The Crusades – The Real Story

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Facts About

the Crusades

At some point, slightly over a millennia ago, the entire civilized world decided to collectively go nuts. European armies rampaged through the Middle East, Islamic armies rampaged through the Balkans, and a whole lotta people died in a crazy religious war. Known as the Crusades, this state of affairs lasted the best part of 200 years.

 Since then, the Crusades have taken on an almost mythic resonance in both cultures. Everyone knows them… or at least thinks they know them. But the history we’re sold of the Crusades isn’t exactly the full version. In fact, go digging through the tall tales and mountains of propaganda, and you’ll uncover a whole lot of information suggesting the Crusades were even crazier than you ever thought possible.

10. They Weren’t Totally Unjustified

The standard image of the Crusades is one of opportunist European mercenaries trashing the Middle East under the guise of ‘religion’. While there’s plenty of evidence that individual crusaders didn’t care much about spreading Christianity, the same can’t be said of their commanders. According to historian Rodney Stark, the decision to launch the first crusade was both religiously motivated and totally justified.

Before the Franks started devastating Asia Minor and the Levant, the Islamic Empire had undergone a crazy period of expansion. Mohammed had turned his tribe from a minor group into a global power, and they’d moved out of the East and into Europe. Spain, Sicily and Southern Italy had undergone extreme wars of conquest, and Seljuk Turks were threatening Christian Constantinople. In Stark’s view, Pope Urban III’s call to the First Crusade was an example of Europe getting its act together to defend itself from an expansionist superpower.

On a personal level, too, some of the crusaders had justifiable motives. Many knew relatives who’d been killed on pilgrimages to Jerusalem, and signed up to fight to avenge them. Popular history may say the Crusades were an unprovoked attack, but Stark’s reading suggests otherwise.

9. The Arab World Hasn’t Held a Grudge All this Time

Osama bin Laden used the Crusades as justification for 9/11. Islamist terror groups use them to spread an ideology of vengeance. Even mainstream Arab politicians consider the Crusades a dreadful historical wrong that should be taught in schools. Way to bear a grudge, right?

Not exactly. See, the idea that the Arab-Muslim world has stewed over the Crusades for a thousand years may sound plausible, but it’s anything but. Until the mid-19thcentury, Arabic didn’t even have a word for ‘Crusades’.

By the 18th century, most Arabic societies had long forgotten about the Crusades. They were wars that had happened centuries ago; about as relevant to their lives as the 30 Years War or the Battle of Agincourt are to yours. The only reason they came back into the public consciousness is because early-19th century French scholars ‘rediscovered’ them at around the same time France invaded Algeria. Suddenly, these 800-year old battles were being used in Paris as justification for the current ‘civilizing’ war.

But the real trigger came with the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. As European powers gobbled up Turkish territory after WWI, Arab scholars searched for a historical analogue for their present suffering. They seized on the crusades, and they’ve stayed in people’s minds ever since.

8. They Weren’t Just about Christianity vs. Islam

In our current, troubled, times, the desire to look back on the Crusades as an epic clash between Muslims and Christians is strong on both sides. To be sure, the majority of battles did take place between those two groups. But all of them? Not even close. An integral part of many of the Crusades was the elimination of everyone from Jews to pagans.

These guys weren’t just accidentally caught up in the crossfire. They were the targets of the Crusaders themselves. In the First Crusade, for example, Count Emicho switched the Levant for the Rhineland in modern Germany, where he laid siege to Jewish towns and massacred their inhabitants. The Albigensian Crusade of 1208-29 took place in France itself, and only targeted members of the Albigensian-Christian minority. Then there were the Baltic Crusades of 1211-25, which went after pagans in places like Transylvania. For those involved in these wars, seeing even a single Muslim or a patch of desert was as likely as you seeing an escaped rhinoceros on your way to work.

Across the whole Crusader period, significant battles were being fought with nary a Muslim in sight. And, while we’re on the subject…

7. The Crusaders Totally Sacked Christian Cities, Too

If anyone out there still believes the main goal of the Crusades was a clash of Islam and Christianity, we invite them to explain the Fourth Crusade. Called by Pope Innocent III, it started with Christian armies marching off to invade the Levant… and ended with the Crusaders sacking the Christian city of Constantinople and massacring its inhabitants.

At the time, Constantinople was the beating heart of the Byzantine Empire, an Eastern offshoot of the bygone Roman Empire that had traded pagan worship for Christian. No other city on Earth was so central to the spreading of Christianity about the world. And still the Crusaders declared it a target and destroyed it. On April 12, 1204, they entered the city and massacred thousands of their co-religionists.

There were semi-logical reasons for this course of action, related to the split between Western and Eastern Christianity and the internal politics of the Byzantine Empire (most of which is too complex or confusing to go into here). But the result was still one of the nastiest Christian-on-Christian massacres of the entire Crusades. Not the sort of outcome you’d expect if you truly believed this was a holy war between Allah and God.

6. Islamic Commanders Spent More Time Fighting Other Muslims than Christians

Given all this infighting and confusion in the Christian lands, you might expect to hear the Islamic commanders took advantage of it to portray a united front. Well, you’d be wrong. Just like the Crusaders themselves, the Muslim forces weren’t into this whole clash of civilizations narrative. By which we mean they spent almost as much time fighting other Muslims as they did the European invaders.

 Seriously, just look at the story of Saladin. A Muslim commander famous today for standing up to the Crusaders, Saladin was way more two-faced than his reputation suggests. Between 1174 and 1187, he spent most of his time beating on other Muslims, netting his family a vast dynasty that stretched all the way from Aleppo to Mosul, via Damascus. During this period, he even made truces with the Crusaders to free up his forces to fight his fellow Muslims.

Nor was he the only one. Saladin’s teacher, Nur al-Din, spent the time between the Second and Third Crusades riding into Egypt to whup Shi`ite Fatimid butt, ignoring the outposts of Christendom all around him. If these two were motivated by a hatred of all things Christian, they sure hid it well.

5. No One Realized for Ages that the Crusades Were Meant to be Religious

The First Crusade started way, way back in 1096. It was remarkably successful. By 1099, Jerusalem had been captured, Christian states had been established at Tripoli, Antioch and Edessa, and the Levant was no longer purely under Muslim control. With such a blaze of religious violence, you might have expected everyone to see the Crusades as we do now. But that simply wasn’t the case. According to history Professor Jonathan Phillips, no one realized the Crusades were meant to be religious for ages.

You gotta remember that the medieval period wasn’t a nice one to live in. Empires were constantly clashing, raiding parties routinely massacred entire towns, and pirates dominated the coastlines. So when a bunch of Europeans swept through the Levant, toppling Islamic governments and killing Muslims, most locals simply shrugged and decided they were just another raiding party.

It wasn’t until the First Crusade had ended that anyone realized there was something deeper going on than mere opportunism. Rather than sack Jerusalem and run off with its riches, the Crusaders stayed around, ruling their new territories as part of Christendom. Nonetheless, it wasn’t until 1105 that conquered Muslims began talking about waging a jihad in response, and it wasn’t until 1144 that anyone actually agreed to do so.

