An Electronic Edition
Bartolome de Las Casasc.1490-1558
Christopher Columbus, "Journal of the First Voyage of Columbus," in Julius E. Olson
and Edward Gaylord Bourne, eds., The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot,
985-1503, Original Narratives of Early American History. New York:
Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906.
Copyright 2003. This text is freely available provided the text is
distributed with the header information provided.
Full Colophon Information
JOURNAL OF THE FIRST VOYAGE OF COLUMBUS
This is the first voyage and the routes and direction taken by the Admiral Don Cristóbal Colon when he discovered the Indies, summarized; except the prologue made for the Sovereigns, which is given word for word and commences in this manner
In the name of our Lord
BECAUSE, O most Christian, and very high, very excellent, and puissant Princes, King and Queen of the Spains and of the islands of the Sea, our Lords, in this present year of 1492,after your Highnesses had given an end to the war with the Moors who reigned in Europe, and had finished it in the very great city of Granada, where in this present year, on the second day of the month of January, by force of arms, I saw the royal banners of your Highnesses placed on the towers of Alhambra, which is the fortress of that city, and I saw the Moorish King come forth from the gates of the city and kiss the royal hands of your Highnesses, and of the Prince my Lord, and presently in that same month, acting on the information that I had given to your Highnesses touching the land of India, and respecting a Prince who is called Gran Can, which means in our language King of Kings, how he and his ancestors had sent to Rome many times to ask for learned men of our holy faith to teach him, and how the Holy Father had never complied, insomuch that many people believing in idolatries were lost by receiving doctrine of perdition: YOUR HIGHNESSES, as Catholic Christians And Princes who love the holy Christian faith; and the propagation of it, and who are enemies to the sect of Mahoma and to all idolatries and heresies, resolved to send me, Cristóbal Colon, to the said parts of India to see the said princes, and the cities and lands, and their disposition, with a view that they might be converted to our holy faith; and ordered that I should not go by land to the eastward; as had been customary, but that I should go by way of the west, whither up to this day, we do not know for certain that any one; has gone.1.
Thus, after having turned out all the Jews from all your kingdoms and lordships, in the same month of January, your Highnesses gave orders to me that with a sufficient fleet I should go to the said parts of India, and for this they made great concessions to me, and ennobled me, so that henceforward I should be called Don, and should be Chief Admiral of the Ocean Sea, perpetual Viceroy and Governor of all the islands and continents that I should discover and gain, and that I might hereafter discover and gain in the Ocean Sea, and that, my eldest son should succeed, and so on from generation to generation for ever.2.
I left the city of Granada on the 12th day of May, in the same year of 1492, being Saturday, and came to the town of Palo., which is a seaport; where I equipped three vessels well suited for such service; and departed from that port, well supplied with provisions and with many sailors, on the 3d day of August of the same year, being Friday, half an hour before sunrise, taking the route to the islands of Canaria, belonging to your Highnesses, which are in the said Ocean Sea, that I might thence take my departure for navigating until I should arrive at the Indies, and give the letters of your Highnesses to those princes, so as to comply with my orders. As part of my duty I thought it well to write an account of all the voyage very punctually, noting from day to day all that I should do and see, and that should happen, as will be seen further on. Also, Lords Princes, I resolved to describe each night what passed in the day, and to note each day how I navigated at night. I propose to construct a new chart for navigating, on which I shall delineate all the sea and lands . of the Ocean in their proper positions under their bearings; and further, I propose to prepare a book, and to put down all as it were in a picture, by latitude from the equator, and western longitude. Above all, I shall have accomplished much, for I shall forget sleep, and shall work at the business of navigation, that so the service may be performed; all which will entail great labor.3.
Friday, 3d of August
We departed on Friday, the 3d of August, in the year 1492, from the bar of Saltes, at 8 o'clock, and proceeded with a strong sea breeze until sunset, towards the south, for 60 mile, equal to 15 leagues; afterwards S.W. and W.S.W., which was the course for the Canaries.4.
Saturday, 4th of August
They steered S.W. 1/4 S.5.
