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PILLARS OF HERCULES, SEA OF DARKNESS

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Bianca
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« on: August 19, 2007, 05:46:43 pm »

                         
                          THE CANARY ISLANDS






Al-Idrisi gives the names of 13 islands in the west­ern Atlantic; a 14th, visited by the mugharrirun, is nameless. This unnamed island, together with Masfahan, Laghus, The Two Brothers and possibly Sawa, are almost certainly islands in the Canary group. Laqa might be Madeira, and Sheep Island and Raqa part of the Azores group. Where al-Su'ali, Hasran, al-Ghawr, Qalhan and al-Mustashkin lay is anybody's guess. Al-Su'ali and al-Mustashkin both sound completely legendary, but there is nothing legendary about Has­ran and Qalhan, which sound as if they might belong together. Since the only inhabited islands in the west­ern Atlantic just before the coming of the Europeans were the Canaries, Hasran may belong to that group—unless, of course, it is to be sought in the Caribbean!

Here is another tantalizing reference to early Atlan­tic voyages, this time from al-Mas'udi. The account must date from before AD 942, the date al-Mas'udi completed the book from which it is taken:

It is a generally accepted opinion that this sea - the Atlantic - is the source of all the other, seas. They tell marvelous stories of it, which we have related in our work entitled The Historical Annals, where we speak of what was seen there by men who entered it at the risk of their lives and from which some have returned safe and sound. Thus, a man from Cordoba named Khashkhash got together a number of young men from the same city and they set sail on the ocean in ships they had fitted out. After a rather long absence, they returned with rich booty. This story is famous, and well-known to all Spaniards.

The Historical Annals, which presumably gave a much more detailed account of this and other voyages, is lost. That the story was preserved at all is probably due to the rarity of such voyages. On the other hand, this passage shows that Atlantic voyages were made, and remembered.

In what direction did Khashkhash sail? If he went north, he may well have plundered the coasts of Por­tugal, France or even England. But the story occurs in the context of a discussion of the All-Encompassing Sea, not the coasts of northern Europe, which were relatively well-known to the Arab geographers. The context implies that Khashkhash sailed west. If so, the nearest place that could offer rich booty was the Caribbean.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 12:31:51 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

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