4. It Wasn’t Just the Catholics

It’s an undeniable fact that the First Crusade was called by the Pope, at a time when most of Europe was Catholic. As a result, many still fervently believe that the Crusades were carried out entirely by Catholics. However, this version of events misses some pretty fundamental truths about religious alliances in the 12th and 13th centuries. Far from going it alone, the Catholics were often joined by members of the Orthodox Church.

One of the most-famous was Patriarch Heraclius, who fought alongside the Crusader nobleman Balian during the Siege of Jerusalem. Another was the Byzantine Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who got the Crusades kick-started by appealing to the Pope to save Constantinople from Turkish hordes (eventually leading, ironically, to the sacking of Constantinople by those same Crusaders). On a lower level, there were Greek Christians involved in various crusades, alongside Armenian Christians and even some Russian Orthodox.

In short, many different branches of Christianity got involved, and the same was true on the Muslim side. Sunni, Shi’ite and various sub-divisions all piled in, creating a multi-faceted campaign where no group was obviously pulling all the strings.

3. The Mongol Conquests Were Much, Much Worse

Pretty much everyone agrees the Crusades were bloody. There’s a reason groups like ISIS love to bring it up as an example of Christians beating on Muslims. But the idea that they were unprecedented is, frankly, nonsense. From an Arab perspective alone, the Crusades were far from the worst calamity to hit the region. The Mongol Conquests were much, much worse.

If the European invasion was like having a gang of masked men ransack your house, its Mongol counterpart was like having your house torched while you’re still tied up inside it. The Mongols swept across the Middle East, laying waste to everything in their path. When they sacked Baghdad in 1258, over 200,000 people were put to the sword, and the Caliph viciously beaten to death. This followed on from their total destruction of the Sunni Muslim Khwarezmid Empire, which had seen around 1.25 million slaughtered in less than three years.

It’s impossible to state how much the region suffered under the Mongols. From 1240 to 1300, various Khans laid waste to Aleppo and Damascus, and conducted repeated raids into the Levant. Unsurprisingly, it was these super-massacres Arab historians tended to remember, rather than the less-violent Crusades.

2. One of the Great Muslim Commanders Wasn’t Even Religious

A lot of this article has dealt with how our beliefs about the Crusades and religion are kinda misguided. Well, prepare to have your minds blown all over again. It wasn’t just the Christian side that had a great big mixed bag of religious viewpoints. One of the greatest commanders of the Muslim armies, Zengi, wasn’t even religious at all.

In a 2010 article for History News Network, Professor Johnathon Phillips claimed that Zengi was a “secular individual.” This is pretty shocking, as Zengi was one of the great commanders of the Muslim fightback against the invaders. In 1144, he captured the major Crusader city of Edessa, inspiring Saladin to get involved in the wars, which led to Christians being driven out of many areas. Yet all available evidence shows Zengi wasn’t really interested in religion at all. When he wasn’t retaking Crusader strongholds, he was busy sacking Muslim cities, as part of his personal crusade to (presumably) get rich or die tryin’.

1. The Crusades May Have Led to the Discovery of America

The Ninth and last Crusade ended in 1272. Columbus discovered America over 200 years later, in 1492. In temporal terms, he was as distant from the rest of this article as you are from the Napoleonic Wars. So how could one possibly lead to the other? To answer that, we’ll have to hand over to cultural anthropologist Carol Delaney. In 2011, Delaney published a book on Columbus’s motives for discovering the New World. Rather than a thirst for adventure, or a desire to enrich himself, she maintains that Columbus was secretly hoping to find enough gold to finance a Tenth Crusade.

At the time, Jerusalem had been in Islamic hands for centuries. According to Delaney, Columbus considered this an affront against his religion. So he set off to collect the funds needed to raise an army and take Jerusalem back for Christendom. It was while on this mission that he accidentally stumbled across America.

 If true, that would mean that everything from New York, to the Brazilian football team, to Eva Peron and Simon Bolivar, to this very website are all a historical accident caused by the inconclusive end to the medieval Crusades. Now there’s a weird thought.

The Crusades

The Real Story

Not Your Cleveland Indians – WIF Into History

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Misconceptions About

Native Tribes of

North America

Whether or not you think it’s disrespectful to have Native American terms attached to sports teams or not, television, specifically Westerns may have unintentionally provided us with more than a few misconceptions.

Never mind that the cowboys, gunfighters and saloon girls were mostly figments of fertile imaginations.

North Americans tend to generalize when considering the native tribes that once populated the continent. An idea that they all lived in small villages, in tents of animal skins or small wooden lean-to’s predominates. It is an image presented by Hollywood, television, and the western novels of Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey. The image is inaccurate in most cases. The Native American tribes were of several nations, diverse cultures, and their impact on modern life remains immeasurable.

They changed the way the world ate, and still eats. They were the first society to cultivate corn, potatoes, and the southwestern Native Americans and those of Mexico gave the world chocolate. Though some lived in primitive conditions, others developed large and complex societies, with class systems and forms of government which rivaled those of contemporaneous Europe. Here are 10 misconceptions about the native tribes of North America, and some insights into tribal life when the Europeans first came to the New World.

10. They were primitive tribes of hunter-gatherers

The ancient city of Cahokia alone belies the idea that North American natives were primitive tribes, living in tents of animal skins, or simple wooden huts. Archaeological studies prove Cahokia was a thriving city covering more than six square miles of Illinois land across the Mississippi River from present-day St. Louis. More than 100,000 people lived there four centuries before the coming of Christopher Columbus. Houses were placed in a manner similar to modern American cities, with open public spaces and parks, in a grid marked by wide streets. Evidence of water distribution systems exists in the ruins of the ancient city, which was abandoned around the beginning of the 13th century, for reasons as yet unknown.

The Algonquian tribes of North America built large towns, with multi-storied dwellings in many cases, surrounded by fields of crops and orchards. Game and fish provided a significant portion of their diet, and roving bands from within their own tribe and others often competed for food, and raided the villages of other peoples. The majority of North American natives spent their lives near the place of their birth, unless war or natural disasters forced them to move to more promising areas. There were tribes of nomadic peoples, such as the Apache in the southwestern states and the Plains Indians, but the majority of native tribes occupied lands for centuries, and defended them against their enemies.

9. They had no concept of land ownership

The often cited idea that American Indians had no concept of land ownership and property rights is completely devoid of fact. They did. Native Americans claimed ownership of vast tracts of land, on which they lived, hunted, and farmed. They claimed territorial rights based on conquest, purchase, exchange, and inheritance. They bought and sold land, to each other and to arriving European settlers. Often, in dealing with the latter, they sold property rights to lands which were claimed by other tribes, essentially swindling the Europeans. The mythical sale of Manhattan Island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets was one such instance. The natives (Canarsees) that sold the island to Peter Minuit, for sixty Dutch guilders (about $1,000), conveyed land which was not theirs to begin with. The Weckquaesgeeks tribe controlled the island.

Later, the Cherokee sold the rights to live in the Transylvania region of then-Virginia, now Kentucky, in the Sycamore Shoals treaty. The Cherokee sold lands which were not strictly theirs, it being shared by mutual agreement as hunting grounds with the Shawnee and Wyandot. The Cherokee nation splintered following the treaty, with numerous bands of warriors attacking the ensuing white settlements in the Blue Grass region. Similar events with the Shawnee and allied tribes, such as the Mingo and Miami, occurred in the regions which became Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois. American history is replete with incidents in which native American tribes sold or traded lands in agreements which tribal elements refused to accept, and started wars with the settlers who occupied the lands.