Sunday, 5th of August
They continued their course day and night more than 40 leagues.6.
Monday, 6th of August
The rudder of the caravel Pinta became unshipped, and Martin Alonso Pinzon, who was in command, believed or suspected that it was by contrivance of Gomes Rascon and Cristóbal Quintero, to .whom the caravel belonged, for they dreaded to go on that voyage. The Admiral says that, before they sailed, these men had been displaying a certain backwardness, so to speak. The Admiral was much disturbed at not being able to help the said caravel without danger, and he says that he was eased of some anxiety when he reflected that Martin Alonso Pinzon was a man of energy and ingenuity. They made, during the day and night, 29 leagues.7.
Tuesday, 7th of August
The rudder of thePinta was shipped and secured, and they proceeded on a course for the island of Lanzarote8.
Wednesday, 8th of August
Opinions respecting their position varied among the pilafs of the three caravels ; but that of the Admiral proved to be nearer the truth. He wished to go to Gran Canaria, to leave the caravel Pinta, because she was disabled by the faulty hanging of her rudder, and was making water. He intended to obtain another there if one could be found. They could not reach the place that day.9.
Thursday, 9th of August
The Admiral was not able to reach Gomera until the night of Sunday, while Martin Alonso remained on that coast of Gran Canaria by order of the Admiral, because his vessel could not be navigated. Afterwards the Admiral took her to Canaria, and they repaired the Pinta very thoroughly through the pains and labor of the Admiral, of Martin Alonso, and of the rest. Finally they came to Gomera. They saw a great fire issue from the mountain of the island of Tenerife, which is of great height. They rigged the Pinta with square sails, for she was lateen rigged; and the Admiral reached Gomera on Sunday, the 2nd of September, with the Pinta repaired.10.
The Admiral says that many honorable Spanish gentlemen who were at Gomera with Doña Ines Peraza, mother of Guillen Peraza (who was afterwards the first Count of Gomera), and who were natives of the island of Hierro, declared that every year they saw land to the west of the Canaries; and others, natives of Gomera, affirmed the same on oath. The Admiral here says that he remembers, when in Portugal in the year 1484, a man came to the King from the island of Madeira, to beg for a caravel to go to this land that was seen, who swore that it could be seen every year, and always in the same way. He also says that he recollects the same thing being affirmed in the islands of the Azores; and all these lands were described as in the same direction, and as being like each other, and of the same size. Having taken in water, wood, and meat, and all else that the men had who were left at Gomera by the Admiral when he went to the island of Canaria to repair the caravel Pinta, he finally made sail from the said island of Gomera, with his three caravels, on Thursday, the 6th day of September.11.
Thursday, 6th of September
He departed on that day from the port of Gomera in the morning, and shaped a course to go on his voyage ; having received tidings from a caravel that came from the island of Hierro that three Portuguese caravels were off that island with the object of taking him. (This must have been the result of the King's annoyance that Colon should have gone to Castile.) There was a calm all that day and night, and in the morning he found himself between Gomera and Tenerife.12.
Friday, 7th of September
The calm continued all Friday and Saturday, until the third hour of the night.13.
Saturday, 8th of September
At the third hour of Saturday night it began to blow from the N.E., and the Admiral shaped a course to the west. He took in much set, over the bows, which retarded progress,
and 9 leagues were made in that day and night.
Sunday, 9th of September
This day the Admiral made 19 leagues, and he arranged to reckon less than the number run, because if the voyage was of long duration, the people would not be so terrified and heartened. In the night he made 120 miles, at the rate of 12
miles an hour, which are 30 leagues. The sailors steered badly, letting the ship fall off to N.E., and even more, respecting which the Admiral complained many times.15.
Monday, 10th of September
In this day and night he made 60 leagues, at the rate of 10 miles an hour, which are 2 leagues; but he only counted 48 leagues, that the people might not be alarmed if the voyage should be long.16.
Tuesday, 11th of September
That day they sailed on their course, which was west, and made 20 leagues and more. They saw a large piece of the mast of a ship of 120 tons, but were unable to get it. In the night they made nearly 20 leagues, but only counted 16, for the reason already given.17.
