The Columbus Landfall Scorecard

Where we evaluate the theories against the evidence, and discover a surprise winner.


Before you go overboard on the scorecard, you should realize that the accuracy or importance of every one of these clues has been challenged by someone or other; see the landfall clues page. In the table below, I evaluate nine of the landfall theories. I have not evaluated the Lignum Vitae Cay theory (because there is too little published information available) nor the Virgin Islands theory (because it is more a theory of the transatlantic track than of the landfall per se).


You may also want to compare this current version of the scorecard with my earlier version.

A capsule review of the earlier version:

"Junk." -- Neil Sealey


The scoring system (from 0 to 3):
0 = does not fit the evidence, requires assumption of major error
1 = poor fit to the evidence, requires unusual interpretation
2 = reasonable fit with the evidence
3 = perfect fit with the evidence

Islands (in order of discovery): I = San Salvador, II = Santa Maria, III = Fernandina, IV = Isabela.

The theories (regarding the identity of I = San Salvador), which are being scored in the above table are: Pla = Plana, May = Mayaguana, Sam = Samana, Con = Conception,Wat = Watlings, GrT = Grand Turk, Cai = Caicos, Cat = Cat Island, Egg = Egg Island.

Newest model of the geomagnetic field in the 15th century, combined with analysis of the transatlantic track, points to a landfall in the south-central Bahamas.332121101
Analysis of the log indicates Columbus could nothave been a celestial navigator.333333303
References on 17th and 18th century maps showing Guanahani000200303
Juan de la Cosa map shows Guanahani as a multiple island.300030030
Juan de la Cosa map shows that Guanahani islets are small.303303130
Juan de la Cosa map shows Guanahani on an east-west axis.333130030
Juan de la Cosa map shows Guanahani north of Cape Mola, Hispaniola.333110211
Columbus saw a light on the night of October 11. Theory has a place for such a light to be.311331113
Columbus does not say that there are more than one island at island I.033303303
There was a large pond in the middle of Island I.120302333
Las Casas claims Island I is 15 leagues long.010030003
Columbus explored "the other part, which isthe eastern part" of Island I by boat on October 14.323321132
The boat trip went "the length of the island."302300030
The boat trip went NNE along Island I.330303230
There was a surrounding reef at Island I.333333110
Between the reef and the island was a large harbor.232233310
Columbus reported entrance through reef was "very narrow."33333?130
There was a peninsula with a narrow neck at Island I.131211220
The population of Island I was in the range 500-1100312113111
Many islands were seen at various distances after leaving Island I, some closer than five leagues.200033030
It was 5 to 7 leagues from I to II203103312
Island II has a coast running North-South.333323300
The N-S coast of II faces Island I.330013100
The N-S coast of II is 5 Lgs. long.333003010
The E-W coast of II is 10+ Lgs. long.333023010
The N-S coast of Island II was (by clear implication) not followed.333333130
Columbus reported seeing Island III from Island II.222300303
Columbus sailed on an E-W course from Island II to Island III.333131130
The distance from Island II to Island III was 8 or 9 leagues.222100120
Columbus arrived at a cape where coasts ran NNW-SSW333130110
Island III had a coastline running NNW-SSE.333200231
Island III was more than 20 leagues long.333321333
A harbor two leagues from the end of Island III.333003030
There was a small island in harbor's mouth.333320311
The two harbor entrances at Island III were "very narrow."333313301
After leaving the harbor at Island III, Columbus sailed NW.333200211
After leaving harbor to the NW, Columbus saw a coast running E-W.333131131
Columbus sailed ESE on the night of October 17.333333303
Columbus continued his attempted circumnavigation of Island III on October 18.333311303
After leaving Island III, Columbus "returned" to Island IV, "which had been left behind."333022000
Columbus did not sight Island IV until 3 hours after leaving Island III.333111101
Columbus sighted Island IV to the east after sailing SE from Island III.333000020
Columbus arrived at Island IV at the northern end.333333303
The coast of Island IV runs west from the northern point.000033000
The coast of Island IV is 12 leagues from point of arrival to Cabo Hermoso.000033010
There were many ponds near Cabo del Isleo (at the northern end of Island IV).333111101
There was a large bight northeast from Cabo Hermoso on Island IV.333333303
From within the bight, there was a way southwest that was "very roundabout."333300303
Columbus departed Island IV from northern end.333333303
Columbus's initial course was WSW from Island IV.333322303
After leaving Island IV, Columbus was 7 leagues from Cabo Verde on Island III.333000000
Cabo Verde is "in the western part of the southern part" of Island III.333333303
It is 23 leagues from Cabo Verde Fix to Ragged Islands.333300313
Columbus reports that Island IV is 8 leagues from Island I.111030000
Total Score136126123968785856465
Average Score2.522.332.281.781.611.601.571.191.20

Note that the three highest scoring theories (including the top scoring Plana Cays theory) use the Crooked-Acklins group as Island II. After examining the scorecard, the question we must ask is: why would anyone support a theory that has a lot of problems when there are other theories available that have only a few problems?


Return to The Columbus Landfall Homepage.

Return to The Columbus Navigation Homepage.