ON THE ATLANTIC OCEAN
The captain shrugged his shoulders, and gave a bit of a snort, “Christopher Columbus?” he said again. “You know he wasn’t the first to sail across the Atlantic Ocean. The Vikings did that.”
Well, yes, they apparently did. More modern history books acknowledge that fact; and as something of a Viking himself, Capt. Ole-Johan Gronhaug, the skipper of Adventure of the Seas, is quick to correct any possible misconceptions. With good humor, of course – but he isn’t kidding around.
Capt. Gronhaug (the “o” has one of those Norwegian slashes through it) is a native of the Lofeten Islands, along Norway’s north coast; he also represents the latest generation of a long line of seafarers, who perpetuate the Viking love of the sea. (Royal Caribbean, btw, was founded in Norway in 1968.)
But the question was about Christopher Columbus, and the fact the Trans Atlantic crossing we are currently on, is following the basic route Columbus established from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean in 1492.
“Yes, Columbus came this way,” the captain acknowledged, a bit begrudgingly. “But I think he ended up landing in The Bahamas, didn’t he?”
History books can make it seem like Columbus sailed around in circles, essentially lost, until he accidently – and quite fortuitously for his starving men – bumped into a few islands.
And it now seems like every little island in the Caribbean claims that it was “discovered” or at least visited by Columbus – much in the same way every inn in New England used to claim “George Washington Slept Here”.
But history does record that Columbus sailed much the same route we are following on this 13-day cruise from San Juan, Puerto Rico, via the Canary and Azores islands to Malaga, Spain.
A look at the map of the central Atlantic Ocean reveals Columbus’ route was more direct than I originally thought, and it almost looked like he knew what he was doing – down along the west coast of Africa, out across the open sea, an eventually to the Caribbean; so I give him credit for pioneering this route we are traveling – even if perhaps Capt. Gronhaug might prefer to talk about Vikings instead!
(It did take Columbus 70 days to do it; Adventure of the Seas will take six days to cross to the Azores from the Netherlands Antilles. We do, however, benefit considerably from about 150,000 horsepower worth of diesel generators that push us nearly 500 miles a day. Columbus was lucky to average 30; in fact, if he marked a spot on the horizon at the beginning of the day, he was lucky to reach it by nightfall. Okay, a message in a bottle might have traveled faster; but he kept at it, day after day.)
To me, this connection to Columbus gives our voyage a certain heightened standing – a sense of history that I didn’t have when I booked it. It’s not like Columbus left navigational breadcrumbs to precisely follow; but we know from his logs and calculations generally where he went.
Might Royal Caribbean consider re-christening this cruise – which, on the surface, just looked to me like a seasonal re-positioning of the Adventure of the Seas from the Caribbean to the Mediterranean – as the “Christopher Columbus – Voyage of Discovery” crossing? That would actually be quite appropriate.
But Capt. Gronhaug might ask for equal time to talk about the Vikings.
April 19, 2012