Wednesday, 12th of September
That day, steering their course, they made 33 leagues during the day and night, counting less.18.
Thursday, 13th of September
That day and night, steering their course, which was west, they made 33 leagues, counting 3 or 4 less. The currents were against them. On this day, at the commencement of the night, the needles turned a half point to north-west, and in the morning they turned somewhat more north-west.19.
Friday, 14th of September
That day they navigated, on their westerly course, day and night, 20 leagues, counting a little less. Here those of the caravel Niña reported that they had seen a tern and a boatswain bird, and these birds never go more than 25 leagues from the land.20.
Saturday, 15th of September
That day and night they made 27 leagues and rather more on their west course ; and in the early part of the night there fell from heaven into, the sea a marvellous flame of fire, at a distance of- about 4 or 5 leagues from them.21.
Sunday, 16th of September
That day and night they steered their course west, making 39 leagues, but the Admiral only counted 36. There were some clouds and small rain. The Admiral says that on that day, and ever afterwards, they met with very temperate breezes, so that there was great pleasure in enjoying the mornings, nothing being wanted but the song of nightingales. He says that the weather was like April in Andalusia. Here they began to see many tufts of grass which were very green, and appeared to have been quite recently torn from the land. From this they judged that they were near some island, but not the main land, according to the Admiral, "because," he says, " I make the main land to be more distant."22.
Monday, 17th of September
They proceeded on their west course, and made over 50 leagues in the day and night, but the Admiral only counted 47. They were aided by the current. They saw much very fine grass and herbs from rocks, which came from the west. They, therefore, considered that they were near land. The pilots observed the north point, and found that the needles turned a full point to the west of north. So the mariners were alarmed and dejected, and did not give their reason. But the Admiral knew, and ordered that the north should be again observed at dawn. They then found that the needles were true. The cause was that the star makes the movement, and not the needles. At dawn, on that Monday, they saw much more weed appearing, like herbs from rivers, in which they found a live crab, which the Admiral kept. He says that these crabs are certain signs of land. The sea-water was found to be less salt than it had been since leaving the Canaries. The breezes were always sof t. Every one was pleased, and the best sailers went ahead to sight the first land. They saw many tunnyfish, and the crew of the Niña killed one. The Admiral here says that these signs of land came from the west, "in which direction I trust in that high God in whose hands are all victories that very soon we shall sight land." In that morning he says that a white bird was seen which has not the habit of sleeping on the sea, called rabo de junco (boatswain-bird).
Tuesday, 18th of September
This day and night they made over 55 leagues, the Admiral only counting 48. In all these days the sea was very smooth, like the river at Seville. This day Martin Alonso, with the Pinta, which was a fast sailer, did not wait, for he said to the Admiral, from his caravel, that he had seen a great multitude of birds flying westward, that he hoped to see land that night, and that he therefore pressed onward. A great cloud appeared in the north, which is a sign of the proximity of land.24.
Wednesday, 19th of September
The Admiral continued on his course, and during the day and night he made but 25 leagues because it was calm. He counted 22. This day, at 10 o'clock, a booby came to the ship, and in the afternoon another arrived, these birds not generally going more than 20 leagues from the land. There was also some drizzling rain without wind, which is a sure sign of land. The Admiral did not wish to cause delay by beating to windward to ascertain whether land was near, but he considered it certain that there were islands both to the north and south of his position, (as indeed there were, and he was passing through the middle of them). For his desire was to press onwards to the Indies, the weather being fine. For on his return, God willing, he could see all. These are his own words. Here the pilots found their positions. He of the Niña made the Canaries 440 leagues distant, the Pinta 420. The pilot of the Admiral's ship made the distance exactly 400 leagues.25.
