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Technologys Impact on Christopher Columbus

Joe Alampi

1617 PA-228, Cranberry Twp., PA 16066

(412) 321 4823

Cardinal Wuerl North Catholic 11th Grade

Kushkushkee Trail

1130 Words

The Age of Exploration which began in the 15th century was a period of time when

Europeans explorers sailed around the globe in search of trading partners, new goods, and new

trade routes. Among these explorers was Christopher Columbus (Briney 1). Columbus was born

in Genoa, Italy in 1451. His father was a wool merchant. As a teenager, he worked on a merchant

ship until 1470 when French privateers invaded and sunk the ship just off the coast of Portugal.

Columbus was saved by a piece of wood on which he drifted to shores of Lisbon. There he

studied mathematics, astronomy, cartography and navigation. Christopher Columbus was one of

the many explorers who voyaged to the coast of Asia to trade gold, jewels, and spices. Each

voyage was successful in its own way and each explorer had their own vision on how to go about

their expedition. Most other explorers took a route around Africa to reach their destination.

Columbus had the idea to sail west across the Atlantic instead of around the vast continent of

Africa. He may have been successful, had he calculated the size of the earth correctly

("Christopher Columbus").

Columbus was commissioned by King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella of Spain. He and

his crew set sail on August 3, 1492 aboard three ships: The Nina, the Pinta, and the Santa Maria.

When he finally landed on October 12th he reached was he thought was Asia but was actually

present day Bahamas. Columbus continued to sail amongst the islands in search of the riches he

journeyed to find. Proving unsuccessful, he returned to Spain, March 1493 ("Christopher

Columbus"). Columbus traveled by the stars and used various tools including the quadrant. This

was a metal plate in the shape of quarter circle ("Columbus and Celestial Navigation").While a

very useful tool to measure latitude, Columbus's attempts at using it failed. According to, "Columbus tried to find his latitude using the quadrant on October 30,

1492. At the time, he was about 20 degrees North latitude. But the result he obtained from the

quadrant was 42 degrees. He made another reading from the same place on November 2, and got

the same flawed result." None the less, Columbus's miscalculations led to the discovery of the

new world, but his journey probably would have gone as he had planned if only he had some of

the technological advances of our day. Christopher Columbus could have used a gas turbine

motor, a GPS device, and a cell phone on his expedition.

A gas turbine motor, like the one you could find on a massive cruise ship, would have

been incredibly useful to Christopher Columbus. The addition of a motor to the Nina, Pinta, and

Santa Maria would have most definitely sped up the process. Columbus could navigate his ships

a lot better and not have to rely on the winds to guide him. According to,

Little did he know that he set sail during the heart of the Atlantic Hurricane season. Amazingly,

he didnt hit any storms during his first voyage! Besides having very good luck with hurricanes

en route to the Americas, he also capitalized on an abnormally strong high over the eastern North

Atlantic providing strong easterly winds for his sails. Although Columbus was very lucky with

the weather, the average speed that Columbus recorded was 4 knots (4.6 mph for comparison).

This speed could have been greatly increased with this engine. The average speed for a gas

turbine engine is around 20 knots (23 mph for comparison). This increase of speed would have

made Columbus trip five times quicker. Something that might not have been beneficial about it

would have been the fueling. The size of the ships would not have been able to handle such a

heavy load of fuel. They would not be able to make it to the New World with only the amount of

fuel that the ship could bear. Although, if they had the advancement of this engine they most

likely would not have taken ships as small as they did. The ships would probably have been

much larger due to the heavier load that the engine could endure.

A GPS could have been extremely beneficial to Columbus. Several times during the

voyage, Columbus blew off course. The only tools for navigation at Columbus disposal were a

faulty compass and the stars. According to, Columbus compass was certainly less

than perfect. The needle would hardly stay attached leading to incorrect directions. Even though

Columbus overcame these setbacks he still completed the trip. However, with these tools

available to Columbus the trip could have been completed with much ease. With this new

technology brings a paradox. The fact that Columbus did not have a GPS most likely would have

prevented the finding of the New World. He would have been able to navigate more directly to

Asia and he would have probably avoided North and South America completely. Aside from this

fact, the GPS would have helped Columbus in many ways but it would have also changed


Mobile phones connect people thousands of miles away at the push of a few buttons. In

Columbus time, a worldwide event would take weeks if not months to reach the ears of people

that far away. If Columbus had a cellular phone he would be able to contact his homeland at a

moments notice. For imaginations sake, visualize that the cell towers have already been built.

News of his discovery of the New World would have reached Europe extremely fast and would

have initiated the colonizing of the Americas years earlier. Another advantage would be the

ability to communicate between the crew. Columbus could have covered more ground by

sending his ships in different directions and be able to talk to them leading to a higher chance of

discovery. This mobile phone could have been very helpful for Columbus and his crew.

These advancements would have helped Columbus in many ways. The voyage would

have been quicker by a very large margin. Also, with a GPS Columbus could have followed a

much better route to the New World instead of relying on a faulty compass and the stars. And the

phone would have made the transfer of information from Columbus to the homeland much

quicker. The fact that Columbus could complete the trip without these tools proves his

navigational prowess. He made one of the largest discoveries of our human history with nothing

more than three small boats and the stars.


Works Cited

"Columbus Use of Dead Reckoning (DR) Navigation and Celestial Navigation."Columbus Use

of Dead Reckoning (DR) Navigation and Celestial Navigation. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 Sept.

2016. Staff. "Christopher Columbus." A&E Television Networks, 2009.

Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Tskic. "Weather in History: 1st Voyage of Columbus." Weather Works Inc.Weather Works, 11

Sept. 2015. Web. 26 Sept. 2016.

Whittemore, Jessica. "Columbus and The Compass." N.p., 12 Dec. 2013. Web. 26

Sept. 2016.