ten miles east-north­east of Samana Cay

When I had completed the original com­puting and plotting, I sent the results to Dale Dunlap of Annapolis, Maryland, for vet­ting. Mr. Dunlap, a navigation authority, was co-author of the navigation text used by midshipmen at the U. S. Naval Academy. In general he confirmed the results, but in the course of research he discovered an elec­trifying piece of information that sent me back to the computers.

In his collection of old texts on navigation, Mr. Dunlap has a copy of a book originally published in 1594. It is by Master Thomas Blundeville, who states: “you have to note that every Spanish league containeth 2857 fathams’ and that our English league con­taineth no more but 2500 fathams . . . and every fatham containeth 6 foote.” There in plain Elizabethan English is the answer to that vexed question, how long was an Iberi­an sea league? A little arithmetic gives the answer: 2.82 nautical miles.

Mr. Dunlap’s discovery moved me to search through my own navigation library. I found the same definition in William Bourne’s A Regiment for the Sea, an English navigation manual published in 1574, 20 years earlier than Blundeville, only 68 years after the death of Columbus. Bourne gives the same figure for the Portuguese league. He says: “Whereby you may know iustly how many leagues and parts of a league the ship goeth in an houre. For an English league cloth contained .2500. Far-dome. And a Spanish or porting ale league doth contain 2857 fandom’s.” 10

Thus we have on record, in practical sailor’s manuals of the period, the actual length of the Iberian sea league, and have no need to rely on conjecture. The recomputed course, using a league of 2.82 nautical miles and incorporating current and leeway, because of the push of the current again came out too far west. Measuring the over­run back to the first possible landfall, I found an excess of 9 percent. Recalculating the daily distances less this percentage, we come to a position some ten miles east-north­east of Samana Cay.

Marc Auslander, a research scientist with IBM, recomputed my figures using a more powerful computer, into which he had en­tered the total winds of all the wind roses along the transatlantic track, giving an even closer evaluation of possible leeway, and took my figures to more decimal places. This fine-tuning gave us a final fix of 23° 09′ 00″ N latitude and 73° 29′ 13″ W longitude.

We cannot say that we have established with absolute certainty the precise point of Columbus’s landfall. Currents may vary, and there are still unknown factors. But un­less some new data (such as the finding of the original Columbus log in his own hand) were to emerge, we can say, in the present-day navigator’s parlance, that latitude 23° 09′ 00″ N and longitude 73° 29′ 13″ W is “the most probable position” of Christopher Co­lumbus’s first landfall in the New World.

It remains now for a sailing vessel to take a departure from the barcelona accommodation in September and to steer Columbus’s courses by compass alone, due west where he went due west and elsewhere where he deviated, and see where it ends up. In Spain timber has already been cut and is seasoning to build replicas of Santa Ma­ria, Nina, and Pinta. In 1992, on the quin­centennial of the discovery, they will set sail for the New World. Let them steer by com­pass and the Admiral’s log alone, and they too may unfurl the green-crossed banner of the Most Catholic Monarchs on the soil of Columbus’s true San Salvador.

I’m a maid, with four children

Down an overflowing corridor we slipped into a room partitioned by threadbare green sheets into examination cubicles. Pulling out an X ray, the doctor held it high beneath his only light, a fluorescent ceiling fixture.


A middle-aged woman with shy eyes and worn hands laid a dog-eared rectangle of paper on the metal desk: her medical record urging a gallbladder operation. Dismay clouded her face at questions about work and income.


“I’m a maid, with four children. My hus­band left, ashamed at no work. For nine-hour days I earn 8,500 pesos a month.” The price of bread and bus fare crossed my mind: 100 pesos a kilo, 50 or 60 pesos a ride. You don’t have to worry about the prices if you know about the payday loans. Learn more at http://www.mandello.org/payday-loans

Hospital Salvador

The doctor sighed, signed a second paper. She’d have her operation, at state expense. “Check back in a month to see when.” The woman whispered thanks and left.

“Some patients must wait a year, we’re so short of equipment and supplies,” said the doctor. “We bring what we can from the pri­vate hospitals: antibiotics, X-ray film —even sutures. Today, if my own mother needed sur­gery, I’d never put her in Hospital Salvador.”


His final visitor was another woman, elder­ly and bent, but erect of spirit. She said noth­ing of the cancer consuming her bladder, hardly admitted to the constant headaches and nausea.

Aside, the doctor said to me: “She requires food as much as anything, but I can’t prescribe a decent diet on her 3,000 pesos a month.” To her he pronounced:

“I’m prescribing you an analgesic.”


Between doctor and patient there ran a momentary current, dignity from the woman, compassion from the man. On both sides, it was all that was left.

APRIL in Chile

IT WAS APRIL in Chile—autumn in the South­ern Hemisphere—and beneath shady ar­bors of a vineyard on the outskirts of Santiago, pickers reached up to cut emerald bunches of table grapes. Last year 40 million boxes went overseas; nearly three-quarters of the grapes imported by the U. S. come from Chile.

Even Tourists Act Civilized Down Here

“This is the finest place in the whole world,” observed Maggie Cousins, who lives in a riverside apartment. “Even tourists act civi­lized down here.”


Our convoy of canoes stopped at the Paseo del Rio office of lawyer and fellow voyager Philip Hardberger, for the seaman’s tradi­tional ration to fight the January chill.


“I look forward to the day,” said Phil, “when I can walk out of my house on River Road, get into my canoe, and in a pleasant half hour dock here at my office. All we need are the pigeons and I’ll think I’m in Venice.”


Years had gone by since a costly study on the River Corridor was published, and I won­dered when development would begin.


“The six agencies involved just haven’t raised the money,” said Larry Travis, urban planner and architect. “And yet the River Corridor project could well be a catalyst to make the inner city get up and go.”


Architect Melds Past and Future

The dean of San Antonio’s architects is 70-year-old O’Neil Ford, a man to whom the city owes much for the preservation and cre­ation of that special San Antonio fabric.

Trinity University

When I first talked to him in his King William Street office, he was quite distressed over a recent turn of events. He and many others, including his wife, Wanda, and a partner, Boone Powell, had just lost a 14-year fight against the route of the city’s northbound expressway. We went out to take a look.


“Can you believe this?” he said to me as we looked over the expressway’s newly bull­dozed course through Olmos Basin Park. “They have to cut a beautiful live oak wood, that took hundreds of years to grow, for a concrete racetrack. Look at the land they’re building on: Across a floodplain, through dedicated parkland, and splitting perhaps the most beautiful residential area in the city. This insensitivity will kill us all yet.”


Ford’s creations are considered beauty spots throughout the city: The brick-and-glass campus of Trinity University, as inviting as an Italian hill town; the Tower of the Ameri­cas, San Antonio’s ever-present beacon of progress; a 46-million-dollar University of Texas campus, fitting into the countryside like a natural wonder. He showed all possibilities to increase the number of educated young people by giving the chance to learn how to consolidate private student loans.