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SPRING IN PORTUGAL, 2006

CABO DE SÃO VICENTO

THE END OF THE MEDIEVAL WORLD AND WILD FLOWER PARADISE

 

Cape Saint Vincent in SW Portugal - most westerly point in Europe.  Once Columbus' tiny boats got past here, they thought it was next stop China.  Luckily, America was in the way, otherwise we would never have heard any more of the "Admiral of the Ocean Sea".  The next point back East is the Ponta de Sagres (below).  It was here that the Portuguese Prince Henry the Navigator established a pad and the famous School of Navigation, though it is in fact doubtful that he had as much to do with it as narrative history would have it.  Whatever, the place was certainly destroyed by Sir F Drake - who was very good at destroying things. 

The present mess of bits of a subsequent fortress (destroyed in 1755's earthquake) and 1940s prefab buildings are not worth visiting except that we discovered a really good book sale in the middle of it all, and one of the results was the book shown below left, published as a numbered collectors' edition (including a set of stamps) by the Portuguese Post Office Collectors' Club.    The book is a tour de force of the development of navigational instruments, written in parallel Portuguese and English texts and accompanied by (you guessed) beautiful photographs and illustrations.  It is square and about 2cm wider than A4 paper (note to self - pack a ruler for the next trip!) and it has 160 pages.  Its ISBN is 972-9127-40-9 if you want to try and track one down (also try:  Medir Estrelas - Measuring Stars at Amazon UK ).

 

 

 Medir Estrelas: Measuring Stars at Amazon UK

 

 

More about the West Route to China  ....

 

Columbus' challenge was that whilst it had been accepted navigational wisdom for centuries that the earth was a sphere, no one knew its diameter, and thus how far he had to sail to reach China.  The diameter estimates he worked on (for example by the Florentine Toscanelli) were seriously under the real figure (24,900 miles for interest), but luckily for him the continents later to be known as the Americas were in the way, otherwise he and his three tiny boats pretty certainly would have disappeared from history without trace.

 

THE WILD FLOWERS OF THE WINDSWEPT CABO DE SÃO VICENTO

 

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