Volta do Mar – The Twist of the Sea

Just in case you skipped the rather lengthy tale of Prince Madog of Wales, we are going to repeat our map of the Volta do Mar because these patterns were key to the discovery of the Americas.

The Portuguese used the term Volta do Mar, which meant Turn or Twist of the Sea, to describe the circular wind and water currents of the Atlantic. Unlike the monsoons that govern the Indian Ocean and change with every season, the winds and currents of the Volta do Mar follow the same direction every day of the year, every season.

Scientifically and theoretically, without any navigation, a cork thrown into the sea offshore from the west coast of England, Ireland, or Wales, could catch the sea currents to Greenland, then Labrador, and then Newfoundland before being taken back to the British Isles.

Catching different currents, a cork thrown in the water offshore from Portugal or the west coast of North Africa might be swept by the currents to the Canary Islands, west across to the Gulf of Mexico, north to Nova Scotia, and east again to Europe, passing the Azores Islands along the way.

Mariners and explorers needed to understand these patterns to navigate the Ocean Sea. Notice the gray arrow. When ships returned from India, after sailing past the Cape of Good Hope heading eastward, they needed to sail far to the west side of the Atlantic, then as far north as the Azores Archipelago, before they could return to Portugal.

Next article: The Mythical Atlantic Islands