8. The European and later American settlers broke every treaty made with them

The idea of the white settlers scamming the Native Americans, treating with them under false pretenses and violating every treaty made with them out of greed gained precedence in the 1950s and 1960s. The acceptance of the concept coincided with the civil rights movement in the United States. Both sides broke treaties, just as both sides committed atrocities on the other. For example, in 1757 the British garrison at Fort William Henry in New York surrendered to a French and Indian force under Louis-Joseph de Montcalm. Montcalm promised the British and American troops, and several of their families, safe passage. His Indian allies ignored the agreement, and massacred men, women, and children.

Pontiac’s Rebellion, Tecumseh’s Confederation and the Northwest Indian War, and the Black Hawk War, all began with native violations of treaties negotiated and agreed to by tribal elders. Conversely, the Great Sioux War and other conflicts with the western tribes began following encroachments of American settlers on Indian lands in violation of treaties. The history of negotiations and treaties with the American Indian tribes contains incidents of false dealings, misrepresentations, and out and out falsehoods by Indians and whites, going back to the earliest days of colonization of the Americas by the Europeans.

7. They lived in humble dwellings of earth, wood, and animal skins

Well, some tribes did live in such abodes. The tepees, wooden huts, and igloos of Hollywood and history were real. Not all Native Americans lived in crude structures, however, and some resided in dwellings of considerable sophistication. When General John Sullivan commanded the punitive expedition against the Onondaga, Seneca, and Cayuga in 1779, his troops were surprised at the native villages they encountered. They observed well-built homes of stone and wood, many with multiple stories and windows  with real glass. More the forty such villages and large towns were destroyed by the troops during the campaign, breaking the back of the longstanding Iroquois Confederacy.

Elsewhere, American Indians built elaborate homes with an eye towards their architecture. Tribes of the American southwest built roomed homes of mud and adobe. The Navajo constructed permanent homes known as hogans, with wooden frameworks forming a dome, covered with mud and stone. In the southern plains, houses covered with grass protected the inhabitants from the elements. Long before the arrival of the Europeans to the Pacific northwest, Native Americans used cedar planks lashed to wooden frames to erect houses and to serve as drying sheds for the fish they harvested from the region’s streams and the water of the Pacific.

6. They were a largely egalitarian society

Class status among the vast majority of American Indian tribes followed family lines, with some tribes based on matrilineal societies and others patrilineal. For nearly all, status was conferred based on the degree of relationship with tribal leaders. Among the Cherokee, for example, women owned the property belonging to the family. Women brought their husbands into the family, often into the family home. The descent of tribal chiefs in matrilineal clans, and thus control over tribal affairs, was through the mother. Men marrying into the family in matrilineal tribes had no standing within the clan, not even as fathers raising their children. The mother’s brothers, or sons, assumed the role of raising their nieces’ or sisters’ children.

Among the northern plains tribes, particularly the Lakota and Dakota, the longstanding myth of women serving as humble squaws, subservient to their husbands, is false. Lakota women and girls were trained in the arts of hunting and war, and frequently fought enemies in defense of the home, though they seldom joined raiding parties. Their standing within the community depended on their abilities to serve the tribe, as did that of the men. In matrilineal tribes the male leader, known as the chief, remained in practice subservient to his mother, by tradition and by unwritten law.

5. The Southwestern tribes roamed the deserts and mountains

Some did, particularly after the horse was introduced to the continent when the Spaniards arrived. The Apache and Comanche in particular adapted to the horse for both hunting and raiding enemies. Centuries before that event, the Ancestral Pueblo peoples resided in the area now known as the Four Corners, where Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona meet. Eight centuries before the birth of Jesus Christ they cultivated corn, in the form of maize, to supplement their diet of game. They built irrigation systems to support their crops which included waters routed from the Rio Grande, Colorado, and Little Colorado Rivers. Their irrigation systems allowed the planting of beans and squash to supplement their crops of corn.

The Apache and Navajo roamed the region, hunting the area to exhaustion over the centuries, and leaving to pursue the game. The Ancestral Pueblos endured several extended droughts, followed by flooding which destroyed much of their farmlands and irrigation systems. By the time the Spanish arrived, most of them were gone from the region, having fled the area and the Apache and Navajo raiders. The Spaniards encountered their relatively few descendants, still living in the multi-story dwelling complexes which the Europeans called pueblos, or villages. Most were located along the rivers which had once fed the complex system of canals and dams watering their crops.

4. The New World was sparsely settled at the time of Columbus

When the first Europeans arrived at what they soon called the New World, they encountered spaces like nothing ever seen before. Vast virgin forests stretched to nearly the water’s edge in some areas. Others found open plains and what they believed, and reported, as small populations of natives. In Meso-america the Spaniards and Portuguese encountered the cities of the Mayan, Incan, and Aztec civilizations. In North America the early European arrivals reported the Indians living in relatively small villages and towns. With no idea of the size and diversity of the North American continent, rulers and scholars in Europe believed the New World sparsely populated by uncivilized peoples, as wild as the game which teemed in the woods.

In truth, between 60 and 70 million natives lived on the North American continent, from the Arctic Circle to its southernmost extremity. Numerous cultures emerged on the continent before the European arrival, including the mound builders, the Confederation of the Iroquois, the Hopi and Pueblo, and the Inuit in the north. The various Indian nations and clans were connected by a complex system of trails through the eastern woods and on the plains, cut by migrating buffalo. Elaborate diplomatic relationships developed, with alliances and agreements over the use of hunting grounds, water rights, and tribal property. Trade between tribes, such as furs and game for crops and weapons, was in place. The Europeans understood none of it, nor the extent of the population in North America which exceeded that of the continent from whence they came.

3. The North American natives did not engage in warfare with each other

Beginning in the 1960s and continuing through the present day, a myth over inter-tribal warfare among the American tribes gained acceptance. The myth essentially blames the Europeans for introducing warfare to North America. Its proponents claim the native tribes did not make war on each other, other than in demonstrations of courage by touching an enemy with a coup stick. The claim is utter nonsense, archaeological evidence and the various tribes’ own folklore describe centuries of warfare between tribes across the entire continent. Cannibalism among the North American tribes was ritualized, eating the flesh of enemy warriors killed in battle, or tortured as prisoners, was recorded contemporaneously by witnesses.

The western plains saw numerous wars between the various tribes competing for the resources offered by the land. The nomadic tribes followed the buffalo, their chief source of meat, furs, and tools manufactured from the bones. In the eastern woodlands, European explorers found many of the tribes living in villages and towns protected by palisades, and extensive alarm systems in place to warn of an impending encroachment. The completely peaceful, idyllic existence described by some required neither. Warfare between tribes did not end with a united attempt to wipe out the arriving Europeans, instead many tribes allied themselves with the new arrivals, happy to have their superior weapons available for use against ancient enemies.

2. Their religions were based on a Great Spirit

Hollywood created the myth of all Indians worshiping a “Great Spirit,” though they had other gods and spiritual entities as well. The North American Indians had as many religious systems as tribes, and differing ways of worshiping. Some, such as the Pueblo, worshiped the crops as they grew in the fields. Some tribes believed spirits controlled the weather and developed rituals to appease them. Nearly all worshiped the sun in some form or another, as well as the moon and other celestial bodies. Omens, revealed through trances achieved by various means, bore great spiritual significance, and affected the direction of personal and tribal affairs.

