Tonight I finished reading Columbus: The Four Voyages by Laurence Bergreen. I really enjoyed this book as I learned a lot more about Christopher Columbus. Most often we only hear of Columbus’ first voyage in 1492, but he did make three later voyages to the New World.
The fourth voyage was very interesting to me as by this time Columbus was in poor health and was rapidly falling out of favor with the Spanish. On this voyage he explored the shoreline of Central America. On his way back to Hispaniola he was shipwrecked in Jamaica.
While in Jamaica they had to rely on the natives for food, but as happened time and again the natives were not treated well and they withheld food from Columbus and his men.
This happened at an auspicious time as Columbus discovered that a lunar eclipse was going to occur very soon on February 29, 1504.
Columbus, like many navigators, carried books of astronomical tables or ephemerides with him. He was able to figure out when the eclipse would start. You can imagine the shock of the natives when the moon rose above the horizon with a missing section and then turned blood red. Columbus then secluded himself to pray and returned just before the eclipse was ending the period of totality. He then said they were forgiven and that the moon would reappear.
Relations with the natives improved and four months later they were finally rescued and were taken to Hispaniola from where they soon sailed back to Spain. Columbus would only survive for about two more years during which time he tried to win back favor with the Spanish crown.
Eclipses have been used as a plot device in several novels, although authors (Twain) should make sure they consult astronomical tables before giving dates of eclipses 🙂
Today eclipses are well publicized so this would be hard to pull off.
Of course the next big eclipse is happening in less than a month. In this case it will be a solar eclipse. This makes me think back to almost three years ago when I took pictures of a partial solar eclipse.
See my post: Partial Solar Eclipse
Visit the post to find out ways that you can safely observe the eclipse without looking directly at the sun.
I am going to have to dig out the items I used just in case I have time to observe the eclipse this year.