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  • Truth Matters

Courage Into The Unknown

Updated: Feb 21, 2022


GOAL: To show that Columbus was not a fool. There was no consensus on the size of the globe or if it could be circumnavigated. Fact is there were lots of knowledge gaps and only theories on the size of the earth and how much of it was covered by land or sea. Only courage could bring validation or rebuttal to these theories. In the end students will see Columbus faced opposition and mockery, but his bravery and vision opened a gateway to knowledge about our earth.


1) Have the class read the following excerpt from De Las Casas. Translation from Spanish-English was provided by Rafael Ortiz in his book “Christopher Columbus The Hero”

2) Also share the following map:

3) Ask the class: “While Columbus was giving ‘reasons and authoritative support to prove it [his voyage] feasible’, what did the experts say about his proposed voyage?

  • A: Some thought the earth was infinite

  • A: After thousands of years why hasn’t anyone heard of these Indies? Why do other astrologers and wise men like Ptolemy not mention the Indies? They insinuate, “Do you [Columbus] know more than them?”

  • A: It was doubtful that there was land on the other side, let alone inhabited land.

  • A: That the distance was impossible to navigate because because there was too much water covering the distance. [Provisions would not last]

  • A: Ptolemy said ships can’t sail uphill

4) ASK: “So was there a consensus on the makeup of the earth, or what was out there?

  • A: No consensus; just theories

5) ASK: “Now imagine you’re one of these experts, mocking Columbus, telling him you will not survive the journey. And months after setting sail Columbus comes back saying he reached the Indies. What are you thinking now?”

  • A: How big is the world really? Is it smaller than we thought?

  • A: Is there more land than we presumed and less water?

  • A: I guess it is possible to sail uphill?

6) Final note: In the end it’s easy to see how the theories of wise men and the unknown scared many to not even think of trying to sail west across the Atlantic. It was Columbus’ bravery and vision that opened a world of knowledge to the “experts” of the Old World.



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