The Greeks believed that Aeolus, god of the wind, kept them in a cave with a dozen holes, all blocked by stones. When he wanted a wind to blow from a certain direction, he rolled away the stone controlling that wind. In order to create a hurricane, Aeolus opened all 12 holes.
The Central American Mayas believed the storm to be Huracan, a god of large winds and evil spirits. Spanish explorers roaming the region learned his name from he natives, and the word later became today’s “hurricane.” Once a year, the Mayans sacrificed a young woman to this god to appease his wrath. She was thrown into the sea. A warrior was also sacrificed to guide her to Huracan’s underwater kingdom.
Christopher Columbus built the first European town on the island of Hispaniola on his second trip to the New World, but a hurricane quickly destroyed it. In 1500 he sent a fleet of caravels full of gold back to Spain. However, a hurricane sank 90 ships and drowned 500 sailors. In 1503, he ran into his first hurricane at sea near Panama. He wrote, “Eyes never beheld the seas so high, angry and covered by foam…We were forced to keep out in this bloody ocean, seething like a pot on a hot fire. Never did the sky look more terrible…All this time the water never ceased to fall from the sky…It was like another deluge…The people were so worn out that they longed for death to end their dreadful suffering.”
Hurricanes have destroyed hundreds of Spanish ships sent to find treasure in the New World. Even today, many modern-day treasure hunters and researchers are trying to salvage some of these wrecks in Florida’s waters, sometimes finding fortunes in gold and jewels.
In American history, the Mayflower left England in 1620 for Virginia. However, a hurricane blew it off course to the north, leaving the Pilgrims to land in Massachusetts instead.