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Christopher Columbus

Christopher Columbus kept two records of the distances traveled on his first voyage to the New World in the Santa Maria. One was true, he thought, but he deliberately faked the other. Ironically, the fake log turned out to be the more accurate of the two. To alleviate his crew’s fears that they were getting too far from home on an unknown sea, Columbus gave them a reduced mileage estimate. When, for example, he told them on Sept. 11, 1492, that they had covered 16 leagues, he recorded 20 leagues in his secret log. Though he didn’t know it, Columbus’ “true” distance records were overestimated by 9% on the average. His faked distances came out closer to the actual distances traveled.

When the crew found out about his deception, they threatened to mutiny. Before they did, however, land—and a New World—appeared.

Parade Magazine, March 18, 1984

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