The Iroquois did believe in a Great Spirit, the creator of all things, including the spirit which flowed through all things. The Mohawk, like many eastern tribes, believed in all existence imbued with spirit. Nearly all the North American Indians held similar beliefs, creating religions based on animism – the idea that all things possess life in some form, and hence are animated. The belief extended to rocks, water, the weather, animals, birds, trees, and even sounds. The spirits in control could be either evil or good, with existence a continuous struggle between the extremes. Many eastern tribes believed the smoke from tobacco carried messages to the spirits, and smoking was a major part of religious ceremonies.

1. They grew only simple crops to supplement their diets of meat and fish

Native American tribes are connected to maize, a type of corn which they grew so extensively it came to be known as Indian corn. They also grew beans of several types, gourds to serve as utensils, pumpkins for food, and other forms of squash. Along the eastern seaboard Indians husbanded tobacco crops from Florida to the Connecticut Valley. Through time, myths emerged about the Indians which led to the belief they sustained themselves with game and fish, supplemented by just a few berries and nuts harvested from the forests. Not so. Many Indian villages had extensive farms, with the crops grown communally.

As with all farmers, crops grown depended on the local climate and soil conditions. The Spanish in the south were astonished to see Indians eating freely of tomatoes, at the time believed in Europe to be poisonous. In the southwest, progressive farming techniques such as terracing and crop rotation were applied by Indian farmers. Indian crops included potatoes and sweet potatoes, several types of peppers, peanuts, avocados, sunflowers, and wild rice. Most Indian villages had communal storehouses to store crops for the winter months. Orchards cultivated by Indians provided cherries, apples, and crab-apples. They also resorted freely to native plants for greens, including dandelion and chicory.


Not Your Cleveland Indians

WIF Into History

Teach the Children Well – WIF Edu-tainment

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Things We

Teach Kids

(That Are Wrong)

Childhood is a time of wondrous belief. Children are taught that those who behave well will be rewarded with a visit from a “right jolly old elf” on Christmas Eve. A miraculous bunny visits on Easter, leaving baskets of goodies and hidden eggs, though the relationship between rabbits and eggs remains mysterious. Why a fairy would want the lost teeth of children, exchanging cash for them in the dead of night, is another mystery left largely unexplained, though children dutifully place no longer needed teeth beneath their pillows in expectation of financial reward.

Eventually such beliefs are outgrown, but many of the concepts taught to children are retained into adulthood, erroneously passed on by succeeding generations. Most are harmless, though nonetheless false. Some remain as fables, such as George Washington’s demonstration of honesty after using his new hatchet to remove his father’s prized cherry tree. Others represent simple lack of knowledge, shared with children in schools and at home. Here are 10 examples of things taught to children which remain widely believed, though provably wrong.

10. Camels store water in their humps

Everyone knows camels travel long distances over arid deserts, going days and even weeks without water. Both Bactrian (two humps) and Dromedary (one hump) camels possess the ability to last longer than any other transport animal without resorting to water. Their humps serve as water storage tanks, gradually decreasing in size as the fluid is absorbed by the animal. Camels refill their humps with water when they arrive at a stream or desert oasis, readying to embark on another long trek through wastelands. Or so children were long taught. In truth, a camel’s hump does not store water at all. Camel humps store fat.

The fat allows the animal to remain nourished during long periods between eating, an attribute for which camels are less well-known. As the fat is burned by the animal’s metabolism, the humps sag, replenished when the camel again has access to food. Camels drink massive amounts of water, up to 20 gallons at a time, which is stored in their bloodstream, not in their humps. In truth, a camel’s hump holds little water, and none as storage for long desert journeys.

9. Swallowed chewing gum stays in the stomach for years

Warning children against swallowing chewing gum often contained the veiled threat that said gum remains in the stomach for years, forming a large ball as additional pieces join it. The warning found its way to children largely through teachers who objected to their chewing gum in class. Imagery of digestive tracts clogged with wads of Juicy Fruit or Big Red served to deter such miscreant behavior, or at least it was so hoped. If a child spit out his or her gum, an obvious admission of misbehavior, an opportunity for assertion of authority presented itself. Swallowing the gum denied such opportunity, thus the creation of the myth of giant gumballs in the stomach.

Although some were taught that gum remained in the stomach for up to seven years, it was and is completely false. Gum remains in the stomach no longer than any other food ingested, which depending on individual metabolisms is 30 minutes to two hours. For most healthy people, the stomach is emptied within that time period, which is one reason people often snack between meals. Chewing gum is not intended to be swallowed, but the idea that it remains in the stomach indefinitely, growing into a larger mass, is totally false.

8. China’s Great Wall is the only man-made object visible from space

Teachers describing Ancient Chinese civilization often point out the Great Wall of China as the only man-made object on Earth visible from outer space. NASA disagrees. The wall is not visible from “low Earth orbit,” such as that maintained by the International Space Station, and all manned space missions in history other than those sent to the moon during the Apollo program in the 1960s and 1970s. The Great Wall can be “seen” by cameras and telescopes, but the unaided human eye cannot detect it from space, except under extraordinary viewing conditions, such as backlighting on Earth.

Other man-made structures are visible from space, including of course cities, especially at night when they are lighted. The Spanish greenhouse complex at Almeria, which produces the bulk of the fruits and vegetables sold in Spain and throughout western Europe, is visible. With clear viewing conditions, man-made canals and reservoirs are viewed by astronauts and cosmonauts. They also see the Kennecott Copper Mine, the largest excavation by man to be found anywhere in the world.

7. Most body heat escapes through the head, so wear a hat in winter

This one isn’t limited to children. Until recently, even the US Army instructed its recruits nearly half of their body heat escaped through the head, making the wearing of hats essential in controlling hypothermia. During the 1950s experiments regarding heat loss in humans led to the conclusion that most body heat escaped through the head, though subsequent research indicated the earlier experiments were flawed. The subjects were warmly covered except for their heads, meaning that more heat did escape from the exposed portion of the body.

In the 21st century, researchers discovered the estimates from previous studies were erroneous. More heat escapes from limbs than the head. According to a report in the British Medical Journal, published in 2008, about 7 to 10% of heat loss occurs through the head when it is exposed, rather than the nearly 50% previously believed. Of course, in frigid temperatures, all areas of skin should be covered to protect against frostbite, including the head and face.

6. Raindrops are shaped like tear drops

How and why this myth came into existence is a mystery, but raindrops aren’t generally shaped like teardrops at all. According to NASA, raindrops, as they fall to Earth, are shaped similarly to the top half of a hamburger bun, the bottom flattened by air resistance. They also change shape as they fall, affected by wind, their own mass, impact with other drops, and other factors. The image of teardrop shaped raindrops is reinforced by televised weather reports, and in the artwork drawn by young children, but it is false.

Nor do raindrops depart from clouds in a manner similar to water dripping from a leaking faucet. While lodged in a cloud the drops are globular, held in shape by their own surface tension. They retain the round shape as they begin their journey to the ground, before the other factors cited cause them to flatten on the bottom. The same surface tension which kept them round retains the circular shape of the top until it reaches its destination. Larger drops can even develop a parachute-like shape, but the top remains circular, rather than streamlining into a teardrop shape.

