The Tale of Columbus’ Lost Ship Name

This pen and ink on board illustration by Henry Clarence Pitz (1895-1976) for the book Christopher Columbus was featured in a July 2013 Heritage illustration art auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Nearly every schoolchild, especially in Ohio and Puerto Rico, learns that “In 1492, Columbus sailed the Ocean blue.” Most also remember his three ships: the Niña, Pinta and Santa Maria … at least I did.

However, it turns out that the names of these ships are a little more complicated. By tradition, Spanish ships were named after saints, and then later given nicknames.

For example:

La Niña (the girl) was actually named the Santa Clara (a female saint) and was Columbus’ favorite of the three.

La Santa Maria was really a shortened version of “The Holy Mary of the Immaculate Conception.”

Lastly, we believe that Christobal Quintero owned La Pinta (the pint), but the original name was “lost at sea.”

So a more precise lineup would be the Santa Clara, Pinta and Santa Maria instead of the ones found in most of our history books.

It is also difficult to specify with any certainty the land(s) Columbus spotted or the exact sequence during his four voyages to the “New World.” He spent eight years bouncing around the Caribbean and coastal South America, convinced he was in the heart of the Orient.

He expected to find Japan and China just over the next horizon.

Curiously, he did not know that Cuba was an island and, importantly, never set foot on or even suspected there was a large land mass to the North.

Today we call it the United States.

Perhaps even worse, at least for his financial backers, was the cargo he chose to haul back to Spain. First was a lot of iron pyrite (thinking it was gold) and then “cinnamon,” which turned out to be worthless tree bark. Even the highly prized “pepper” was really just chili pepper. Not so bad if you like spicy, but much less valuable.

Despite all of this, he remains one of our best remembered explorers and history has treated him well.

Many even get a day off work each year to celebrate as a federal holiday.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Here’s Why Shakespeare Might Be a Part of You

William Shakespeare’s The Poems of Shakespeare [Cosway-Style Binding], London: William Pickering, 1837, realized $2,868 at an October 2009 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman on the atom from his “Six Easy Pieces” lecture series:

“If, in some cataclysm, all scientific knowledge were to be destroyed, and only one sentence passed on to the next generation, what statement would contain the most information in the fewest words?

“I believe it is the atomic hypothesis that all things are made of atoms – little particles that move around in perpetual motion, attracting each other when they are a little distance apart, but repelling upon being squeezed into one another.”

Personally, I would have a bit of a problem rebuilding if that was the extent of all knowledge! And, although I can use more than one sentence, the following may not add enough for you to do it either.

To begin, atoms are simply everywhere and constitute every single thing. Not only stuff like a wall or your refer, but the air in between.

They combine to make molecules and molecules combine to make elements. Chemists think of molecules rather than elements just as writers think in terms of words and not letters.

Molecules are numerous, beyond comprehension. A cubic centimeter of air (the size of a sugar cube) contains 45 billion-billion molecules. Now think about how many sugar cubes it would take to replace all the matter in the universe. Multiply that number by 45 billion, then multiply that by another billion. Well, you get the idea. And, of course, atoms are by definition more abundant than molecules.

Atoms are also very durable and have been around sooo long that every atom in your body has passed thru several stars and been a part of millions of organisms. They are so anatomically numerous and vigorously recycled at our death that it has been suggested 1 billion of my atoms (and yours) were once part of Shakespeare … and of Ghengis Kahn. An odd thought, but statistically probable (not just possible).

Atoms are also tiny … very, very tiny. It is hard to describe just how tiny, but here is a crude attempt:

A millimeter thickness is like comparing a single sheet of paper to the height of the Empire State Building. Got it?

Well, atoms are only one-ten millionth as thick as a millimeter. That is tiny.

When we die, our atoms will simply disassemble and move on to become other things like a rock, another human being, or a Doritos tortilla chip. It is somehow comforting to know that someday, I will be a Doritos chip rather than a Pringles.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Physicist Richard Feynman Crucial to Challenger Answers

A NASA color lithographed print of the Space Shuttle Challenger (STS-51-L) Crew, signed, was featured in a May 2012 auction.

By Jim O’Neal

On Jan. 28, 1986, I was chairing a board meeting in New York when we learned that the NASA Space Shuttle orbiter Challenger had disintegrated 78 seconds after its launch over the Atlantic Ocean. Seventeen percent of Americans had witnessed the launch live and within an hour, 85 percent were aware of the disaster. Much of the interest was due to crew member Christa McAuliffe, a payload specialist and the first teacher headed into outer space. An O-ring failure caused a breach in the right solid rocket booster, which led to a structural failure.

Aerodynamic forces finished the job. A special Blue Ribbon Commission, appointed by President Reagan, determined that this design defect had been known for several years and repeated warnings were disregarded. What was not highlighted was that the space vehicle had never been certified to operate in low temperatures … specifically, the conditions that existed at the launch site on the day the flight was scheduled for liftoff. Enter theoretical physicist Richard Feynman, a distinguished member of the Commission and one determined to expose the truth to the American public. I can still vividly recall his now famous demonstration on live TV and elucidation of the cause of the Challenger space shuttle disaster. It included a very dramatic point where he dropped an elastic band (the O-ring) into a glass of ice water. Case closed. What opened was my mind. Next post, an example on Richard Feynman on a very small thing: an atom.

Jim O'NielIntelligent Collector blogger JIM O’NEAL is an avid collector and history buff. He is President and CEO of Frito-Lay International [retired] and earlier served as Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo Restaurants International [KFC Pizza Hut and Taco Bell].

Time for Divine Inspiration from George Washington?

 
Rembrandt Peal’s oil on canvas George Washington, circa 1856, realized $662,500 at a May 2013 auction.

By Jim O’Neal The Catholic Church has a simple process for selecting a new Pope that seems to be working fine (to me). Whenever a Pope dies or resigns, the responsibility for governance shifts to the College of Cardinals. “Cardinals” are bishops and Vatican officials from all over the world who had been chosen earlier by a Pope. I think these are the guys (only?) who wear the red vestments and their primary responsibility includes electing a new Pope … as needed. Continue reading Time for Divine Inspiration from George Washington?