The Voyage of the Vizcaina

Written by Clemens Hoges (trans. Annette Streck) Klaus Brinkbaumer
Review by Patrika Salmon

The Voyage of the Vizcaina is a non-fiction book about Christopher Columbus’s last ship. Is the wreck found in the Bay of Playa Damas, Panama, the Vizcaina? No one knows, for the Panama government refuses to allow archaeological exploration unless it can sell off the finds to the highest bidder.

The book is the result of sixteen years of collaboration between Der Spiegel magazine and Spiegel Television, which also gave rise to a TV program and a documentary film. Written by two members of the Der Spiegel team, it is a thoroughly researched look at what happened to the Vizcaina and therefore Columbus. It reveals a great deal that is new about the man, his voyages and the world he lived in. An excellent translator keeps the German style of phrase and spare writing, and there is superb use of original documents and charts. Half the pleasure of the book is reading Columbus’s words. The other half is in the way facts are laid out for readers, allowing them to make up their own minds about this difficult character. It’s a revealing and fascinating read, highly recommended.