How a Solar Eclipse Saved the Life of Christopher Columbus 

You probably already know who Christopher Columbus was. But in case you need a memory refresh, let’s just say that he was one of the most iconic explorers that Italy had to offer. His biggest discovery? The New World…according to some. However, what you should also know about him is that he was willing to do ANYTHING to get himself out of trouble, and that included being a liar and manipulator. So, among the many tales of his journeys, there’s one that stands out. And what is it that made it so special? The fact that it was a celestial event that saved him and his crew. So, let’s find out how a solar eclipse saved the life of Christopher Columbus.

Columbus’s Final Voyage

In the spring of 1502, Christopher Columbus embarked on his fourth and final expedition, departing from the port of Cádiz, Spain, with a fleet comprising the ships Capitana, Gallega, Vizcaína, and Santiago de Palos. His mission was to explore the uncharted territories of the New World and seek new trade routes to the riches of the East. Little did Columbus anticipate the challenges that lay ahead.


As Columbus’s fleet navigated the treacherous waters of the Caribbean, disaster struck in the form of shipworms. These pests drilled holes into the wooden hulls of his ship, forcing him to abandon two vessels. Columbus sought refuge on the north coast of Jamaica on June 25, 1503. Stranded and vulnerable, the crew faced an uncertain future.

Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures

At first, Columbus and his crew were welcomed by the indigenous Arawak people. They gave them shelter, food, and all the essential provisions. However, once they became unsatisfied with the trades, this changed. Their supplies were smaller and smaller, and weeks turned into months. Their survival started to become uncertain, and in a desperate bid to secure assistance, Columbus came up with a plan that was daring, to say the least. The only thing he needed? Celestial intervention.

Enter Johannes Müller von Königsberg, known as Regiomontanus. He was a distinguished German mathematician, astronomer, and astrologer. Regiomontanus’s almanac, containing meticulously calculated astronomical tables, proved to be an invaluable resource for Columbus. Armed with this celestial guide, Columbus learned of an upcoming total eclipse that was about to happen on February 29, 1504. This astronomical event would prove to be a turning point in his desperate plight.

Columbus’s Ingenious Plan

The things that made his plan possible in the first place were the fears and beliefs of indigenous Arawaks. Just like many other indigenous tribes, they were a deeply spiritual group of people. And Columbus wasn’t afraid of exploiting that. So, he set up a meeting with the Arawak chief and warned him of divine retribution. Invoking the power of his Christian god, he prophesized a celestial spectacle – a total eclipse. Of course, he made them believe that this would be a sign of impending doom and that the only thing that could save them would be their renewed assistance.

Even though they probably didn’t take them too seriously at first, once the eclipse was in full power just at the time that Columbus predicted it, the Arawaks started freaking out. They begged for Columbus to negotiate with his god. He retreated to his cabin, consulting Regiomontanus’s almanac to time the eclipse’s phases with precision. Emerging from his cabin moments before the eclipse’s end, Columbus proclaimed divine mercy. Thanks to this event, Columbus and his crew endured until relief arrived from Hispaniola, marking the end of their harrowing ordeal.

Kanita is a wanderlust-fueled traveler with an inclination for unraveling the mysteries of history, the paranormal, and the bizarre world of medicine. As a true crime buff, Kanita's nights are often spent delving into the depths of chilling mysteries. Yet, it's not just the paranormal that captivates her—her background in medicine fuels a fascination with the weird and wonderful world of medical oddities, from twisted historical practices to the myths and legends that shroud the field. From exploring haunted locales to uncovering the strange and morbid tales of medical history, Kanita is your guide to the unconventional, the unexplained, and the downright eerie.

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