5. Columbus proved the Earth was round

This is one of the earliest distortions of history presented to children in school and entertainment. Christopher Columbus did not set out to prove the world was round, nor did he encounter resistance to his argument from men of science and religion. Nearly all educated people knew the world was round before Columbus set sail in 1492. There were books so describing the Earth at the time, one of which accompanied Columbus on his voyage. Not to mention that, for some today, Columbus proved nothing of the kind, and the Earth is, in fact, flat.

Flat Earthers generally believe the planet is flat, with the North Pole at the center and the outer edges bordered by the ice mass known as Antarctica. Others believe the Earth is flat because the Bible says it is flat, often referring to the “ends of the Earth” (28 times in the King James version). It’s probably safe to say there are more believers in a flat Earth today than there were in the time of Columbus. Even the highly influential churchmen of his day accepted the idea the Earth was spherical. The myth he had to overcome their opposition based on the belief of a flat Earth arose in the 19th century, with the works of Washington Irving and others.

4. Chameleons change color to hide from predators

Chameleons have long been fascinating to children and adults, based on their ability to change color. Children were taught the little lizard changed colors to adapt to their surroundings, in effect camouflaging themselves from predators. They do indeed change color, but not for the reason of hiding from their natural enemies. They change their color to attract the attention of other chameleons, and to regulate their body temperatures, becoming darker when they desire to retain more heat, and brighter to repel high temperatures.

Chameleons change their colors multiple times over the course of a day. If something makes them sense danger they generally darken themselves, while excitement will cause them to brighten. Only male chameleons change color, often to attract females. Their skin contains nanocrystals which they can expand and contract. Changing their shape affects the manner in which they reflect light, creating the change of color, rather than changing the pigmentation of their skin through the release of oils or inks as previously believed.

3. Albert Einstein failed math and was a generally poor student in school

Poorly performing students often hear the assertion that Albert Einstein failed math in elementary school, uttered by students and parents as a means of motivating them. The assertion is supported by websites, biographies, videos, and scores of other sources. It is false. When Ripley’s repeated the myth in its Believe it or Not column, Einstein responded by noting he had mastered integral calculus by the age of 15. He taught himself algebra, beginning at the age of 12. He never failed at math, and why children are taught otherwise is a mystery.

That is, until one considers he applied to enter the Swiss Federal Polytechnical School at Zurich at the age of 17, a year and a half early. He passed the math and science portions of the entrance examination, but failed the sections on history and social sciences. Einstein studied at a trade school for another year before retaking the entrance exam, which he passed. Gradually the failure to pass the entrance examination on the first try morphed into the myth that one of the greatest minds in history failed at basic mathematics in school.

2. Human blood is blue before it is oxygenated

The color of the blood vessels visible through human skin led to the belief, often reinforced by teaching it to children, that blood in veins is blue, while that in arteries is red. The fact that people always bleed red when cut is explained by claiming the exposure of blood to the air immediately oxygenates it — thus the color. The argument is supported by the appearance of veins, which look blue through the skin, an effect of the eyes rather than the blood the veins contain. Human blood is always red.

It is true that blood within arteries, which is oxygenated and on its way to nourish cells throughout the body, is brighter red than that returning to the heart in the veins. The veins appear blue because the light which penetrates the skin to make them visible is on different wave lengths, and the blue light is more successful in penetrating the skin and thus being apparent to the eye. It is an optical illusion, which led to children being incorrectly taught their blood was often blue.

1. It will go on your permanent record

Used as an admonishment to control the behavior of children, it will go on your permanent record applied to a wide range of activities. Failing to turn in homework on time could end up on the permanent record. Skipping classes was a permanent record offense. Failing a fourth grade English quiz could well appear on one’s permanent record, as could disruptive behavior in class. The permanent record loomed over childhood, a foreboding presence, though where it was maintained, and by whom, remained somewhat vague. Nonetheless, the permanent record threatened to bar one from a successful life, despite entries dating from first grade, and even earlier.

There was no permanent record, a fact learned as life evolved, at least for most of the activities which led to the dire warning. Unfortunately, there is one now. Social media and the internet save for posterity whatever is entered there, even after they’ve been deleted by whomever posted the items in the first place. What’s posted is easily found during background checks for employment, for school admissions, and for character checks. A minor indiscretion on social media can indeed become part of the permanent record, maintained in the cloud for all to see.


Teach the Children Well

WIF Edu-tainment

THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 94

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THE RETURN TRIP – Episode 94

…Now that’s what I want to hear… enthusiasm – enthusiasm…

Image result for enthusiasm painting

Brittle Enthusiasm by Polly Castor

“The President says that there will be no second Space Colony until Sammy Mac and Cel are christopher-columbus-001back on Earth!”

“Is this a repeat of what went on in the 20-teens? Feed the people and starve the space program, how shortsighted is that? Yeah, let’s try to privatize space again, we all know how that turned out; that’s like sending out Christopher Columbus with two dinghies and a canoe. By the time they get done with the Washington push-pull, a Martian colony will not be feasible, hell then we might as well shoot for the stars.”

“Not necessarily Roy, they (the McKinneys) could be debriefed en route from Mars and we could have the main body completed by then; no reason we couldn’t have #2 in place by the end of ’31.”

“A year behind schedule and not manned by our 1st string people!” Crip’s biorhythm readings are lowered to somewhere between Custer at Little Bighorn and the Captain of the Titanic; surrounded by 2000 fighting Indians & the Promenade deck listing at 45º in the frigid waters of the North Atlantic.

“Maybe they are right Braden. We had a serious breach of security at the very least and when the smoke clears from the inquiry, I will be working 2nd shift IT at an El Paso Automated Warehouse.”

“Look my friend, we are not going to let you anywhere near some half-baked witch-hunt, so I have a proposal,” Braden does what a friend does best; he tosses out a life preserver. “Come up to the Ranch (King) for a little R&R. I have a reluctant filly I’d like you to break.

“That’s not in my wheelhouse right now. I would probably get thrown and break my back, neck, space-birthday-001and both arms trying to cushion the fall.”

“We will be expecting you on Wednesday the boys’ birthday bash and bring your bedroll.”

“Hey, I can’t disappoint my biggest fans!”

“Now that’s what I want to hear…enthusiasm — enthusiasm.”


THE RETURN TRIP

Episode 94


page 89

Ponce, Fink, Bean, Ross, Henry & Pilgrims – WIF Folklore

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Tales From

American Folklore

That Are

Completely Misunderstood

American folklore is a vast treasury of stories and tales which have been passed down through time, often altered in the retelling. Some are based in fact, some were created as fiction and are now accepted as fact, and some are simply tall tales. In some cases, political or personal enemies slandered their contemporaries, and their falsehoods are now accepted as history. In others, the public perceptions created beliefs which are largely unchallenged today, despite their being wrong both then and now.

Some stories became accepted as true because of locations taking financial advantage of them, along the lines of “George Washington Slept Here” signs on old inns and homes, despite the lack of supporting provenance. Others lodge in the consciousness through repetition in film and literature. Here are 10 tales of American folklore which have come to be misunderstood as historical fact, and how they became that way.

