enormous difference between the words centrefrei and ‘Tenerife’, I have never subscribed to the view that it is simply a matter of a typographic error and I have investigated the subject for many years, searching for the island of Frei, and I can today affirm that I have found it.
Off the Norwegian coast, at 63º5’ N latitude and 7º5’ E longitude, one finds the island of Frei, famous for a battle between the Viking armies of Håkon the Good and the sons of Erik, which took place in 955 A. D. Frei measures 72 km2, had a population of 5,100 in 1999 and for further reference is located some 140 km south-west of Trondheim and 10 km south of Kristiansund.
On the island of Frei, Mount Freikollen stands out at 628 metres above sea level, and in the nearby islands of Averøya and Tustna there are mountains measuring 749 and 866 metres respectively, and on clear days the summits of Romsdal are visible. Frei is situated in the centre of a group of islands, and the nearby coastline, also mountainous, in which the islands of Kristiansund, Averøya, Tustna, Aspøya, Bergsøya and the communities of Smøla, Gjemnes and Eide figure prominently. I have obtained this information from Einar Radergard (Director of the Trondheim folke bibliotek), Karl Kjetil Skuseth (in Frei kommunne, Feb/March 2000) and also from the Admiralty Chart 2306, Vigra to Froya and from Admiralty Sailing Direction, Norway Pilot, Volume IIB (1979).
My theory is that at the end of 1476, the Danish-Portuguese expedition to Iceland and Greenland, in which Christopher Columbus participated, came together in the area of the island of Frei, and I can confirm that among the inhabitants and sailors of the central Norwegian coastline there is indeed a tradition that Columbus was once there. Let us now examine a rather strange piece of information which relates to Norway(9). Namely, that Gonzalo Alonso Galeote, master seaman (he was second-in-command and in charge of the vessel’s financial affairs), who had taken part in the second voyage, on 16th February 1515, in San Salvador, Cuba, at the request of Diego Columbus, second Admiral, made the following declaration. “At the seventh question this witness said that he agreed that he had heard from his father that he was a man well versed in the arts of navigation and antiquity, and that he knew well the way to Norway, which is where we now are...” From this it appears that Galeote is actually referring to his own father, but this probably arises from the scribe’s misinterpretation of the witness’s replies, because it makes no sense that Galeote should have said “we are now in Norway” when it is quite clear that the interrogation took place in Cuba. There is something very strange here, and I haven’t the slightest doubt that they would have taken him for a madman. Therefore, I believe that we have here a manipulated text, and I understand that the “man well versed in the arts of navigation” and who knew the passage to Norway was in fact Christopher Columbus and not Galeote’s father. It has been demonstrated(10) that the sailors of Palos traded between Italy, Flanders and England, but there is no information that they had relations with Norway. In Spain, as far as I have been able to ascertain, no such connection has been established. On the other hand, we know of the existence of an island called Frei and it has been proved that Columbus reached Iceland in 1477 and, possibly, the coast of North America. This would provide an explanation for the pre-discovery and the fact that in the Settlement was written the phrase “that which he has discovered”.
I shall now show you, since as we will see, it is very necessary for my purposes, that the word Norway appears in Volume III of the Pleitos Colombinos (Columbus’s lawsuits) of 1984, an edition prepared by Antonio Muro Orejón and which includes contributions from Florentino Pérez-Embid, José Antonio Calderón Quijano, Francisco Morales Padrón and Tomás Marín Martínez, all highly-respected historians in Spain. The version and palaeographic revision were carried out by José Llavador Mira, Miguel Maticorena Estrada and Bibiano Torres Ramírez.
Now, Professor William Phillips author of an English version of the famous Columbian lawsuits, Testimonies from the Columbian Lawsuits (UCLA, 2000) translates on pages 116-117 “... que alcançava much la via de Noruega...” by an astonishing “...who went far out on the norwest path ...”. Without any doubt, the correct version is that of Volume III of the Pleitos Colombinos which fully agrees with the work of the historian Fernández Duro(11). William Phillips has thus done the world’s investigators little good by magically converting Noruega into northwest.
