100 Days Until Totality Blog Series: 70 Days Left – Escape by Eclipse

Christopher Columbus, an Italian explorer and navigator
Wikipedia Commons

A well-known fact occured in 1492, when Christopher Columbus sailed the ocean blue. Less well-known, is how Columbus narrowly escaped death 12 years later with the aid of an eclipse.

After a long trip at sea in 1504, Columbus, his crew, and their ships were weather-beaten and poorly equipped for further sailing. Desperate and stranded, the crew sought food from the native people on the island of Jamaica. However, the Jamaicans had already seen what the Europeans had to offer: greed, disease, and insatiable appetites. Instead, the Jamaicans refused to help Columbus and left the crew to fend for themselves.

Luckily, Columbus used resourceful thinking and two manuscripts that he kept with him on his ship, originally for navigated the sea. It would also turn out that the two books would assist in saving Columbus’ life. One book was called the “perpetual almanac”, which contained a few hundred astronomical charts aiding in seafaring expeditions. The second book was an ephemeris authored by Regiomontanus which contained the prediction of a lunar eclipse on February 29th, 1504. Columbus was unsure of how correct this prediction could be, but he needed to take the risk.

A Total Lunar Eclipse
Wikipedia Commons

A day prior to when he anticipated the eclipse, Columbus gathered the native Jamaicans together, and told them that since they had refused to hear him out, the moon would disappear the next night. To everyone’s great dismay, the following night, the eclipse occurred. Regretful of their mistake, the natives begged Columbus for forgiveness and to return the moon to the sky in exchange for food and hospitality. In Columbus’ era, eclipse prediction was still inaccurate, sometimes by multiple years. With Regiomontanus’s predictions, Columbus and his crew escaped a hostile environment and eventually were rescued by a Spanish ship later that same year.

Information obtained from this source.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *