Project Hope

The coronavirus pandemic has inspired countless altruistic projects initiated by individual people all over the world. They show that even in the midst of such a global tragedy what human beings need above all is hope.

Throughout the history of humanity, the planting of trees has always been an expression of hope. The aim of this project is to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world in 2022 by planting 500 trees both in places associated with that event and wherever else there is interest in this initiative inspired by our concern for the environment.

I initiated a similar project in 1992 in America 500, a transatlantic rally to mark the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus’s voyage to the Americas. The rally followed the same historic route by starting from Palos de la Frontera, in the southwest of Spain, and finishing in San Salvador, in the Bahamas.

America 500 participants in front of the church where the crews of the original three caravels had prayed on the morning of their departure.

Replicas of the Columbus fleet leaving Palos

America 500 start off Palos, 3 August 1992

The Columbus ships prepared for their forthcoming voyage in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria, as did the America 500 fleet.  At a special ceremony on the eve of departure, each captain was presented with a sapling by the Vice-President of the Canary Islands Government.

America 500 start from Las Palmas de Gran Canaria

Every one of the 146 boats in America 500 crossed the Atlantic with a small Canarian palm tree on board, including Adix, the largest in the fleet.

America 500 finished in San Salvador in the Bahamas, where it is now believed that the Columbus fleet had made landfall in October 1492. On arrival, the crew of each America 500 boat planted their tree at the historic site of Landfall Point.

In 2001 I made landfall myself in San Salvador with Aventura III and was pleased to see that some of the palm trees had survived a hurricane that had swept over the island shortly after America 500’s visit.

By 2020, the palm tree that I planted in 1992 had matured and looked healthy.

Project 500 has been declared an official event of the Quincentenary Commission.  Preparations are already made to plant 500 trees at Getaria, in the Basque Country, the birthplace of Juan Sebastian Elcano.  He is credited with the first circumnavigation of the world, as he completed the voyage started by Magellan, after the latter’s death in the Philippines. Both in Getaria, and also elsewhere, Project Hope will be implemented by students from local schools or universities.

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