Cristopher Columbus, Mariner Critical Essays

Samuel Eliot Morison


(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

Morison had a lifelong interest in Columbus and his voyages. Himself an admiral, Morison determined to re-create Columbus’ journeys by sailing the same route and visiting the islands and mainland areas that Columbus described. He embarked on one voyage to the Windward and Leeward Islands in 19371938 and then organized the Harvard Columbus Expedition, which in 19391940 followed the route of Columbus’ third voyage. Morison traced Columbus’ land routes both by car and on foot. Having also done years of research in primary documents, Morison concluded the endeavor with the publication of Admiral of the Ocean Sea, from which Christopher Columbus, Mariner was derived.

While Morison did not specifically write for young people, the popularized version of his Columbus biography is of interest to teenage readers because of the author’s ability to capture in detail the essence of one of history’s most exciting marine adventures. Morison’s style is readable, his narrative selections captivating, and his knowledge of his subject daunting. His own naval background has allowed him to describe navigational techniques and instruments, the effects of weather conditions and sea routes, and the difficulties of a transatlantic crossing when the state of technology left most of the calculations to the expertise of the navigator.

Morison makes no apology for his belief that Columbus was probably the greatest mariner of all time—having the distinction of never losing a ship at sea—and that his discovery was the most spectacular in human history. He...

(The entire section is 647 words.)