The following story ran on the
front page of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Saturday, January 8th
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Italian mariner sets sail to retrace iffy 1398 trip
Believers say Scot came before Columbus
By Susan Hughes, Staff Reporter
Italy’s only female master mariner set sail
Thursday from Venice to retrace a voyage some believe was made in 1398
by Scottish Prince Henry Sinclair from Italy to Nova Scotia.
Laura Zolo of Elba will travel 10,138 kilometres, stopping
in Scotland, Iceland and Greenland before landing in Guysborough County
in August, D’Elayne Coleman, president of the Prince Henry Sinclair
Society of North America, said Friday.
The society, with 400 members in Canada and the United
States, claims that Prince Henry, Earl of Orkney and Baron of Roslyn, Scotland,
and Venetian admiral Antonio Zeno began an expedition to the New World
nearly a century before Christopher Columbus.
But author Brian Cuthbertson, a former archivist with
the Nova Scotia Public Archives who spend three years researching the alleged
voyage, has said there’s "no evidence whatsoever in documents
or tradition that Henry Sinclair ever sailed west of Ulster."
And John Reid, a Canadian history specialist at Saint
Mary’s University, says the historical evidence for such an expedition
is based on documents that are "ambiguous at best."
Supporters of the theory contend that Prince Henry and
Admiral Zeno, accompanied by a group of Venetian traders, were fleeing
persecution by the Inquisition.
"There is more proof of Henry’s voyage than
there is of (John) Cabot’s," Mrs. Coleman said.
An account of the journey along with maps made at the
time have led to a growing number of books on Prince Henry’s
According to Frederick J Pohl’s book on the
subject, Prince Henry Sinclair: His Expedition to the New World, the Scottish
explorer arrived in North America at Chedabucto Bay on June 2, 1398 –
100 years before Christopher Columbus. It was here, the account says, that
Prince Henry built a rapport with the indigenous people of Nova Scotia,
The epic saga involves 12 boats including the lead vessel,
7 Roses, a replica of which Ms. Zolo is navigating.
The skipper, in her early 40s, bought an 11-metre vessel,
and welded the steel hull herself, Mrs. Coleman said.
"This is also a story about female achievement."
Corporate sponsors in Europe and North America, along
with the society and the City of Venice, are supporting the voyage. The
boat’s riggings were donated, and the society is trying to find
a computer and satellite telephone system to chart the trip, Mrs. Coleman
The Prince Henry society’s charter is in Halifax
and its treasurer, Neil St. Clair, lives in Lower Economy.
The society erected a monument two years ago in Halfway
Cove, Guysborough County, to honour the controversial historical figure.
Ms Zolo’s landing in early August could have
a tremendous impact on tourism in Nova Scotia, drawing thousands of visitors,
said Mrs. Coleman’s husband, Richard.
The Coleman’s own a home near Manchester, Guysborough
County, and winter in New York and Arizona.
"We took a bus tour in 1973 and fell in love with Nova
Scotia. My wife’s grandmother is from here," Mr. Coleman said.
It was no accident that Prince Henry and his nearly 200
followers wanted to reach Nova Scotia, he said. In medieval times, the
area was considered the new Holy Land, known as Arcadia, he said.