It happened today - February 29, 2016

This one is too good to be true. It’s like something out of Tintin. Le Temple de Soleil specifically. Because on February 29 of 1504, on his fourth and final voyage, Christopher Columbus actually used his knowledge of astronomy and in particular of a coming lunar eclipse to trick the inhabitants of Jamaica into giving his starving expedition supplies by convincing them he had supernatural powers.

Wow. Columbus had his failings. But that’s a bold improvisation in a tight spot. In fact it’s been copied repeatedly, from H. Rider Haggard in King Solomon’s Mines to Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court to Hergé in that Tintin episode.

And why not? It really is a brilliant trick. So brilliant that when you read about it in real life, as with Columbus eating iguana and saying it tasted like chicken (yes, also a true story) you think it’s like something out of fiction.

Life. Stranger than a comic book, and even more exciting. But remember: Do not under any circumstances sail into the unknown with ludicrously inadequate preparations without an almanac.

Because you never do know. The moon might save your bacon.

It happened todayJohn Robson