Let us now return to the matter of the 25-fathom tides of which Columbus spoke in his letter to their majesties. “... although there were great tides, such that in some parts the sea rose twenty-five fathoms a day, and fell the same amount,” which would amount to 41 metres if we adopt the fathom of the Iberian peninsula. Now as it happens, tides of that magnitude are not found anywhere in the world. However, in the Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia, Canada, there are indeed tides of 19 to 21 metres, which could be compatible with an error committed by Fray Bartolomé de las Casas when transcribing Columbus’s letter to their Majesties (it is strange that the number of fathoms in Las Casas’s copy is written in letters and not in roman numerals, as Columbus used to do). Alternatively, the Admiral may have exaggerated or could equally have multiplied the actual tide by two since, if we pay close attention, Columbus wrote that the tides rose and fell twice a day.
The voyage of 1476 is well documented by Sofus Larsen(12), among other older documents, and in a globe of 1537, kept in Zerbst, a town located some 40 km south-east of Magdeburg, Germany. This particular sphere is the work of Gemma Frisius and Gerhard Mercator, experts in mathematics and cartography, features drawings of the North American Arctic regions and in two annotations mentions the passage by which the Portuguese attempted to navigate to the Far East, India and the Moluccas. We can also read that present was one Joannes Scolvus, Latinized version of the Jon Scolp, a Dane, in charge of the expedition, who could equally have been Nowegian since Denmark and Norway shared the same ruler, Christian I.
Now, of course, we know that Christopher Columbus too was on this voyage because he said as much in a letter to their Majesties Ferdinand and Isabel in 1495. In 1476 Columbus had still not married Filipa Moniz Perestrello and, for this reason, was a foreigner in Portugal, so that he must have had, perforce, a good godfather, or probably two, in Lisbon. Research and logic both indicate that this relative was the French vice-admiral, Guillaume de Casenove Coulon, who following the naval battle which took place on 13th August 1476 at Cape St. Vincent, remained in the Portuguese capital until 12th December of the same year(13). Now Guillaume de Casenove Coulon must have been Christopher Columbus’s relative because there were branches of the Casanova family in Catalonia and the Balearics, and also because we know of possible matrimonial ties between the the Casenoves of Bearn, France and the Coloms of Barcelona at the end of the 14th century, a subject being investigated in considerable depth. It is also the case, moreover, that Guillaume had a son called Juan Casenove and a nephew of the same name, corsair and vice-admiral, who was very likely the real “Colón el Joven” (‘Young Columbus’) and who was mistaken for George Bissipat or George le Grec in Venice(14). As it happens, Bissipat must have been Columbus’s other godfather and patron in Lisbon, since he also participated in the naval battle at Cape St. Vincent. He later rose to become Vice-admiral of France and confidant of Louis XI and Alfonso V of Portugal. Therefore Guillaume de Casenove Coulon, in my opinion and thanks to recent research carried out in the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona (in ‘Histoire de la Marine Française’), was, together with George Bissipat, Columbus’s great protector in Portugal, as he had already been in France, and had him embark as cartographer – thanks to his good relationship with King Alfonso V – on the secret voyage which, towards the end of 1476, set sail for Norway.
On the other hand, the simple truth is that nowhere is it stated that the expedition was in the Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, the Gulf of Saint Lawrence or Hudson Bay. Columbus’s statement that there were enormous tides does however point to the possibility of their having entered the Bay of Fundy. At any event, everything points to the fact that for Columbus the voyage signified the pre-discovery, as is reflected in the Settlement of Santa Fe.