Thursday, 20th of September
This day the course was W.b.N., and as her head was all round the compass owing to the calm that prevailed, the ship made only 7 or 8 leagues. Two boobies came to the ship, and afterwards another, a sign of the proximity of land. They saw much weed, although none was seen on the previous day. They caught a bird with the hand, which was like a tern. But it was a river-bird, not a sea-bird, the feet being like those of a gull. At dawn two or three land-birds came singing to the ship, and they disappeared before sunset. Afterwards a booby came from W.N.W., and flew to the S.W., which was a sign that it left land in the W.N.W. ; for these birds sleep on shore, and go to sea in the mornings in search of food, not extending their flight more than 20 leagues from the land.
Friday, 21st of September
Most of the day it was calm, and later there was a little wind. During the day and night they did not make good more than 13 leagues. At dawn they saw so much weed that the sea appeared to be covered with it, and it came from the west. A booby was seen. The sea was very smooth, like a river, and the air the best in the world. They saw a whale, which is a sign that they were near land, because they always keep near the shore.27.
Saturday, 22nd of September
They shaped a course W.N.W. more or less, her head turning from one to the other point, and made 30 leagues. Scarcely any weed was seen. They saw some sandpipers and another bird. Here the Admiral says : "This contrary wind was very necessary for me, because my people were much excited at the thought that in these seas no wind ever blew in the direction of Spain." Part of the day there was no weed, and later it was very thick.28.
Sunday, 23rd of September
They shaped a course N.W., and at times more northerly; occasionally they were on their course, which was west, and they made about 22 leagues. They saw a dove and a booby, another river-bird, and some white birds: There was a great deal of weed, and they found crabs in it. The sea being smooth and calm, the crew began to murmur, saying that here there was no great sea, and that the wind would never blow so that they could return to Spain. Afterwards the sea rose very much, without wind, which astonished them. The Admiral here says: " Thus the high sea was very necessary to me, such as had not appeared but in the time of the Jews when they went out of Egypt and murmured against Moses, who delivered them out of captivity."
Monday, 24th of September
The Admiral went on his west course all day and night, making 14 leagues. He counted 12. A booby came to the ship, and many sandpipers.30.
Tuesday, 25th of September
This day began with a calm, and afterwards there was wind. They were on their west course until night: The Admiral conversed with Martin Alonso Pinzon, captain of the other caravel Pinta, respecting a chart which he had sent to the caravel three days before, on which, as it would appear, the Admiral had certain islands depicted in that sea. Martin Alonso said that the ships were in the position on which the islands were placed, and the Admiral replied that so it appeared to him: but it might be that they had not fallen in with them, owing to the currents which had always set the ships to the N.E., and that they had not made so much as the pilots reported. The Admiral then asked for the chart to be returned,
and it was sent back on a line. The Admiral then began to
plot the position on it, with the pilot and mariners. At sunset Martin Alonso went up on the poop of his ship, and with much joy called to the Admiral, claiming the reward as he had sighted land. When the Admiral heard this positively declared, he says that he gave thanks to the Lord on his knees, while Martin Alonso said the Gloria in excelsis with his people. The Admiral's crew did the same. Those of the Niña all went up on the mast and into the rigging, and declared that it was land. It so seemed to the Admiral, and that it was distant 25 leagues. They all continued to declare it was land until night. The Admiral ordered the course to be altered from W. to S.W., in which direction the land had appeared. That day they made 4 leagues on a west course, and 17 S.W. during the night, in all 21; but the people were told that 13 was the distance made good; for it was always feigned to them that the distances were less, so that the voyage might not appear so long. Thus two reckonings were kept on this voyage, the shorter being feigned, and the longer being the true one. The sea was very smooth, so that many sailors bathed alongside. They saw many dorados and other fish.31.
Wednesday, 26th of September
The Admiral continued on the west course until afternoon. Then he altered course to S. W., until he made out that what had been said to be land was only clouds. Day and night they made 31 leagues, counting 24 for the people. The sea was like a river, the air pleasant and very mild.32.
Thursday, 27th of September
The course west, and distance made good during day and night 24 leagues, 20 being counted for the people. Many dorados came. One was killed. A boatswain-bird came.33.
Friday, 28th of September
The course was west, and the distance, owing to calms, only 14 leagues in day and night, 13 leagues being counted. They met with little weed; but caught two dorados, and more in the other ships. 34.
