A learned doctor asks, “How can men walk with their heads hanging down, and their feet up, like flies on a ceiling?” “How can trees grow with their roots in the air?” “The water would run out of the ponds, and we should fall off,” says another. “The doctrine is contrary to the Bible, which says, ’The heavens are stretched out like a tent.’” “Of course it is flat; it is rank heresy to say it is round.”
He has waited seven long years. He has had his last interview, hoping to get assistance from Ferdinand and Isabella after they drive the Moors out of Spain. Isabella was almost persuaded, but finally refused. He is now old, his last hope has fled; the ambition of his life has failed. He hears a voice calling him. He looks back and sees an old friend pursuing him on a horse, and beckoning him to come back. He saw Columbus turn away from the Alhambra, disheartened, and he hastens to the queen and tells her what a great thing it would be, at a trifling expense, if what the sailor believes should prove true. “It shall be done,” Isabella replies. “I will pledge my jewels to raise the money; call him back.” Columbus turns back, and with him turns the world.
Three frail vessels, little larger than fishing boats, the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina, set sail from Palos, August 3, 1492, for an unknown land, upon untried seas; the sailors would not volunteer, but were forced to go by the king. Friends ridiculed them for following a crazy man to certain destruction, for they believed the sea beyond the Canaries was boiling hot. “What if the earth is round?” they said, “and you sail down the other side, how can you get back again? Can ships sail up hill?”
Only three days out, the Pinto’s signal of distress is flying; she has broken her rudder. September 8 they discover a broken mast covered with seaweed floating in the sea. Terror seizes the sailors, but Columbus calms their fears with pictures of gold and precious stones of India. September 13, two hundred miles west of the Canaries, Columbus is horrified to find that the compass, his only guide, is failing him, and no longer points to the north star. No one had yet dreamed that the earth turns on its axis. The sailors are ready for mutiny, but Columbus tells them the north star is not exactly in the north. October 1 they are two thousand three hundred miles from land, though Columbus tells the sailors one thousand seven hundred. Columbus discovers a bush in the sea, with berries on it, and soon they see birds and a piece of carved wood. At sunset, the crew kneel upon the deck and chant the vesper hymn. It is sixty-seven days since they left Palos, and they have sailed nearly three thousand miles, only changing their course once. At ten o’clock at night they see a light ahead, but it vanishes. Two o’clock in the morning, October 12, Roderigo de Friana, on watch at the masthead of the Pinta, shouts, “Land! land! land!” The sailors are wild with joy, and