Christopher Columbus had a very close connection with René of Anjou, sailing as a corsair under his orders, which is known to us because the Admiral himself said so in a letter addressed to their Majesties in January 1495 from Hispaniola. “It came about(15),” wrote Columbus, “that King Reynel (spelt thus, and also ‘Reinier’, which is the Catalan version of René), may he rest in peace, sent me to Tunis to capture the galliot “Fernandina”, and in the vicinity of the island of Sant Pedro off Sardinia, another galley told me that the said galliot was with two other vessels and a carrack; as a result the crew became perturbed and decided not to continue the voyage, but rather return to Marseille for another vessel and more men. I, seeing that I could not force their wills without some trick, complied with their demand, and changing the alignment of the (compass) needle, turned around as dusk fell, and the next day, at sunrise, we found ourselves inside the Cape of Carthage, having convinced them all that we were actually going to Marseille...”
This naval episode, according to Ricardo Carreras Valls(16), “may have taken place between 23rd April and 20th May 1469.” The Catalan researcher bases his supposition on official documents from the period dated in Barcelona and Mallorca, in which surfaces again the vessel “Fernandina” (property of King Ferdinand of Naples, nephew of René of Anjou and ally of Juan II). However, when Ricardo Carreras Valls attempts to give a second explanation to the naval occurrence which here concerns us, he reveals a serious lack of knowledge of geography and navigation. He claims, no less, that the deed took place around 6th September 1472, because the “Fernandina” was near the port of Barcelona in which today is the beach of Can Tunis (he confuses it with the word ‘Túnez’ in Columbus’s letter) and claims that instead of the Cape of Carthagine (the Carthage of the North African coastline), it is necessary to read Cartagena, which is a port on the Spanish Levantine coast.
Carrera Valls’s big mistake is that between the island of Sant Pedro, off Sardinia and the Cape of Carthage on the North African littoral there are some 130 miles, difficult to cover between nightfall and sunrise, but not impossible with very favourable winds. But what cannot be accomplished is to sail the 320 miles which lie between the island of Sant Pedro and Barcelona within the span of time indicated by Columbus. Moreover, in a letter(17) that the Admiral wrote to their Majesties in 1505, referring to the King of Portugal, he says, “Our Lord [...] blocked off his vision, hearing and all senses, which in fourteen years prevented him from understanding what I said.” To sum up, given that Columbus moved to Castile towards the end of 1484, it appears that he arrived in Portugal in 1470, the year in which the explorer began his long connection with the Portuguese country. All the more difficult, therefore, for Carreras Valls’s second hypothesis.
Columbus’s connection with René of Anjou (Angers 1409 – Aix-en-Provence 1480) must be placed in the context of the Catalan civil war of the 15th century, which from 1462 to 1472 divided the Principality of Catalonia into two factions(18). What we surely have here is a link determined by historical circumstances, because it can be proved that, thanks to King René, Columbus had access to maps on which the new continent was already drawn. More will be seen of this later.
To place Columbus’s patron in time and place, it is enough to remember that upon the death of Pere IV, the leaders of the Catalan government, contrary to the wishes of John II – ‘the Faithless’ – named René of Anjou as king. The new sovereign sent his eldest son John of Lorraine, who bore the title of Duke of Calabria, to act as his deputy in Catalonia. He died on 16th September 1470 and was succeeded by the bastard Juan de Aragón and Calabria, throwing the principality into its most bitter period during the war. The Treaty of Pedralbes was signed in October 1472 and from then until 1479, John II, father of Ferdinand the Catholic, occupied the throne again.
René of Anjou was Count of Provence and Duke of Anjou (1434-80), of Bar (1430-1480) and of Lorraine (1431-53). He was King of Naples, by title (1435-8) and in actual fact (1438-42). Therefore, taking into account that Columbus alludes to King Reynel – the great enemy of King Ferdinand’s father – in 1495, the letter can be called at the very least inopportune or impertinent, were it not for the privileges conceded by the Settlement of Santa Fe and the fact of his having since then had a privileged position in Castile, he would have wanted King Ferdinand to know with whom he was treating: with a corsair who had fought against his father in the Catalan civil war.
