Appellate Judge James A. Stewart suspects that, by the end of his life, Columbus would rather have discovered Post-It Notes by accident instead of a continent.
"October 1492, Christopher Columbus discovered the Americas. It is his moment of triumph, winning his place in history, but Columbus' story doesn't end there…"
After a while, Christopher Columbus did figure out that he'd found a new land, but he didn't shake the notion that a faster spice route to the East was at hand. After landing in prison for his tyranny as a colonial governor, other people might have retired, but Columbus asked for one more chance to find that spice route—and he got it.
Too bad. Shuffleboard would have been more fun—and less hazardous.
When the 300th anniversary of Columbus' discovery was celebrated in 1792, people forgot to mention this last voyage; I think they were trying really hard, since he really screwed up. However, History Channel has retraced his journey in Columbus: The Lost Voyage.
What happened on Columbus' last journey? A hurricane, for starters, followed by war with a local tribe in what's now Panama, a shipwreck that left Columbus and his crew stranded in Jamaica, and mutiny. To make matters worse, he discounted local stories about the land route to the Pacific, leaving that for Vasco Núñez de Balboa to discover.
Columbus: The Lost Voyage does a good job of recreating Columbus' journey with reenactments and professorial perspective. One prof even demonstrates all the weapons used by and against the crew during their ordeal. Author Martin Dugard, who's touted on the DVD cover, adds some insight, but he's only one of several experts featured. The historical picture of Columbus is mixed; the narrative stresses his brilliance at navigation, while reminding viewers that his leadership skills left something to be desired.
Picture quality and sound are pretty good. The only extra is a text timeline summarizing Columbus' voyages. This would have been better if it had been actually on paper in a booklet or on a card so that viewers could refer to it as they watched.
Columbus: The Lost Voyage does a good job of telling a forgotten story. There is a little violence in there, so I'd avoid screening it for elementary kids, but I can see its usefulness as a learning tool for older students.
Columbus might have spent his final days in disgrace, but Columbus: The Lost Voyage has nothing to regret. Not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
• "Timeline: The Life of Christopher Columbus"
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