Celebrating ‘Columbus Day’ always resonates with me for several days pre and post this impactful day in history – marking Christopher Columbus’ landfall in the Americas in 1492. Specifically, he set foot in the Bahamas – the island chain to the south and east of the US State of Florida, and perhaps not so coincidentally – the home for my experimental work in ocean exploration.
Today, we know with near certainty that Columbus was not the first European to reach the Americas, however as a propagandist, his communicating the journey and its value back in Europe was what set his work apart. He raised an awareness for a ‘New World’ during a time when breaking open frontiers for new settlement, new resource exploitation, and a new promise of an improved quality of life. Of course, many, many suffered both individually and more broadly at a cultural level, with Native Americans bringing immense pressure in years to come.
Controversy aside, we cannot ignore that the world today is largely where it is because of that landfall in the Bahamas. If it were not Columbus, it would have been someone else. It was his time in history, and a mark was made – in exploration.
With the negativity associated with early European dominance and destruction in a post-Columbian America, perhaps it is indeed better to reflect on the merit of the exploration itself, rather than celebrate the specific journey and person. This idea of celebrating ‘Exploration Day’ is echoed in a recent ABC News piece: “Columbus Day 2012: hero, Villain, or Both?”.
There remain frontiers yet discovered, let alone explored, further studied, and their impact on the rest of our system measured. We just have to get out there and look.
For me, I like to take it back to where this idea of a ‘New World’ was born – the Bahamas. Indeed, its discovery showed that the world was not flat – and today it is revealing that there is an entirely new dimension beneath, and within.
Celebrate ‘Exploration Day’ with an open mind – get outside and explore.