Traveling In Columbus’ Wake

Traveling In Columbus’ Wake

“In fourteen hundred ninety-two

Columbus sailed the ocean blue.”

When I was growing up back in the last century, every American school kid learned the opening lines of that ditty about Christopher Columbus’ voyage of discovery.

(Wikipedia Photo)

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Columbus made three trips to the “New World” in the 1490’s that would markedly change the demographics of both Europe and the Americas.

Over the next two centuries, Europeans colonized North and South America.

The 18th century saw the birth of the United States which expanded its territory in 1803 by purchasing a vast expanse of the North American continent from France.

Later in that century, large numbers of Europeans emigrated to the U.S., many to homestead farms on the Great Plains.

The Age of Sail gave way to the Age of Steam, and in the last quarter of the 19th century steamships morphed into “ocean liners” that carried both the wealthy and the not-so-wealthy from Europe to the U.S.

It had taken Columbus five weeks to cross the Atlantic in 1492. The Mayflower spent about two months crossing that ocean in 1620.

(Wikipedia Photo)

Fast forward to the 20th century and the SS United States set a transatlantic crossing record of three days and twelve hours.

On August 11, 1938, the first non-stop transatlantic commercial flight—operated by Lufthansa—landed in New York. Despite that aviation milestone, ocean liners continued to carry passengers across the Atlantic before and after World War II.

But by the late 1950’s, airlines were flying Boeing 707 jetliners from the U.S. to Europe. And at the end of the next decade, transatlantic air service had all but eclipsed passenger ship voyages between the two continents.

Pan Am 707
(Roger Wollstadt Flickr Photo)

The supersonic airliner, Concorde, launched in 1976, could carry passengers between New York and London in about three hours. Since its retirement in 2003, transatlantic air travel is no longer so speedy. New York-London flights now take all of seven hours.

But the slow-down in making the airborne trip between Europe and America hasn’t prevented a flood of travelers from making the journey, as this video shows. And if this report from Tnooz is correct, 2,000-3,000 flights cross the North Atlantic each day.

 If you thought that Columbus’ three-ship voyage over 500 years ago had a major impact on Europe and America, think again.

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