Saturday, 29th of September
The course was west, and they made 24 leagues, counting 21 for the people. Owing to calms, the distance made good during day and night was not much. They saw a bird called rabi forcado (man-o'-war bird), which makes the boobies vomit what they have swallowed, and eats it, maintaining itself on nothing else. It is a sea-bird, but does not sleep on the sea, and does not go more than 20 leagues from the land. There are many of them at the Cape Verde Islands. Afterwards they saw two boobies. The air was very mild and agreeable, and the Admiral says that nothing was wanting but to hear the nightingale. The sea smooth as a river. Later, three boobies and a man-o'-war bird were seen three times. There was much weed.35.
Sunday, 30th of September
The western course was steered, and during the day and night, owing to calms, only 14 leagues were made, 11 being counted. Four boatswain-birds came to the ship, which is a great sign of land, for so many birds of this kind together is a sign that they are not straying or lost. They also twice saw four boobies. There was much weed. Note that the stars which are called Las Guardias (the Pointers) when night comes on, are near the western point, and when dawn breaks they are near the N.E. point; so that, during the whole night, they do not appear to move more than three lines or 9 hours, and this on each night. The Admiral says this, and also that at nightfall the needles vary a point westerly, while at dawn they agree exactly with the star. From this it would appear that the north star has a movement like the other stars, while the needles always point correctly.36.
Monday, lst of October
Course west, and 25 leagues made good, counted for the crew as 20 leagues. There was a heavy shower of rain. At dawn the Admiral's pilot made the distance from Hierro 578 leagues to the west: The reduced reckoning which the Admiral showed to the crew made it 584 leagues; but the truth which the Admiral observed and kept secret was 707.37.
Tuesday, 2nd of October
Course west, and during the day and night 39 leagues were made good, counted for the crew as 30. The sea always smooth. Many thanks be given to God, says the Admiral, that the weed is coming from east to west, contrary to its usual course. Many fish were seen, and one was killed. A white bird was also seen that appeared to be a gull.38.
Wednesday, 3rd of October
They navigated on the usual course, and made good 47 leagues, counted as 40. Sandpipers appeared, and much weed, some of it very old and some quite fresh and having fruit. They saw no birds. The Admiral, therefore, thought that they had left the islands behind them which were depicted on the charts. The Admiral here says that he did not wish to keep the ships beating about during the last week, and in the last few days when there were so many signs of land, although he had information of certain islands in this region. For he wished to avoid delay, his object being to reach the Indies. He says that to delay would not be wise.39.
Thursday, 4th of October
Course west, and 63 leagues made good during the day and night, counted as 46. More than forty sandpipers came to the ship in a flock; and two boobies, and a ship's boy hit one with a stone. There also came a man-o'-war bird and a white bird like a gull.40.
Friday, 5th of October
The Admiral steered his course, going 11 miles an hour, and during the day and night they made good 57 leagues, as the wind increased somewhat during the night : 45 were counted. The sea was smooth and quiet. "To God," he says, "be many thanks given, the air being pleasant and temperate, with no weed, many sandpipers, and flying-fish coming on the deck
Saturday, 6th of October
The Admiral continued his west course, and during day and night they made good 40 leagues, 33 being counted. This night Martin Alonso said that it would be well to steer south of west, and it appeared to the Admiral that Martin Alonso did not say this with respect to the island of Cipango. He saw that if an error was made the land would not be reached so quickly, and that consequently it would be better to go at once to the continent and afterwards to the islands.42.
