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Possible Bearing of a Luminous Syllid on the Question of the Landfall of Columbus


IN a paper by Lieut.-Comdr. R. T. Gould on the “Landfall of Columbus”1 the author, after reviewing the whole subject, follows Murdock (1884) in placing the landfall at Watling's Island, the second island, Santa Maria de la Concepcion, being identified as Rum Cay, and the third, Fernandina, as Long Island, with Clarence Harbour as the harbour of entry on the east side of it. In the course of the discussion, he refers to the unexplained incident of the mysterious ‘light’ recorded by Columbus, as seen by him and others from the poop of the Santa Maria at about 10 p.m. on the night of October 11, 1492, “i.e., about four hours before making the landfall, and an hour before moonrise”. The light was seen “some distance away in the darkness. It is described as looking like the flame of a small candle, alternately raised and lowered. It seems to have gone out of sight again not long after”. The author proceeds: “Judging by the speed of the ships, as given in the journal for the night, the light must have been some 35 miles or so eastward of the landfall, and well to windward of it”.


  1. Geographical J., May 1927.

  2. Trans. Amer. Micro. Soc., 30, No. 1; 1911; republished in the Con. Bermuda Biol. Sta., June 1916.

  3. Proc. Camb. Phil. Soc., 17, Part 2; 1913.

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Crawshay, L. Possible Bearing of a Luminous Syllid on the Question of the Landfall of Columbus. Nature 136, 559–560 (1935).

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