Christopher Columbus famously discovered America in 1492. In so doing, he earned accolades as a great explorer, adventurer and visionary. He also earned one other title that is not as well recognized: con man.
As Columbus led his expedition across the Atlantic, he kept a close eye on the weather, supplies, and the morale of his crew. He benefitted from calm seas and strong westerly winds, but even so, the journey proved to be significantly longer than he had anticipated.
As the crew’s apprehension grew and the rations decreased, Columbus was forced to create two separate sets of logs. One set showed the true distance they had covered; it was kept solely by the captain. The other set of logs was doctored to under-report the distance they had traveled from their homeland. This latter set of logs is what Columbus shared with his crew to help calm their nerves and reassure them they were much closer to home than they really were.
Even with the phony logs, Columbus knew his crew’s patience was wearing thin. The expedition started on August 3. On October 10 the crew was nearing the point of mutiny. Columbus promised them they would turn around in two days if they did not find land. At 2:00 a.m. on October 12, land was spotted. The mutiny was avoided, and history was made.
Columbus and his men returned home amidst accolades. The crew never knew they were conned into completing their mission.
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