Years later, it will be explained when analysing Martin Waldseemüller’s world map, another René of Anjou, Duke of Lorraine appears, grandson of he who was King of Catalonia. Like his grandfather, he was very knowledgeable in cartographic matters and owned unknown maps which he had inherited from his family.
Lecoy de la Marche(19) presents a fascinating René of Anjou, informing us that he was a great polyglot who mastered not only the European languages but who was also interested in Oriental matters. In his library at Angers were some 24 works written in Turkish and he maintained contact with Arabs and Tunisians who frequented the ports of Provence and southern Italy. Something very strange – Lecoy de la Marche points out – is that René had “an ingenious picture in which he had written the ABC – it appears that this was some sort of ingenious dictionary of simultaneous translation – thanks to which he was able to write to all the Christian and Saracen countries.”
He was also very erudite as regards history, geography and the natural sciences and in his residences at Angers and Chanzé had a great number of world maps and globes, facts which indicate that we are dealing with an individual possessed of considerable scientific curiosity. It is also known that he had in the his study cabinet instruments for measuring the angles of the heavenly bodies. Moreover he maintained a close friendship with an astrologer and doctor from Carpentras, from whom he bought an astrolabe for forty-five escudos, of circular form, inside which could be seen the seven climates, one inside the other.
Another important fact for our story, given that Christopher Columbus was a crypto-Jew, is that René of Anjou was a great protector of the Jews; those of Provence paid him an annual contribution of 21,000 florins and he provided a written undertaking to guarantee their individual liberty and to oppose any kind of unjust harrassment.
René of Anjou did not have his own fleet, but he chartered Catalan, Florentine and Genoese vessels based in the port of Marseille. As regards their defence, he states that this was in the charge of Charles de Torreilles, a member of the Order of the Knights of St John of Jerusalem. The captains and patrons involved in René’s vessels, among them the Catalan Antoine Setanti, kept for themselves a fifth of what they obtained during their corsair activities.
Finally, in another work by Lecoy de la Marche(20) we see that in the inventory carried out in Angers Castle, it is said that there were five world maps, various other kinds of maps and a description of the Oriental regions.
Without any doubt, René of Anjou was one of the key characters in Columbus’s life.
This is drawn on parchment by hand and is coloured(21). It is composed of ten sections or panels, the whole forming a rectangle measuring 2.25 by 1.15 metres. It is now to be found in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. It is a Portuguese navigational map, undated, signed by the Genoese Nicolo Caveri. We know it is a Portuguese original made probably in Portugal since if it had been made in Italy, the legends wouldn’t have been written in the Portuguese language. The place-names of the Caveri map are in close agreement with Cantino’s map, which betrays its derivation from the same prototype. In the Caveri map, the place-names are more complete.
Another important feature is the scale of latitudes which regulates it. According to this, the continental regions in the north-east, also drawn in the Cantino map, here extend up to 20 degrees north, with a corresponding southern figure of 18 degrees.
As in the case of the Cantino map, although not very accurately, the Gulf of Mexico appears in its entirety. “Who furnished the information?” Francisco Morales Padrón wondered, pointing out that “ ... it was of interest in completing the knowledge of the continental shoreline in the section from Yucatan to Florida. If we take as certain the expeditions of Vespucci (1497) and Yañez Pinzón-Solis (1508-9), this arc had already been navigated totally or in part. It was properly discovered by the expeditions of Francisco Hernández de Córdoba (1507), Juan de Grijalva (1518) and Álvarez Pineda (1519)”. With regard to the north-east coast of the present United States, Morales Padrón says that “It is perhaps best seen as imaginary, since at this date only clandestine navigators could have seen such lands.” But, what about the place-names?