10. Betsy Ross and the design of the American flag

Betsy Ross was a seamstress in Philadelphia who legend and folklore assigns the credit for the design and creation of the American flag, consisting of a constellation of stars in a blue field, and 13 alternating red and white stripes. Those who support the belief, which has been widely debunked, have recently used the premise that there exists no proof that she didn’t. They are correct. But there is perhaps less to prove that she did. There is substantial evidence to establish that Betsy sewed flags for the Continental Navy (actually for the Navy of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). But the first documented record of her creating what became the Stars and Stripes did not appear until the 1870s, coincident with America’s centennial, when it was reported by her grandson.

That gentlemen, William Canby, presented a paper around the time of the Centennial claiming Betsy had created the American flag. His sources were entirely family oral tradition. Betsy was presented as an example of patriotism and ambition to young girls of the Gilded Age as a result. However, other than the claims of Canby, and the resultant years of the story being repeated ad nauseum, there is no evidence that Betsy Ross created the American flag, and no record of her ever presenting it to George Washington. There is a record of a team of Philadelphia flag-makers presenting him the Union Flag, which contained a Union Jack in the blue field and which Washington raised above his headquarters in Cambridge, but the same record does not mention Ross by name.

9. Ponce de Leon wasn’t seeking a Fountain of Youth

Juan Ponce de Leon is widely believed to have sought in vain for a mythical Fountain of Youth in Florida, which today has many establishments using the legend to attract tourists. But it is only a legend, one in which Native Americans told the Spaniard that the key to immortality and perpetual youth could be found in Bimini. De Leon first came to the Americas as part of the second expedition of Christopher Columbus and by the early 1500s he was Governor of the Spanish settlements in Puerto Rico, acquiring significant wealth through his Royal appointment. Diego Columbus, brother of Christopher, succeeded in deposing him as governor in 1511, and de Leon decided to explore lesser known areas of the Caribbean.

His legal battles with the Columbus brothers and their allies left him with several political enemies, and it was one of these who first linked de Leon with the Fountain of Youth. De Leon made several voyages to the coast of Florida, and charted it as far south as the Keys, finally attempting to establish a permanent settlement there in 1521, after the death of his patron, King Ferdinand. Wounded in battle with natives resenting the Spanish trespass, he traveled to Cuba, where he died. A biography by Gonzalo Fernandez printed in 1535 was the first to claim de Leon had been in search of the Fountain of Youth (as a cure for impotence); later biographers picked up the unverified tale, and the legend was born. Nothing contemporaneous with the life of the explorer mentions either the search or the mythical fountain.

8. The Pilgrims didn’t land at Plymouth Rock

There were many chroniclers of the voyage of the Mayflower and the landing of the Pilgrims both on Cape Cod and later at what became Plymouth Colony, and still later Massachusetts. None of them mentioned landing on a rock. Indeed, it would have been exceedingly strange for an accomplished seaman to choose a rocky outcropping as a place to land a wooden boat laden with passengers in rough weather. The New England coast in December is seldom placid, and the Pilgrims had already landed on other sites, were concerned about the weather, and were in search of a safer location.

Over a century after the landing Plymouth Rock entered the annals of the colony, when a church elder named Thomas Faunce claimed that his father had told him the rock now known as Plymouth Rock was where the colonists first stepped ashore. The story took hold in the settlers’ collective imaginations. By the time of the Revolution it was a symbol of freedom, and a misguided attempt to move it to a place of honor near a liberty pole resulted in its being broken in two. The bottom half of the rock remained in the ground, the top later suffered another accident and was broken in two again. In 1880 what remained of the top was reunited with the bottom (using cement) and 1620 was carved into its face.

7. George Washington didn’t throw a dollar across the Potomac

Many myths exist about George Washington and a few have at least a passing reflection of basis in truth. Throwing a dollar across the Potomac isn’t one of them. The Potomac at Mount Vernon is almost one mile across. The US did mint two silver dollars of differing design in the 1790s, today known as the Flowing Hair and Draped Bust dollars. In Washington’s day they were scarce, and Spanish dollars (the famed Piece of Eight) were still in wide circulation throughout the new nation. Washington didn’t throw one of those across the Potomac either. The story of the cross-river toss was born out of another story, which featured another river and another item thrown.

According to George Washington Parke Custis, Washington’s step-grandson, the river was the Rappahannock, the site the Washington family home near Alexandria, and the item was a rock about the size of a silver dollar. But Custis heard the story from family lore. Charles Wilson Peale also told a story of Washington’s ability to throw an iron bar a prodigious distance, a popular game among young men before the Revolutionary War to test themselves against one another. Washington was also reported to have thrown a rock to the height of Virginia’s Natural Bridge. So, while he never tossed a dollar across the Potomac, he evidently had a throwing arm of considerable strength.

6. John Henry was not a steel driving man, but a composite of several men

John Henry, according to folklore, was a steel-driver drilling holes in rock to fill with explosives, part of the construction of railroads in the Appalachians. His legend is that he raced against a steam driven machine and won, only to collapse and die of exhaustion at his victory. Several locations in America claim to be the site of the race. The Coosa Mountain tunnel in Alabama is one such site. The Lewis Tunnel in Virginia is another. Yet another is the Greenbrier Tunnel near Talcott, West Virginia. Other sites which have been suggested as that of the legendary race between man and machine are Oak Mountain in Alabama, in Kentucky, and even in Jamaica.

John Henry first appeared in song, sung by the men swinging sledge hammers and handling the rods driven into rock. There were several different versions of the song depending on the area of the country but they all shared a central truth. The hard, physical labor of men with no other job prospects was gradually being eliminated by machines. Many of those workers were former slaves, or the sons of former slaves, and they sang of their woes as they worked, as had been done on the plantations of the south before the Civil War. John Henry was a legend they created out of other men they had known, the hardest worker no longer among them.

5. Manhattan was not sold to the Dutch by gullible Native Americans for $24 and change

A longstanding bit of American folklore which has acquired the authority of history is that Dutch settlers, led by the crafty Peter Minuit, purchased Manhattan Island from an Indian tribe for a collection of beads and other trinkets, worth about $24. The story at once displays the duplicity of the European settlers and the trusting nature of the Indians, who from that point on were doomed to continuous fleecing by the onrushing settlement of the whites. The truth of the matter is that the tribe with whom the Dutch negotiated, the Manahatta, didn’t own the land which they sold in the first place. Enterprising Dutch settlers had already established a fur trading and lumber camp on the tip of the island, and along streams to the north.

To protect the fledgling settlements from the depredations of roaming tribes, the Dutch approached the Manahatta, offering to purchase the lands they already occupied. The Indians didn’t live or hunt on the lands, and thus had no objection to taking Dutch goods in exchange for what was already a fait accompli. The actual value of the transaction, in today’s money, was several thousand dollars, which seems low until it is considered that the Indians sold the Dutch land for which they had no claim. Basically the Manahatta carried out the equivalent of selling their neighbor’s house and making off with the profits, leaving the Dutch to deal with an unhappy true owner.

