On October 12, 1492, Italian explorer Christopher Columbus made landfall in what is now the Bahamas. Columbus and his ships landed on an island that the native Lucayan people called Guanahani. Columbus renamed it San Salvador.

The modern identity of Guanahani remains a subject of historical debate, and over the years, multiple Bahamian islands have been suggested as candidates for “Guanahani”, including Sanama Cay, Rum Cay, Grand Turk Island, and the Plana Cays. However, the most popular theory is that Guanahani is the island today known as San Salvador (which was known as Watling Island until its name was officially changed to San Salvador in 1925 to recognize it as the site of Columbus’ first landing).

The confusion over Guanahani’s modern identity stems primarily from Columbus’ description of the island in his Diario, where he describes Guanahani as having “very green trees and many ponds and fruits of various kinds.” What Columbus couldn’t have known is that this can be said of a great number of the islands in the region.

Further complicating the issue is a map made by Juan de la Cosa. De la Cosa was a cartographer sailing with Columbus, and also the owner of Columbus’ largest vessel, the Santa Maria. Years after their historic voyage, in 1500, de la Cosa made a map of where they’d travelled. While he was fairly accurate of the position and shape of the islands we know as Cuba and Hispaniola, his inaccurate depictions of the Bahamas leave the exact location of Guanahani undetermined.

accurately
Adverb

exactly or perfectly.

Noun

a group of closely scattered islands in a large body of water.

Noun

a coral reef or string of coral islands that surrounds a lagoon.

cartographer
Noun

person who makes maps.

crew
Noun

workers or employees on a boat or ship.

explorer
Noun

person who studies unknown areas.

Hispaniola
Noun

large island in the Caribbean Sea, home to the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

investigation
Noun

process involving examination and research into a topic or situation.

Noun

body of land surrounded by water.

Noun

body of water surrounded by land.

Noun

symbolic representation of selected characteristics of a place, usually drawn on a flat surface.

position
Noun

location.

represent
Verb

to stand for a person, community, or idea.

Taino
Noun

native people of parts of northern South America and the Caribbean.

uninhabited
Adjective

place where no people make a permanent home.

vessel
Noun

craft for traveling on water, usually larger than a rowboat or skiff.

voyage
Noun

long journey or trip.

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