In 1502, during his 4th voyage to the Caribbean Sea, Columbus' ships survived a water spout, a hurricane, high seas, lightning and rocky reefs. Luck ran out when two of his four ships had to be abandoned because of shipworm rot.
In 1519 Fernando Cortes decided to burn his ships in order to prevent his men turning back from their march into the heart of Mexico to conquer the Aztec kindgom. What reason did he give for burning the ships? The ships were so worm-eaten they were no longer seaworthy! Cortes knew that even though this statement was not true, it would be accepted as truth because shipworm rot was so prevalent.
Turner, Ruth D. 1966. A Survey and Illustrated Catalogue
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