4. The legend of Mike Fink may have been based on the adventures of several men

Mike Fink was a real person who in life and after his death took on the legends and tall tales told of other riverboat men, along the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Born in Fort Pitt in 1770, he moved down the Ohio River sometime after the American Revolution and the Indian Wars in the Ohio Country ended. Although he is linked in legend to the Ohio River, there is evidence that he actually operated a freighting business along the Great Miami River of Ohio. There he carried products from the farms of Ohio to Cincinnati, and returned upriver carrying needed merchandise from the wharves of the growing city.

The river towns and frontier settlements were rough and ready places, and stories of Fink, who was well known for his size and prodigious strength, appeared up and down the Ohio, and carried along its many tributaries during his lifetime. Activities of other rivermen and travelers were related in taverns and inns, with his name attached to give them extra flavor. He undoubtedly related more than a few himself. Over time the less admirable facets of his nature made him appear as an undesirable character. When Disney featured him in a film with Davy Crockett during the Crockett craze of the 1950s, Fink was rendered little more than a buffoon. His name is still well-known along both sides of the Ohio, though few could say who he really was.

3. Paul Revere never finished his famous midnight ride to Concord

There were riders from Boston and Charlestown on the Massachusetts roads on the night of April 18 (and into 19), 1775, alerted by the famous signal from Old North Church of two lanterns, warning that the British were coming by sea. The signal was sent by Paul Revere, not to him, before he was carried across the Charles River to mount a horse locally known for its speed. From there, he is known in legend (thanks to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow) for alarming “every Middlesex village and farm.” According to Longfellow it was “two by the village clock” when Revere arrived in Concord. But in truth he never made it to Concord at all. The British captured him outside of Lexington, confiscated his horse, and he walked back to the village.

The Sons of Liberty had a well-established chain of riders and church bells to spread the alarms, which had been exercised previously, and when Revere arrived in towns such as Somerset and Medford, the local militia companies sent out riders of their own. It was the sound of the bells spreading the alarm, as well as some gunshots meant to rouse the militia in Lexington, which encouraged the British patrol that captured Revere to confiscate his mount and return to the relative safety of the approaching British column, rather than confront the aroused village on their own. Revere was just one of many riders along the roads that night, several of whom alerted the village of Concord.

2. The Law West of the Pecos, Judge Roy Bean, was hardly a hanging judge

Judge Roy Bean ran a saloon in Val Verde County, near the Rio Grande River in Texas. He gained appointment as the local Justice of the Peace, and hung a sign on his business establishment which read “Law West of the Pecos.” He did have some acquaintance with the law, having been arrested himself for assault, petty theft, public drunkenness, and threatening to kill his wife. After his appointment as a Justice of the Peace was verified by Texas authorities, he used his new status to run a competitor in the saloon business out of town. He based his judicial decisions on a single law book, once letting a murderer free because he “could find no law against killing a Chinaman” in his reference.

Bean became part of the legend of the Old West, known as a hanging judge, in the sense that all who appeared before him as defendants were likely to be found guilty, and likely to receive the maximum punishment allowed. In truth he only ordered two convicted men to be hanged. He usually fined miscreants the amount of money they had on their person at the time of their appearance, which he kept for himself. As a Justice of the Peace he conducted weddings, announcing “May God have mercy on your souls” following the vows. He also granted divorces, though he had no legal authority to do so.

1. Isabella’s jewels didn’t fund the voyage of Columbus, Italian lenders did

Christopher Columbus attempted to obtain funding from several different sources, including the Kings of France and Portugal, before he approached Isabella and Ferdinand with his project. When he did, they at first turned him down. It took nearly two years of persuasion and negotiation for Columbus to obtain the support of the Catholic Monarchs, as they are known today. The longstanding and pervasive myth that Isabella pawned or sold her jewels to fund the voyage is false; the funding came from the royal treasury, which obtained them through loans from numerous sources, including Italian bankers from Genoa and Florence doing business in Seville.

The main source of the loans was the Bank of St. George, based in Genoa, with branches across Europe. The bank was operated by the powerful Genoese Centurione family, rivals of the Medici family. Security for the loans which funded Columbus was speculative, based on the expected riches he would bring back from his voyage. They were serviced, that is the interest on them was paid, through an increase in taxes in Western Spain. Christopher Columbus’s voyages to the New World were paid for in a surprisingly modern way, not by the Queen of Spain pawning her jewelry.


Ponce, Fink, Bean, Ross, Henry & Pilgrims –

WIF Folklore

Christopher Columbus Bio – WIF Confidential

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Fascinating

Facts About

Christopher Columbus

In 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue…

 The elementary school lyrics were the first exposure most students had to the Italian explorer. The line would prove to be some of the only truth told to students about Christopher Columbus and the nature of his explorations into the New World. Was he out to prove that the world wasn’t flat? Was he, in fact, the first man to discover the New World? And how exactly does one discover a place that has millions of inhabitants? Sit back and let the TopTenz team give you the 10 facts about Christopher Columbus that you may not know…

10. Did He Care if the Earth was Flat?

Do you remember being in elementary school and your teacher telling you that Columbus was out to prove the Earth wasn’t flat? We do. For many schools around the United States, teachers used the Flat Earth theory to engage students about the heroic expeditions of Columbus. However, the idea that Columbus was out to prove the Earth was round is just a myth.

Yes, for a period, human beings believed that the world was flat; however, ancient philosophers like Pythagoras came to understand that the world was round in the 6th century BC. You might remember Pythagoras from the Pythagorean theorem… or don’t remember him or geometry much at all. Nonetheless his work, authenticated by Aristotle centuries later, made it very clear that the world was, in fact, round.

What is true is that Columbus underestimated the circumference of the Earth, thinking that Europe was much wider than it was and that Japan was farther from the coast of Asia than it actually was. As a result, Columbus had the false belief that he could reach Asia by going West – a massive miscalculation that led to his discovery of a “New World.”

9. He Struggled Finding Funding for his Voyage

The more one learns about Christopher Columbus, the more his presence in the annals of history seems like a massive insult to the great explorers and thinkers of earlier periods. However, he was persistent. Columbus lobbied European Monarchs and was denied, lobbied, and was denied. That process continued for nearly a decade, with advisers to the Kings and Queens of Europe remarking that Columbus’s math was not just wrong, but embarrassingly wrong. However, Columbus remained steadfast in his beliefs and he was rewarded.

Finally, with the Spanish wars against the Moors coming to an end, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella agreed to finance the voyage. Columbus would sail from Palos, Spain, with three small ships… which we know by now he commanded with misguided maps and calculations. Who could have guessed that this man would make a discovery that would reshape the world?

8. He Wrecked his Ship

The Santa María was the largest of the three ships that embarked on Columbus’s voyage to… ahem, ‘Asia’. And even then, records show that the Santa María was not a particularly large ship, comparable today to a cruising yacht. The Santa María was only about 100 tons with a single deck and three small masts. Crossing the Atlantic Ocean proved fine for Columbus and his men, but the return journey was where tragedy struck.

As children, we probably all asked our parents to hold the steering wheel. How hard could it be? We’d beg and plead and almost always be met with a resounding “No!” That wasn’t the case on the Santa Maria. On the Christmas Eve, 1492, a cabin boy took the wheel and crashed into a coral reef on the northern coast of Hispaniola, close to present day Haitien, Haiti. After two sleepless nights, Columbus had decided to sleep and the crew followed, thinking that the calm night could bring no trouble. They couldn’t have been more mistaken.