Sunday, 7th of October
The west course was continued; for two hours they went at the rate of 12 miles an hour, and afterwards 8 miles an hour. They made good 23 leagues, counting 18 for the people. This day, at sunrise, the caravel Niña, which went ahead, being the best sailer, and pushed forward as much as possible to sight the land first, so as to enjoy the reward which the Sovereigns had promised to whoever should see it first, hoisted a flag at the mast-head and fired a gun, as a signal that she had sighted land, for such was the Admiral's order. He had also ordered that, at sunrise and sunset, all the ships should join him; because those two times are most proper for seeing the greatest distance, the haze clearing away. No land was seen during the afternoon, as reported by the caravel Niña, and they passed a great number of birds flying from N. to S.W. This gave rise to the belief that the birds were either going to sleep on land, or were flying from the winter which might be supposed to be near in the land whence they were coming. The Admiral was aware that most of the islands held by the Portuguese were discovered by the flight of birds. For this reason he resolved to give up the west course, and to shape a course W.S.W. for the two following days. He began the new course one hour before sunset. They made good, during the night, about 5 leagues, and 23 in the day, altogether 28 leagues.43.
Monday, 8th of October
The course was W.S.W., and 11 or 12 leagues were made good in the day and night ; and at tunes it appears that they went at the rate of 15 miles an hour during the night (if the handwriting is not deceptive). The sea was like the river at Seville. "Thanks be to God," says the Admiral, "the air is very soft like the April at Seville; and it is a pleasure to be here, so balmy are the breezes." The weed seemed to be very fresh. There were many land-birds, and they took one that was flying to the S.W. Terns, ducks, and a booby were also seen. 44.
Tuesday, 9th of October
The course was S.W., and they made 5 leagues. The wind then changed, and the Admiral steered W. by N. 4 leagues. Altogether, in day and night, they made 11 leagues by day and 20 leagues by night; counted as 17 leagues altogether. Throughout the night birds were heard passing.45.
Wednesday. 10th of October
The course was W.S.W., and they went at the rate of 10 miles an hour, occasionally 12 miles, and sometimes 7. During the day and night they made 59 leagues, counted as no more than 44. Here the people could endure no longer. They complained of the length of the voyage. But the Admiral cheered them up in the best way he could, giving them good hopes of the advantages they might gain from it. He added that, however much they might complain, he had to go to the Indies, and that he would go on until he found them, with the help of our Lord.46.
Thursday, 11th of October
The course was W.S.W., and there was more sea than there had been during the whole of the voyage. They saw sand pipers, and a green reed near the ship. Those of the caravel Pinta saw a cane and a pole, and they took up another small pole which appeared to have been worked with iron; also another bit of cane, a land-plant, and a small board. The crew of the caravel Niña also saw signs of land, and a small branch covered with berries. Every one breathed afresh and rejoiced at these signs. The run until sunset was 27 leagues.
After sunset the Admiral returned to his original west course, and they went along at the rate of 12 miles an hour. Up to two hours after midnight they had gone 90 miles, equal to 22 leagues. As the caravel Pinta was a better sailer, and went ahead of the Admiral, she found the land, and made the signals ordered by the Admiral. The land was first seen by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana. But the Admiral, at ten o'clock, being on the castle of the poop, saw a light, though it was so uncertain that he could not affirm it was land. He called Pero Gutierrez, a gentleman of the King's bed-chamber, and said that there seemed to be a light, and that he should look at it. He did so, and saw it. The Admiral said the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the fleet as inspector, but he could see nothing, because he was not in a place whence anything could be seen. After the Admiral had spoken he saw the light once or twice, and it was like a wax candle rising and falling.48.
It seemed to few to be an indication of land; but the Admiral made certain that land was close. When they said the Salve, which all the sailors were accustomed to sing in their way, the Admiral asked and admonished the men to keep a good look-out on the forecastle, and to watch well for land; Land to him who should first cry out that he saw land, he would give a silk doublet, besides the other rewards promised by the Sovereigns, which were 10,000 maravedis to him who should first see it. At two hours after midnight the land was sighted at a distance of
two leagues. They shortened sail, and lay by under the mainsail without the bonnets.49.
Friday, 12th of October
The vessels were hove to, waiting for daylight; and on Friday they arrived at a small island of the Lucayos, called in the language of the Indians, Guanahani. Presently they saw naked people.
