Skip to main content

The Columbus Quiz

New World history is a rich field that is constantly being analyzed for new material. The complexity of these tales never fails to amaze me.

Admiring the Great Admiral

The legacy of Christopher Columbus produces more and more controversy. Following is a short quiz designed not so much to vilify or glorify the Great Admiral of the Ocean, but rather to provide more insight into his journeys to the New World, now known as the Americas. Spurred on by historical research that currently includes resources from Spain, Iceland, and Latin America, our current reality is that we now have more information at our fingertips than ever before. Yet, how we will handle these new realms of history remains to be seen.

The Landing at San Salvador

Columbus sets foot in the Bahamas at Watling Island, which is nowadays referred to as San Salvador Island

Columbus sets foot in the Bahamas at Watling Island, which is nowadays referred to as San Salvador Island

Questions About 1492

Question #1 Can you name the town in the Canary Islands where the Santa Maria, the Pinta, and the Nina stopped on their way across the Atlantic? Bonus points: Name two reasons why Columbus would have stopped at the Canary Islands?

Answer #1 The three ships stopped at the port of San Sebastian on the island of La Gomera to pick up supplies and do some repairs to the ships. It is also reported that Columbus had romantic interests on the island, most notably, a young lady, named Beatriz de Bobadilla.

Question #2 What were those faint lights that Columbus saw on the night of October 11, 1492, and recorded in his journal?

Answer # 2 They could have been glowworms. Glowworms are naturally occurring aquatic invertebrates known for giving off bioluminescent light when they mate.

Columbus and the North Atlantic

Question #1 Can you name the town in Iceland where Christopher Columbus stayed in 1477?

Answer #1 - The town is called Ingjaldshóll and it's located on the western edge of Iceland, not too far from the present-day capital. For bonus points, Ingjaldshóll is located on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula.

Question #2 - After leaving Iceland how far west did Columbus travel?

Answer #2 - Nobody really knows. (Can't go wrong with that answer) Possible answers range from he never went to Iceland – to - he was searching for the Northwest Passage and went as far west as conditions would allow, which could have taken him to Baffin Island or even further.

Ingjaldshóll, Iceland

Questions Concerning the Subsequent Three Journeys of Christopher Columbus

Question # 1 What book did Columbus carry to the New World that enabled him to calculate the lunar eclipse of February 1504?

Answer # 1 The Regiomontanus Almanac - Actually, Regiomontanus was the pen name for Johannes Müller von Königsberg, who before he died in 1476, published an almanac that contained extensive astronomical tables with detailed information about the movements of the earth, moon, and planets.

Question # 2 Who threw Christopher Columbus in Jail?

Answer # 2 Acting under the orders of Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand, Francisco de Bobadilla arrested Christopher Columbus in 1500 on the island of Hispaniola. Then he had Columbus put in chains and returned to Spain, where he was to stand trial for mismanaging the Spanish colony of Hispaniola.

Question # 3 Who sprang Columbus from behind bars?

Answer # 3 King Ferdinand pardoned Columbus and a few of his men after they had been returned to Spain and imprisoned in that country. Nonetheless, Columbus and crew did spend six weeks in jail in Spain.

Question # 4 When did Columbus experience his first hurricane?

Answer # 4 In June 1502 during his fourth voyage, Columbus and his small fleet, sailed into the capital of Hispaniola. During this visit, he noticed that a powerful ocean storm might be approaching the island. After warning the Governor of the island, Columbus with his small fleet took shelter from the approaching storm. Don Nicolas de Oravando, the governor, ignored the warning and sent a large armada to Spain with many ships laden with gold. The storm showed up as predicted and destroyed the Spanish fleet, while Columbus and his crew survived. This little story underscores how well Columbus understood maritime affairs.

Two Questions Surrounding the Death of Christopher Columbus

Question #1 What was the financial state of Columbus when he died?

Answer # 1 Contrary to popular belief, Columbus did not die in jail and had all his monetary assets restored to him by King Ferdinand.

Question # 2 Where is Christopher Columbus buried today?

A. Vallolodid, Spain

B. Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic

C. Havana, Cuba

D. Seville, Spain

E. All of the above

At one time or another, the body of Columbus has rested in all four of these cities. If at each time, they correctly removed all the bones of the Great Explorer, then D is the correct place, as the body of Columbus was last moved from Havanna to Seville after a Civil War broke out in Cuba in 1898.

Columbus Day

Many places like New York City celebrate Columbus Day with a parade

Many places like New York City celebrate Columbus Day with a parade


October is here again and so it's time to celebrate Columbus or not celebrate Columbus, as there is a growing trend to vilify Columbus and even replace Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day. Much has been made of the brutal reign of Columbus as Governor of Hispaniola, where many of the indigenous people died of disease and warfare following the arrival of the Spanish explorers and colonists. At present, many entities in the United States have dropped Columbus Day as an official holiday, while a few others, such as the city of Los Angeles, have officially replaced Columbus Day with Indigenous People's Day.

Following is a CBS video that delves into some of the 21st-century events and politics that currently surround this October holiday.

My Take

De-emphasizing Columbus Day may not be such a bad way to go, but replacing the holiday with Indigenous People's Day raises some vital questions. Most importantly, it takes many diverse cultures that existed across North and South America and places them in one category. While this might shed some light on the historical process that lead to our present-day situation, it does little to illuminate the many varied languages and cultures that once existed in the western hemisphere. And in the long run, it might make things more difficult for the cultural survival of the various indigenous peoples.

© 2017 Harry Nielsen