Christmas was spent salvaging the remaining cargo, leaving Columbus to return to Spain aboard the Nina. Before leaving, Columbus instructed the crew to build a settlement on the remains of the ship which, they named “La Navidad.” Nearly 40 crew members were left behind at La Navidad, the first European settlement in the New World.

In the fall of 1493, Columbus returned to the settlement and found that none of the crew were alive, describing the La Navidad settlement as being “ burned to the ground.”

7. He Returned to Spain in Shackles

Unfazed by the destruction of his former crew members’ settlement, Columbus decided to rebuild the settlement in a different location. Promising riches to crown and crew member alike, Columbus and his brothers would rule the new settlement with savage cruelty. Believing the island had  great quantities of gold, Columbus forced the native workers into slavery, exploring and mining for gold and rebuilding the settlement. Failure to comply was met with death or the chopping off of limbs.

Convinced that he had found the outer islands of China, Columbus left the encampment for Spain. On his return, he would find the settlement in disarray. Colonists had become embittered with the management of Columbus’s brothers – with some Spanish colonists even being executed at the gallows. The lack of gold and riches also led to many believing that they had been lied to. As a result, colonists complained to the monarchy and a royal commissioner dispatched to the new colony arrested Columbus and brought him back to Spain in chains.The arrest would not hamper Columbus’s explorations, as he would not only be granted his freedom, but also the finances for a fourth voyage.

6. An Eclipse was his Savior

If finding uncharted territory by accident wasn’t enough for you, Columbus would be the beneficiary of even more good fortune while stranded in Jamaica.

 On his fourth and final journey, Columbus promised King Ferdinand the gold that he had so far been unable to fully deliver. In 1502, Columbus set sail, traveling along the eastern coast of Central America – again believing that he was close to find a route to the Indian Ocean. That, he would not find. What he would find was devastating winds; gusts that would wreck one of his ships. Columbus and his men became stranded on the island of Jamaica, where the men’s demands of gold would irritate the natives and lead to their refusal to feed Columbus and his men. Left with little options, Columbus consulted his almanac, realizing that an eclipse was on the horizon. He sought out the natives’ chief and warned him that his God was angry at the lack of food provided for him and his men. He told the natives that a sign would soon come that displayed his God’s anger.

On February 29, 1504, an eclipse would terrify the native population into providing food and trading with Columbus and his party. Months later a rescue party would arrive and Columbus and his men were taken back to Spain.

5. First to Discover New World?

It seems that our Genoese explorer has gotten more credit than he is due. Researchers have confirmed that Christopher Columbus was not the first man to lead a voyage to the Americas. That distinction goes to a Viking, by the name of Leif Erikson.

The exact date is unknown, but scholars put Erikson’s voyage around the year 1000 AD. Son of Erik the Red, Leif Erikson sailed to what is now the Canadian province of Newfoundland, but didn’t settle in the area deemed “Vinland.” After staying for a few years, Erikson and his party returned to Greenland, where he described his travels. Proof of the voyage was uncovered by Norwegian Helge Instad and Anne Stine Instad, who found an ancient Norse settlement.

Less plausible theories suppose that an Irish Monk in the 6th century was the first to discover the Americas in a wood-framed boat covered in animal skin. Another theory holds that in the 15th century, Zheng He, a fleet Admiral who had explored Southeast Asia, India, the Persian Gulf, and the East Coast of Africa had also visited the Americas 71 years before Columbus. The best piece of evidence for this claim was the discovery of an old Chinese map that displays an understanding of the world that predates European knowledge of the Americas. Since the map has been revealed, scholars have questioned its authenticity while others remain convinced that Zheng He did, in fact, explore the “New World” before Columbus. It’s not hard to imagine that in some schools in Far East Asia, it was Zhen He “who sailed the ocean blue.”

4. His Adventures After Death

Although we have questioned his mental acumen, what cannot be questioned is Columbus’s adventurousness in his pursuits and explorations. Those qualities would seem to continue into death, as the deceased bodies of Columbus and his son, Diego, were shipped across the Atlantic to Hispaniola (on the request of his daughter-in-law). They were to be interred in a Santo Domingo cathedral.

Nearly 200 years later, when the French captured the island, the Spanish dug up the bodies of both Columbus and his son and shipped them to Seville via Cuba. Upon further examination, a box with human remains and Columbus’s name was discovered at his original resting place in Santo Domingo in 1877. The finding led to the DNA testing of the remains in Seville, which confirmed that some of the remains were those of Columbus. What are we to make of the box in Santo Domingo bearing Columbus’s name, containing human remains? The Dominican Republic has refused to let their findings be tested, so it is entirely possible that parts of Columbus are spread across the Old and New World.

3. Columbus – Slave Trader

“Only a few hundred were left.” That’s all that remained of the Taino population 60 years after first contact with Columbus. Conservative estimates hold that more than 250,000 inhabited the Dominican Republic before his arrival. It’s a startling figure to consider when contemplating the impact of Columbus on the native populations of the New World.

On Columbus’s first trip, he ordered six of the natives to be seized, stating in his journal that he believed they would be good servants. Other accounts depict Columbus and his men riding on the backs of natives like they were horses. Unable to find large quantities of gold, Columbus enslaved many of the native population, brutalizing them in his quest for the riches of the island. Any form of rebellion led to massive bloodshed – with Columbus even ordering their dismembered bodies to be paraded through the streets. Ultimately, it was the disease brought on by the Spanish that killed off most of the population. However, the Taino people live on in their language: Words like “canoe, hammock,  barbeque, and hurricane” have their origins in the Arawak tribe’s tongue.

2. Columbus was Very Religious

Despite his cruel and inhumane acts, Columbus was a fervent Christian. He believed that his voyages were God’s will, and consequently he would go on to name many of the lands he “discovered” biblical names.

The voyages across the Atlantic were not without biblical influence, as Columbus made sure the crew observed religious rites. Every time they turned the half-hour glass, they exclaimed “blessed be the hour of our Savior’s birth/blessed by the Virgin Mary who bore him/and blessed by John who baptized him.” It is also alleged that despite the crude manner of ship life, Columbus never cursed.

His religious feeling were so strong that upon landing on the American mainland and seeing four rivers flowing from the landmass, he was convinced that he had encountered the Garden of Eden.

1. Columbus Brought Syphilis to the New World

Recent reports have come to suggest that Columbus had an even greater impact on world history than we’ve given him credit for. According to skeletal evidence, Columbus and his crew not only introduced the Old World to the New World, but to syphilis as well. It appears that like Vegas, what happens in the New World will stay in the New World… except for venereal disease.

The sexual nature of the syphilis epidemic made it especially contentious in finding its origins.The first known epidemic of syphilis took place in the Renaissance era (1490s). One of the most notable initial cases was its infection of the army of Charles the VIII after he invaded Naples. The disease would go on to devastate Europe, resulting in 5 million deaths.

While still just a widely held theory, scientists believe they were able to prove the disease’s origin by comparing 26 strains of treponemes from Africa, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, the Americas, and the Pacific Islands. The results were that the “strains that caused the sexually transmitted disease originated recently, with their closest relatives being germs collected in South America. In other words, it seems to have come from the New World.”


Christopher Columbus Bio

– WIF Confidential