The British submarine engineer and historian
Gavin Menzies gave an astounding seminar on March 15, 2002 to the Royal
Geographical Society in London, with evidence to support his theory that Zheng
He, a Chinese Muslim navigator in the Ming dynasty, beat Columbus by more than
70 years in discovering America.
Using evidence from maps drawn dated before
Columbus' trip that clearly showed America, and astronomical maps traced back to
Zheng He's time, Menzies is confident that the Zheng He should be honored as the
first discoverer of America.
Menzies's conclusion is based on 14 years of
research that includes secret maps, evidence of artifacts, and apparent proof of
the voyage provided by the modern astronomy software program Starry
As key evidence for a voyage that will remake
history, Menzies says he obtained ancient Chinese navigation charts associated
with the travels of Zheng He. The journey ran from 1421 to 1423. Menzies
maintains that the ships sailed around the Southern tips of both Africa and
late evening southern sky as it would have looked on March 18, 1421,
from off the southern tip of South America. Reconstructed with Starry
Night Software to compare with maps found from Zheng He's voyages.
"I set Starry Night up for dates in 1421
for parts of the world where I thought the Chinese had sailed," explained
Menzies, a navigation expert and former Royal Navy submarine commander. He found
that in two separate locations of the voyage, easily recognizable stars were
directly above Zheng He's fleet.
Those stars have since moved, due to changes in
Earth's orientation in space. Earth's spin is slightly imperfect, and its axis
carves a circle on the sky every 26,000 years. The phenomenon, called
precession, means that each pole points to different stars as time progresses.
Menzies used the software program to recreate the sky as it would have looked in
"I had Chinese star charts, and I needed
to date the charts," he said. "By an incredible bit of luck, one of
the courses they steered, between Sumatra and Dondra Head, Ceylon, was due
This part of the journey was very near the
equator in the Indian Ocean. Both Polaris, the North Star, and the bright
southern star Canopus, which was very nearly above the celestial south pole,
were on the charts. "From that I was able to determine the apparent shift
of Polaris (due to precession). I could therefore date the chart to 1421, plus
or minus 30 years."
Phillip Sadler, a celestial navigation expert
at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, says the estimation of a
map's age based on star positions is possible. He said an estimate within 30
years, as Menzies claims, is possible. (Continues
on Page 2)
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