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Did everyone during Christopher Columbus's time think that the world was flat?

No, they did not. Though the common perception is that Christopher Columbus had to convince King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella that the world was a

A statue of Christopher Columbus is prominently displayed in New York City's Columbus Square.

A statue of Christopher Columbus is prominently displayed in New York City's Columbus Square.

sphere, Columbus actually had to convince the King and Queen of the circumference of the world. Though the ancient Greeks had discovered that the Earth was a sphere, centuries passed before this was generally accepted. By the fifteenth century, however—the time of Columbus's sailing—most educated people believed the world to be round. But the question remained: how far was it to travel around the world?

Is it true that Columbus deliberately fudged the circumference measurement so as to make a better case for his trip?

Though most scholars believed that the circumference of the Earth was approximately 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers), Columbus used an estimate of 18,000 miles (29,000 kilometers) to push his case, in order to make his trip seem more achievable and the costs more reasonable. Columbus used Posidonus' smaller estimate, rather than Eratosthenes' larger and more accurate estimate, to make the trip appear shorter.

What did the Mason-Dixon line originally divide?

While the Mason-Dixon line commonly refers to the division between the "North" and "South" in the eastern United States, it was originally a boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland surveyed by Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon in 1763. During the Civil War, the boundary between Pennsylvania and Maryland was extended westward to represent the line between the slave and non-slave states.

Who was Vancouver, Canada, named after?

In the 1790s, George Vancouver, who had previously accompanied James Cook on his explorations for "Terra Australis Incognito" and the Northwest Passage, explored and mapped the Pacific coast of North America. Vancouver circumnavigated Canada's Vancouver Island, and it and the city of Vancouver (founded 1881) were named for him.

What were Lewis and Clark looking for?

President Thomas Jefferson sent Meriwether Lewis and army officer William Clark to search for a Northwest Passage, a waterway that would connect the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Beginning in May 1804 and lasting through September 1806, the two men and their expedition party traveled through the uncharted Louisiana Territory and the Oregon Territory. Though they did not locate a Northwest Passage, Lewis and Clark documented the geography of the West.

Who was John Wesley Powell?

Though he lost an arm in the Civil War, John Wesley Powell became one of the leading surveyors of the nineteenth century. In 1869, Powell explored the Grand Canyon.

Traveling on a boat along the Colorado River, he faced dangerous rapids, hostile Native Americans, and weather extremes. In 1880, Powell was appointed the second director of the United States Geological Survey.

How did America get its name?

Though Christopher Columbus discovered the New World, he always believed that he had reached Asia, not realizing that he had encountered new continents. The Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, who had explored the New World and published accounts of his travels, was the first person known to have distinguished the New World from Asia. The German cartographer Martin Waldseemuller, who had read of Amerigo Vespucci's travels, published a map of the New World in 1507 with what is now known as South America named "America," in honor of Amerigo. The name stuck.

What did James Cook not discover?

During the eighteenth century, James Cook was sent on several expeditions of discovery, one of which was to the southern Pacific Ocean in search of the legendary landmass "Terra Australis Incognita." Though the continent that is now known as Australia had already been discovered, a centuries-old belief foretold of another huge continent in that area. Cook traveled to the southern Pacific Ocean and disproved the legend of "Terra Australis Incognita." On another expedition, Cook was sent to find a water route north of North America from Asia to Europe. As Cook sailed, he discovered the Sandwich Islands (Hawaiian Islands) and determined that a Northwest Passage was not feasible because of ice. On his way back from this "un"-discovery, Cook was killed in the Sandwich Islands during a struggle over the theft of one of his boats.

How fast did the Mayflower sail?

In 1620, the Pilgrims sailed on the Mayflower from Plymouth, England, to the New World in 66 days. Though the Mayflower relied upon intermittent wind for propulsion, it averaged two miles (3.2 kilometers) per hour across the Atlantic Ocean.

A statue of Captain James Cook was erected at London's Admiralty Arch in 1914.

A statue of Captain James Cook was erected at London's Admiralty Arch in 1914.

Was George Washington a geographer?

George Washington manifested the abilities of a cartographer and a surveyor at an early age. When he was 13, Washington made his first map, which was of his father's property, Mt. Vernon. At the age of 17, Washington was appointed surveyor of Culpepper County, Virginia. At age 21, Washington entered military service, and the rest is history.

What is a nautical mile?

Used for measuring ocean-based distances, a nautical mile is equivalent to approximately 6,076 feet (1,852 meters) or 1.15 miles (1.85 kilometers). The speed of ships is measured in knots. One knot is equivalent to one nautical mile per hour.

What monetary unit is used in Panama?

The currency in Panama is called the Balboa, after the explorer Vasco Nanez de Balboa, because Balboa established the first European settlement in Panama.

THE POLES

Who was the first person to reach the North Pole?

Though American explorer Robert Edwin Peary is credited as the first to reach the North Pole, it is likely that he only came within 30 to 60 miles (48 to 80 kilometers) of 90° North during his expedition in 1909. Who did actually reach the Pole first is still being debated.

Who was the first person to reach the South Pole?

In 1911, the Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen and the British explorer Robert Scott were racing against each other to be the first to reach the South Pole. On December 4, 1911, Amundsen and his crew of four reached the South Pole at 90° South. Approximately one month later, Scott and his team arrived at the pole. Depressed from their defeat and with inadequate supplies of food, Scott and his team died while trying to return to their base camp.

Who was one of the great African American explorers?

Mathew Henson, an African American born in 1866, joined Peary's first Arctic expedition and spent seven years there, covering more than 9,000 miles. Henson arrived at the North Pole 45 minutes ahead of expedition leader Peary, and he actually is the first person to find and stand on the North Pole.

 
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