If Mike Griffin Had Been Columbus

Perhaps Mark Whittington is right. We should have followed the path blazed by the early Iberian explorers:

Toledo, New Castille. March 1492.

Today Don Miguel de Grifo, the head of the Royal Transatlantic Exploring Administration, made the eagerly awaited announcement as to how the Administration would pursue Their Majesties’ Vision for Transatlantic Exploration. To the disappointment of some, he turned down the suggestion of the Italian explorer Columbus that the program utilize already-existing, commercially-available caravels staged from the Canary Islands. “The Administration has no means of Atlantic-rating these craft safely. Spanish lives are too precious to be wasted in this endeavor. Furthermore,” he added, “the idea of staging the voyages in the Canary Islands is too complicated, and I fear that constructing the necessary docks and shipyards in the Canaries might become too expensive, even though they would then enable further voyages more cheaply.”

Advocates protested, saying “If you’re in the Canaries, you’re halfway to anywhere in the Atlantic,” citing the favorable winds prevailing from that spot. de Grifo responded “That is true, and someday we will build docks in the Canaries. But for now, we must sail directly from Spain to China, and the ships must be large enough to carry all supplies needed for the entire voyage.”

Rather than going with the commercially-available caravels, de Grifo announced that the Royal Galley Arsenal of Barcelona would build an existing design of a large war galley. “Galleys are a tried-and-true technology that has worked for centuries.” He denied that the Count of Barcelona had demanded that the Arsenal be used to provide the ships for the expedition as a price of political support for the plan in the Cortes. “We are doing this because it is technologically the right thing to do. Simple. Safe. Soon.” Questions about what had caused his change of position versus his previous support of caravels several years prior went unanswered.

Barcelona, Aragon. July 1494.

Administrator Don Miguel de Grifo announced today that the Erís transatlantic vehicle program was in fine shape, but that some revisions would have to be made. It is now apparent that the galley design selected, although effective in its original role in Mediterranean warfare, would be too small to carry the needed supplies for crew and galley slaves for a full transatlantic voyage to China. Therefore, the shipyard workers would be instructed to cut the hull in half and insert a new, lengthy section equal to a fourth of the galley’s original weight. According to de Grifo, it was an easy modification and would not affect the ship’s seaworthiness. It would, however, delay the start of the program by several years, and increase the cost by several hundred million maravedis.

Barcelona, Aragon. August 1498.

The troubled transatlantic program of Ferdinand and Isabella has run into further problems as Administrator Don Miguel de Grifo announced that the agency would require more time and money to fix several minor technical issues that had arisen in the development of its China galley. Simulations have suggested that the galley, originally designed for Mediterranean seas, would be shaken to pieces by the heavier waves of the Atlantic. Also, the insertion of the extra hull section has altered the seaworthiness of the whole design, leading to fears that the craft would snap in half in heavy seas. “Nothing a little more time and money would not cure,” said de Grifo.

Toledo, March 1500.

The Spanish court was today shaken by news arriving from Lisbon that a Portuguese navigator had accidentally discovered a vast new land in the Western ocean, when his ship had made an unexpectedly wide turn in rounding the horn of Africa. The land, which he dubbed “Brazil” after the island of mythology, appeared to be a new continent. Additionally, word arriving from Rome suggested that the Pope was about to issue a bull declaring this new continent exclusive property of Portugal, and off limits to other nations without a license from the Portuguese king.

Toledo. April 1500.

Today Their Majesties formally terminated their transatlantic program, which was now pointless in the wake of the Pope’s monopoly on Atlantic voyaging. The galley under construction in Barcelona is to be broken up for firewood, as it was in any case unlikely to be seaworthy for any purpose.

[Attribution to Jim Bennett]

19 thoughts on “If Mike Griffin Had Been Columbus”

  1. The Columbus/NASA thing was done way back in the late 70’s in “Analog”. The stories were in the form of letters between Chris and various management levels of the “Leon and Castile National Sea Laboratory” as the bureaucracy sticks Chris’ expedition with various traning , minority quota’s for the crew etc. The expedition finally sets sail, sinks in the first storm and Chris gets the blame.
    It appeared to have been written by a NASA insider who was seeing the rot a long time ago.

  2. Alhambra Palace Bulletin 15000304

    His Majesty The King today declared that there would be no further discussion of “elections” in his dominions. The King said that if there is a need to replace a member of his council it is obvious that the former councilor’s nearest male relative is the only acceptable replacement.

  3. Re #10: Mike, perhaps you’re thinking of Christopher Anvil’s “Apron Chains”, in the December 1970 issue. Less politically incorrect, but still grimly amusing in its portrayal of a Spanish fleet mired in bureaucracy and oceanographic studies. In Anvil’s story, the New World is discovered sometime in the 19th century by a captain who disobeys standing orders and takes his steam galleon to a Caribbean port of the Inca Empire.

  4. Griffin is intent on wasting taxpayer dollars on a drawn out effort to re-reach the moon. NASA should never have dropped its plans to visit Mars so it can make a redundant publicity run for the moon.

    Griffin has politicized NASA and dodges accountability as his inexplicable outbursts this year have shown. The bottom line is Griffin doesn’t understand that he works for America, not the other way around.

  5. NASA should never have dropped its plans to visit Mars so it can make a redundant publicity run for the moon.

    What are you talking about? NASA never had any plans to visit Mars. And going to the moon isn’t a “publicity run,” and it wasn’t NASA’s (or Mike Griffin’s) decision — it is national policy.

  6. My two stories (Sailing, Through Program Management, and A Second Chance) were published in the January, 5 and November 9 1981 issues of Analog. They were based on my experience at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hence, Christopher Columbus, Admiral of the Oceam Sea, was associated with the Leon and Castile National Sea Laboratory.

  7. I know someone, too! Maybe Mr Griffin should read the “we-all-know-which-it-is” website where all the facts are presented!It’s a pity that I don’t have his email address.

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