We therefore find ourselves, in the case of Caveri’s map, with a plan which would only be known about within closed circles in Portugal, based on an ancient prototype of unknown authorship. What is disconcerting is that in it are drawn, as already said, the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida peninsula and part of the North American seaboard. And all this in 1505, before the official expeditions cited.
This is the first world map(22) in which appears printed, for the first time, the name of America and whose original is made up of twelve sheets or panels, each of which measures 45.5 by 62 cm. The modern history of this map goes back to 1901, the year in which Josef Fischer, a geography teacher in Feldkirch, Austria, discovered in the library of Prince Franz Waldburg-Wolfegg in Württemberg, Germany, a volume which contained the 1507 map of the world. Waldseemüller’s map presents Europe and Asia, following Ptolemy, extending the place-names thanks to various travellers’ accounts, especially that of Marco Polo, and of the explorers, who rounding the Cape of Good Hope sailed as far as Calicut. With regard to the western hemisphere, “discovered’ in inverted commas, by Columbus in 1492, a large area of sea appears, completely apart from Asia, endowing Waldseemüller’s original projection with an appearance so accurate and true, above all in the small hemispheres which appear in the upper part, like ornamental finishing touches, that one may even observe in the outline of the main map a strait which separates the two continental masses and which recalls the present-day Panama Canal. Note that in those days in 1507, the true proportions of the discoveries made by Columbus were still unknown, including the existence of the South Seas (Pacific) and scarcely any of the coastline of that New World had yet been explored.
With these, the Spanish historian Carlos Sanz has analysed Waldseemüller’s map, adding, “... and the mind is startled on contemplating the great land-mass embraced by the two oceans which, in reality, encircle them.”
Among other sources that Waldseemüller used, besides the map of Caverio and Amerigo Vespucci, was the globe of Martin Behaim to draw the parts of south-east Asia, which figured in his large map and not in the old one of Ptolemy. To prove this, it is sufficient to compare Behaim’s globe and the map of Waldseemüller, superimposing one over the other, noting that both coincide with surprising exactitude.
Nevertheless, Waldseemüller had to make use of other sources of information which are completely unknown to us, maps which must perforce have charted the continent which Columbus sought and found. His map was drawn in the French town of Saint-Dié, in which the Duke of Lorraine, René II, founded the Gymnasse Vosgien (‘Vosges academy’) where the famous German cartographer Gaulthier Lud worked, as well as Jean Basin, Matthias Ringmann and Jean Pelerin ‘Viator’. According to my investigations, Behaim, Waldseemüller, Lud and Ringmann were of Jewish extraction.
Let us recall that René II was a grandson of René of Anjou, for whom Columbus had sailed as a corsair, a circumstance which makes us suspect that Columbus and Waldseemüller had in their hands the mysterious map of America located between two oceanic masses. In other words, the Angevin rulers had in their archives ancient maps drawn at an unknown date by equally unknown hands, but which were used by Columbus to make the Santa Fe Settlement with the Catholic Majesties and by Waldseemüller and his team to draw up the world map of 1507.
The map was accompanied by the Cosmographiae introductio which, in Chapter 9, speaks of the newly-discovered lands as of 1492. The description of America is puzzling, fascinating and clearly shows that the cartographers of Saint-Dié and, it follows Columbus as well, knew that between Europe and Asia there was another continent: “Thus the four parts of the world as from today onwards: the three first ones are continents (Europe, Asia and Africa), the fourth is an island, given that it can be seen surrounded by water on all sides.”
As far as the Panama channel is concerned, which we can see in Waldseemüller’s map, it is well documented that Columbus looked for it in earnest during the course of his Fourth Voyage. Of this there can be no doubt. I do not wish to digress from the subject, other than to say that I have indeed studied it in some detail and have been in contact with Richard Krushensky, Director of the Latin American Department of the U.S. Geological Survey, who explained to me that there was indeed a channel between South America and Central America at the end of the Miocene period: “... the answer, in the least complicated terms, is yes, there was a strait between the South American continent and Central America as late as the Miocene.”
