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Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division [LC-USZ61-253]) centuries. This was due to the 1469 marriage of Isabella I of Castille and Ferdinand II of Aragon, who were determined to unite and strengthen the Spanish empire. Since the early 700s, much of Spain had fallen under the rule of the Moors, North African Muslims; by the late 1200s, however, the Moors’ kingdom was reduced to southern Spain. On January 2, 1492, the forces of Ferdinand and Isabella succeeded in capturing the city of Granada in southern Spain.

Furthermore, the Pole Star was not visible from or below the equator. Building on the observations of early Arabian and Jewish geographers, Portuguese astronomers of the 1480s had also compiled complicated tables for determining latitude by using the position of the Sun as it moved north and south of the equator with the seasons. The altitude of the Sun at noon would be measured with a quadrant, then compared to tables listing the position or “declination” of the Sun north or south of the equator according to the date.

Unfortunately for Balboa, King 46 Q Discovery of the Americas, 1492–1800 Ferdinand dispatched a new governor to the colony, a ruthless elderly nobleman named Pedro Arias de Ávila, commonly called Pedrarias Dávila. Pedrarias arrived with 2,000 settlers and soldiers, who were dismayed to discover that the grand city they expected to find at Darién was little more than a frontier settlement.

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