The Admiral went on shore in the armed boat, and Martin Alonso Pinzon, and Vicente Yanez, his brother, who was captain of the Niña. The Admiral took the royal standard, and the captains went with two banners of the green cross, which the Admiral took in all the ships as a sign with an F anda Y and a crown over each letter, one on one side of the cross and the other on the other. Having landed they saw trees very green, and much water, and
fruits of diverse kinds. The Admiral called to the two captains, and to the others who leaped on shore, and to Rodrigo Escovedo, secretary of the whole fleet, and to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, and said that they should bear faithful testimony that he, in presence of all, had taken, as he now took, possession of the
said island for the King and for the Queen his Lords, making the declarations that are required, as is now largely set forth in the testimonies which were then made in writing.50.
Presently many inhabitants of the island assembled. What follows is in the actual words of the Admiral in his book of the first navigation and discovery of the Indies. "I," he says, "that we might form great friendship, for I knew that they were a people who could be more easily freed and converted to our holy
faith by love than by force, gave to some of them red caps, and glass beads to put round their necks, and many other things of little value, which gave them great pleasure, and made them so much our friends that it was a marvel to see. They afterwards came to the ship's boats where we were, swimming and bringing us parrots, cotton threads in skeins, darts, and many other things; and we exchanged them for other things that we gave them, such as glass beads and small bells. In fine, they took all, and gave what they had with good will. It appeared to me to be a race of people very poor in everything. They go as naked as when their mothers bore them, and so do the women, although I did not see more than one young girl. All I saw were youths, none more than thirty years of age. They are very well made with very handsome bodies, and very good countenances. Their hair is short and coarse, almost like the hairs of a horsetail. They wear the hairs brought down to the eyebrows except a few locks behind, which they wear long and never cut. They paint themselves black, and they are the color of the Canarians, neither black nor white. Some paint themselves white, others red, and others of what color they find. Some paint their faces, others the whole body, some only round the eyes, others only on the nose. They neither care nor know anything of arms, for I showed them swords, and they took them by the blade and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their darts being wands witout iron, some of them having a fish's tooth at the end, and others being pointed in various ways. They are all of fair stature and size, with good faces, and well made. I saw some with marks of wounds on their bodies, and I made signs to ask what it was, and they gave me to understand that people from other adjacent islands came with the intention of seeing them, and that they defended themselves. I believe and still believe, that they come here from the mainland to take them prisoners. They should be good servants and intelligent, for I observed that they quickly took in what was said to them, and I believe that they would easily be made Christians, as it
appeared to me that they had no religion. I, our Lord being pleased, will take hence, at the time of my departure, six natives for your Highnesses, that they may learn to speak. I saw no beast of any kind except parrots, on this island." The above is in the words of the Admiral.51.
Saturday, 13th of October
"As soon as dawn broke many of these people came to the
beach, all youths, as I have said, and all of good stature, a
very handsome people. Their hair is not curly, but loose and
coarse, like horse hair. In all the forehead is broad, more so
than in any other people I have hitherto seen. Their eyes are
very beautiful and not small, and themselves far from black, but
the color of the Canarians. Nor shouldanything else be expected,
as this island is in a line east and west from the island of Hierro
in the Canaries. Their legs are very straight, all in one line,
and no belly, but very well formed. They came to the ship in
small canoes, made out of the trunk of a tree like a long boat,
and all of one piece, and wonderfully worked, considering the
country. They are large, some of them holding 40 to 45 men, others
smaller, and some only large enough to hold one man. They are
propelled with a paddle like a baker's shovel, and go at a marvelous
rate. If the canoe capsizes, they all promptly begin to swim,
and to bale it out with calabashes that they take with them.
They brought skeins of cotton thread, parrots, darts, and other
small things which it would be tedious to recount, and they give
all in exchange for anything that may be given to them. I was
attentive, and took trouble to ascertain if there was gold. I
saw that some of them had a small piece fastened in a hole they
have in the nose, and by signs I was able to make out that to
the south, or going from the island to the south, there was a
king who had great cups full, and who possessed a great quantity.