In geological terms, the channel would have closed between 3.5 and 2.5 million years ago, but in practice, thanks to the enormous number of rivers and lakes present in the Isthmus of Panama, as well as the movement of tectonic plates, earthquakes and volcanic activity, concerning none of which we have any information, it appears very difficult to determine when, more or less, prior to Columbus’s voyages, it no longer became possible to navigate from the Caribbean to the Pacific.
Dr. Laurel S. Collins, a highly-respected professor at the Department of Geology at Florida International University, Miami, sent me in December 1999 the following e-mail: “My thinking on the Isthmus of Panama as an interoceanic strait remains the same. There is excellent evidence to suggest that the isthmus completely closed the strait 3 million years ago.”
But the geologists’ explanation is not so straightforward. Waldseemüller must have had in 1507 on his table an ancient map, a prototype, drawn before the natural strait closed in Panama, a fact confirmed by the scientists. The inter-oceanic channel drawn on the map amounts to a firm challenge and could not have been a fabrication of the Saint-Dié cartographers, but was drawn at a time when it was still navigable by sailors who had the tools for drawing up maritime charts and maps. But in what period of mankind’s history? That is the question.
Among the globes which have about them a certain halo of mystery, one should single out those of the Strait of Magellan(23) the work of the German mathematician Johann Schöner, born in Karlstadt in 1477 and who died in 1547. He held the chair of Mathematics at Nuremberg, edited the writings of Johan Müller ‘Regiomontano’ and of Johan Werner. Schöner made many of the oldest globes, the same which contributed to the history of the discoveries. Commenting on the globe of 1515, Rafael Candel Vila, Professor of Cosmology and geological engineer of the University of Strasburg and collaborator with Spain’s Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas states, “Among the most famous (globes) is that of Johann Schöner (1515), in which the Strait of Magellan figures prior to its discovery.”
Moreover, Albert Ronsin(24) says, Jean Schöner. World globe (1520), pupil of Waldseemüller [...] and draws an Antarctic continent called Brasilia Inferior, separated from South America by a strait then unknown as Magellan’s voyage had not yet been completed.” We would also like to point out that at this period the Antarctic continent had not been explored either, although it appears, strangely enough, drawn on the globe with the name of ‘Brasilia Inferior’. The Portuguese navigator in the service of Charles V of Spain left the Strait on 28th November 1520 and died in the Philippines on 27th April 1521, leadership of the expedition passing to Juan Sebastián Elcano a Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 6th November 1522. Without any doubt, Johann Schöner also had some ancient prototype at his disposal for drawing his globes.
According to Pigafetta(25), “ .. Magellan certainly went to find the strait because he said that he had seen in a marine chart, made by one Martin of Bohemia (Martin Behaim), the great navigator and astrologer, which was in the Treasury of the king of Portugal, the strait drawn in the manner he found it ...”
We have seen how in antiquity there was a certain knowledge concerning the existence of lands which lay a few days’ sailing from Europe, and also I believe I have demonstrated that Columbus was on the north-east coast of North America, that which I have come to call the “Norwegian connection”.
Columbus was sailing with René of Anjou, Guillaume of Casenove Coulon and George Bissipat, and everything points to him having had access to ancient maps on which the New World was drawn, besides other pieces of information probably made available to him by the House of Anjou and the Jewish cartographers.
There can be no doubt that the maps of Caveri, Waldseemüller and Schöner show the American continent before its discovery and the official exploration of its coastline, even though the Vikings, Portuguese and Columbus himself had already arrived in the northern part. The problem lies in the fact that we are faced with some puzzling maps, which were drawn without any doubt by people who had technical knowledge to do so. For my part, I shall continue investigating to attempt to get to the bottom of the enigmas which have been raised. The whole thing represents a challenge to which I have dedicated a good part of my life, and I hope to be able to continue for much longer.
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