SPACE AS AN OCEAN
LESSONS FROM THE AGE OF EUROPEAN MARINE EXPLORATION FOR THE SPACE AGE.
Humans had migrated over all of the continents of the earth and established civilizations great and small long before Columbus set sail. But migrations are quite different from voyages of discovery. Before Spain, Portugal, and Great Britain began to compete with each other over the exploration by sea of the globe, other governments had, on occasion, attempted to sponsor such expeditions. It was the Europeans starting in the late 1400s who completed and repeated such voyages and planted colonies and forged alliances around the globe. For better or for worse that began the global village. So in this series of essays we ignore the question of the voyages of the Chinese admirals, the Viking voyages to America and look for the lessons, positive and negative that have come from the still on going "Colombian Exchange" , the movements of peoples, goods, plants, animals, and microbes about the planet from the places where they had evolved to where ever they could survive.
Now just in case your are interested in exploring the Chinese claim for the discovery of America in 1421 here are some links:
Part 1 of 2 the film "1421" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LBMXoPtPtTw
Part 2 of 2 1421 China Discovers America: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ocUIzwMPbx4
If you are inclined to read about it ,the movies are based on this book:
We don't agree or disagree with the historical speculation based on some solid looking evidence that the Chinese reached America before Columbus. The point is that when the Eunuch Admiral returned to China the new rulers didn't follow up. The earlier Viking colonies disappeared and contact broke off. It was the Europeans who explored, recorded, left colonies, and repeated voyages, and for better or worse gave us the lessons we will contemplate in this series.
Here is a video look at America just before the arrival of Columbus: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=brSPQ7sUE84
And for our readers:
Let's resume our previous line of thought. Beginning with the first voyage of Columbus; people, objects, plants, animals, ideas, and microbes started to cross the Atlantic with growing regularity. Other explorers like Vasco de Gama had rounded Africa and entered the Indian Ocean. They too were starting a two way exchange that would grow, and eventually other European merchant men would enter the Pacific. But for the sake of convenience and convention, we'll refer to the whole ensuing traffic that evolved over time and continues to this day as The Colombian Exchange.
For a look at some of the changes that began to appear after Columbus watch this free video series :
There are actually eight parts to the "500 Nation" series which takes the viewer from pre- Colombian times through initial contact and all the way to the 1890s at Wounded Knee. We are most interested in examining "first contact", what happened when the European seafarers met the Native Americans, and later others, such as the Polynesians. Take some time to view the videos or read up a bit on the world before the "European Recognizance". Let your mind wander and envision a world so vast that great civilizations existed without any knowledge of each other. For Thousands of years the seas kept mankind apart and the relative isolation fostered the separate development of languages, laws, customs, agriculture, whole civilizations. As long as the seas remained unconquered it seemed the "World" would always be vast, and rather disconnected. Then Prince Henry the Navigator put seamanship, navigation, and geography on a systematic, even scientific basis. The Spanish, the British, the Dutch all began to compete in exploration and in only about two hundred years the world became a much smaller place, the great barrier of the oceans became a highway and the world is still reeling from the effect.
Yet even while we still stagger under the problems and opportunities created by the resulting "Colombian Exchange" that followed the" European Recognizance" we have already embarked upon a new ocean that connects a universe. It has been more than forty years since man first planted a flag and left foot prints on another planet . Even as we write this, robotic explorers are on Mars. We seek the return of more samples of outer planet soils to the Earth. We are already embarked on a second recognizance and we haven't absorbed the lessons from the first. We are already repeating some of the same initial mistakes. In the coming weeks a seafarer/scholar who has participated in the Colombian Exchange as a trader, and combated some of its ill effects as a regulator, will provide to you a series of free standing essays looking at the similarities between space and the oceans, and between our present entry into space exploration and our past exploration of the planet by sea. "SPACE AS AN OCEAN" isn't a serialized book, its a discussion, like the Namazu School and "HOW FAR WILL THE DRAGON SWIM?" There is a comment block at the end of every blog posting, your thoughts are always appreciated.