The Mayaguana theory


Map of the Mayaguana route (Varnhagen 1825, amended)

Mayaguana Island lies in the southern Bahamas, west of Caicos and east of the Plana Cays. It was first proposed as the landfall by historian Antonio Varnhagen in 1825, and has (unfortunately) attracted little attention since then. Varnhagen proposed: Island I = Mayaguana; Island II = Acklins-Crooked; Island III = Long I.; Island IV = Fortune Island. Varnhagen was the first to use Acklins-Crooked as Island II, and the first to use Fortune as Island IV.

Since its publication, only Gustavus Fox has dealt with Varnhagen's theory seriously. Fox rightly criticized the theory's route along the west side of Long Island. (Varnhagen was apparently unaware that the waters there are too shallow to be navigable.) For his own Samana Cay theory, Fox substituted another route up and down the east coast of Long.

However, it is possible to salvage a pretty good theory from the Mayaguana landfall by simply using Varnhagen's route from Mayaguana to Crooked, and Fox's route from Crooked forward -- avoiding the west coast of Long Island. Thus repaired, the Mayaguana theory has few weaknesses and many strong points, including a nice surrounding reef, and by far the best fortifiable peninsula at Island I (see the landfall clues page). For those who find a multiple-island Guanahani unacceptable, Mayaguana may be the best alternative. On the scorecard and in the problem list below, we evaluate this amended theory rather than Varnhagen's published work.

Unresolved problems with the Mayaguana theory:

  1. There are no references on old maps to Mayaguana as Guanahani.
  2. Distance from the likely west coast anchorage to the fortifiable peninsula is about 25 nautical miles. A round trip of 50 nautical miles in open boats is unlikely in less than a day.
  3. Unchallenged historical research indicates that the population of Guanahani as seen by CC was in the 500-1100 range. But anthropological evidence suggests the likely pre-contact population of Mayaguana was around 3000 or more.
  4. Leaving Island I, Columbus describes 'many' visible islands, some less than five leagues distant from Island I. There are no other islands this close to Mayaguana.
  5. Distance from Island I to Island II was five to seven leagues. The distance from Mayaguana to Acklins is about three times greater than this.
  6. The coast of Island IV does not run west from the northern point.
  7. The coast of Island IV is not 12 leagues long.
  8. Island IV was eight leagues from Island I. Fortune Island is about twenty leagues from Mayaguana.


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