The Challenge of 1992

The Challenge of 1992

1992, the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s first voyage to the Americas, will be upon us in one and a half short months.

Recommendations as to how the event should be commemorated are as lively, as numerous and diverse as is our citizenry.

Surely, we who love history and follow the sea recognize 1992 as a singularly significant event in the history of mankind.

The Columbus voyages impacted on all people everywherewhetherfor good or ill, whether immediately or later.

Before 1492, all world maps everywhere had edges. Just thirty years later, Magellan ‘s voyage of circumnavigation gave us a global world, unmistakably a world with no edges.

The Age of Discovery ended millennia of isolation for the Americas. But it also brought eastern Asia, Australi a, the Arctic and the Pacific Islands into the world ‘s traffics.

Within an eyeblink of history, the world was made one.

But, exactly what are we to commemorate in 1992, and how should we commemorate it?

The National Maritime Historical Society has given this some thought and has taken counsel with the leaders of two museums particul arly close to my own heart:

Mystic Seaport Museum in Connecticut and South Street Seaport Museum in New York.

(I have the honor of serving both these centers of sea learning as trustee.)

The Society has also taken counsel of the National Maritime Alliance and the Council of American Maritime Museums.

And this is how we see the Quincentenary year: First, let’s recognize the courage, skill and perseverance of all the early explorers.

It is so easy to call old Chris a bumbler who happened to sail west and eventually hit something.

But I wonder how many who guffaw at this gibe could make their way across the Atlantic in a small boat with primitive instruments,

then find their way back again to their point of origin, and then do it again three more times!

These first voyagerswhether Norsemen probing their way along the North Atlantic coast, or Portuguese making their way down the coast of Africa and around the Cape of Good Hope to India,

or Polynesians memori zing the stars in the sky and navigating across the vast Pacific to colonize its islands-all these voyagers shared things very important to our human story:

love of adventure, the joy of discovery and learning, the readiness to rise to challenge.

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