Friday, January 29, 2021

1312 - Abu Bakr II Discovers Western Continent

After ascending the throne of the Mali Empire, Abu Bakr II became Mansa Qu, but his aspirations did not lie in ruling the land. Instead, he looked westward, fixated on the idea of finding the far edge of the ocean and a new land beyond it. The circumference of the earth had long been calculated by Greeks, which illustrated just how little of the globe was known within the far reaches from the Canary Islands to China. There were legends of land in the “ocean of fogs” as the far Atlantic had been nicknamed, such as an expedition from Cordoba by Khashkhash before 1000 AD and another from Lisbon recorded by Idrisi’s Nuzhatal Mushtaq that described people with red complexions and straight hair using canoes as transport.

Abu Bakr II organized a flotilla of two hundred boats and outfitted it with enough supplies for literal years of travel. It sailed west from the coast of Africa, disappearing over the horizon. After many months of anticipation, only one boat returned. During the inquest to discover what happened, the captain of the surviving ship explained that their supplies had indeed lasted, which was the fear of the king. The fleet came upon a strong current within the ocean, driving them like a river. The current pulled boats into an enormous whirlpool from which there was no return. This surviving ship was fortunate to be the furthest east and received warnings from the others enough to sail counter to the current and escape.

Though he faced the literal forces of nature, Abu Bakr II was not deterred. He assembled a new flotilla, this one with two thousand boats that he would command himself. Appointing a trustworthy steward who would become Mansa Musa, the king-turned-admiral set his affairs in order and set off himself. Rather than following the same path as the previous fleet, the new expedition took a note from the voyage recorded by Idrisi to sail south first to avoid strong waves, ill-smelling water, and shallows in the fog. This took the fleet away from the prevailing winds to doldrums, leading to disquiet among the crew, but when they came upon a new set of winds to the south, morale was restored.

The winds took the fleet west and then south until they indeed made landfall. They discovered a forested countryside that later expeditions overland that had great deserts and savannah to the west, much like Mali had to the north. Finding a good port, Abu Bakr II established a city and traded with the locals, who were much like the legends had described. Sending ships back to Africa for more supplies and open invitations for settlers to be awarded with their own farms, Abu Bakr stayed in his new land to organize more explorations up and down the coast. In the north, they found dense jungle and an impossibly wide river; in the south, more grasslands that the Mali emperors adopted as huge herding grounds.

Over the coming two centuries, Mali would become the center of a trade network that stretched from the Aztec Empire to India with trade partners that reached as far as China. While enjoying the great boons of wealth and knowledge of seafaring, Mali along with these partners did suffer the brunt of transatlantic exchange, especially disease. The Black Plague gutted the regions via fleas on ship-borne rats. Recovery brought West Africa back to the forefront of world power, though it soon faced rivals in Europe who worked to colonize the northern continent not yet explored by Mali.



In reality, the second fleet of Abu Bakr II sailed west and never returned. Theories suggest that both fleets ran into storms, perhaps hurricanes, that destroyed them. Others state that the Africans did reach South America. One of the goals of the third voyage of Christopher Columbus aimed to investigate King John II of Portugal’s claims that West African ships traded with a continent southwest of Africa.


  1. Based off of DNA from descendants of native Americans and Africa's who DNA traced before 1495 it's safe to say some ships reached the Americas from Africa well before Columbus.

    1. My 54th generation (640 ad) were inhabitants of Barbados (Tainos) and mixed with Mende of Sierra Leone in the 23rd generation (1395-1455 ad). Subsequently after the arrival of Columbus my generational DNA gets more diverse...leaving me a gumbo of 44% European, 43.1% African, 12.8% West Indies. My birth country of North America classes me as Black.

    2. There are no historical artifacts that prove this.

    3. Sorry they labeled you as black.

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  4. Knowing the history of your people is a very important aspect of learning about yourself as well as the world around you, however .. the history that is taught to our kids in our school classrooms across the nation is incomplete and at times just plain false. The historical records of many civilizations have been altered and in some cases completely made up !! Fictional fabrications published with the goal of enforcing whatever narrative was popular at that time. It's an unfortunate situation which distorts the actual events of the past and most students go through life believing these stories and never learning the real history of our world, leaving us doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past over and over again and again. ~


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