Seafaring from the earliest times to Christopher Columbus

Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Erno Wiebeck

When Columbus had crossed the Atlantic he discovered the New World for Europe. However long before Columbus bold seafarers were braving the vast Oceans on both sides of our globe. The considerations of this paper are confined to the Atlantic Ocean and to the Pacific.

A brief analysis and evaluation of the sea-craft of Polynesians and Vikings contributes to a better understanding of the adventures of these bold navigators.

In this context some basic criteria are defined, determining the seaworthiness of a seagoing ship/boat. Additionally the climatic conditions (e.g. prevailing winds, currents) are considered.

With reference to existing hypothesis and theories on transoceanic contacts prior to Columbus the seaworthiness of the sea-craft of these ages is investigated as an important precondition for early transoceanic voyages.

To support the evaluations the results of "experimental voyages" with replica of ancient sea-craft are considered.