I tried to get them to go there, but afterwards I sawthat they
had no inclination. I resolved to wait until to-morrow in the
afternoon and then to depart, shaping a course to the S.W., for,according
to what many of them told me, there was land to the S., to the
S.W., and N.W., and that the natives from the N.W. often came
to attack them, and went on to the S.W. in search of gold and
"This island is rather large and very flat, with bright
green trees, much water, and a very large lake in the centre,
without any mountain, and the whole land so green that it is a
pleasure to look on it. The people are very docile, and for the
longing to possess our things, and not having anything to give
in return, they take what they can get, and presently swim away.
Still, they give away all they have got, for whatever may be
given to them, down to broken bits of crockery and glass. I saw
one give 16 skeins of cotton for three ceotis1 of Portugal, equal
to one blanca of Spain, the skeins being as much as an arroba
of cotton thread. I shall keep it, and shall allow no one to
take it, preserving it all for your Highnesses, for it may be
obtained in abundance. It is grown in this island, though the
short time did not admit of my ascertaining this for a certainty.
Here also is found the gold they wear fastened in their noses.
But, in order not to lose time, I intend to go and see if I can
find the island of Cipango. Now,as it is night, all the natives
have gone on shore with their canoes."53.
Sunday, 14th of October
"At dawn I ordered the ship's boat and the boats of the
caravels to begot ready, and I went along the coast of the island
to the N.N.E., to see the other side, which was on the other side
to the east, and also to see the villages. Presently I saw two
or three, and the people all came to the shore, calling out and
giving thanks to God. Some of them brought us water, others came
with food, and when they saw that I did not want to land, they
got into the sea, and came swimming to us. We understood that
they asked us if we had come from heaven. One old man came into
the boat, and others cried out, in loud voices, to all the men
and women, to come and see the men who had come from heaven, and
to bring them to eat and drink. Many came, including women, each
bringing something, giving thanks to God, throwing themselves
on the ground and shouting to us to come on shore. But I was
afraid to land, seeing an extensive reef of rocks which surrounded
the island, with deep water between it and the shore forming a
port large enough for as many ships as there are in Christendom,
but with a very narrow entrance. It is true that within this
reef there are some sunken rocks, but the sea has no more motion
than the water in a well. In order to see all this I went this
morning, that I might be able to give a full account to your Highnesses,
and also where a fortress might be established. I saw a piece
of land which appeared like an island, although it is not one,
and on it there were six houses. It might be converted into an
island in two days, though I do not see that it would be necessary,
for these people are very simple as regards the use of arms, as
your Highnesses will see from the seven that I caused to be taken,
to bring home and learn our language and return; unless your Highnesses
should order them all to be brought to Castile, or to be kept
as captives on the same island; for with fifty men they can all
be subjugated and made to do what is required of them. Close
to the above peninsula there are gardens of the most beautiful
trees I ever saw, and with leaves as green as those of Castile
in the month of April and May, and much water. I examined all
that port, and afterwards I returned to the ship and made sail.
I saw so many islands that I hardly knew how to determine to
which I should go first. Those natives I had with me said, by
signs, that there were so many that they could not be numbered,
and they gave the names of more than a hundred. At last I looked
out for the largest, and resolved to shape a course for it, and
so I did. It will be distant five leagues from this of San Salvador,
and the others some more, some less. All are very flat, and all
are inhabited. The natives make war on each other, although these
are very simple-minded and handsomely-formed people."54.
Monday, 15th of October
"I had laid by during the night, with the fear of reaching
the land to anchor before daylight, not knowing whether the coast
was clear of rocks, and at dawn I made sail. As the island was
more than 5 leagues distant and nearer 7, and the tide checked
my way, it was noon when we arrived at the said island. I found
that side facing towards the island of San Salvador tended north
and south with a length of 5 leagues, and the other which I followed
ran east and west for more than 10 leagues. As from this island
I saw another larger one to the west, I clued up the sails, after
having run all that day until night, otherwise I could not have
reached the western cape. I gave the name of Santa Maria de la
Conception to the island, and almost as the sun set I anchored
near the said cape to ascertain if it containedgold. For the
people I had taken from the island of San Salvador told me that
here they wore very large rings of gold on their arms and legs.
I really believed that all they said was nonsense, invented that
they might escape. My desire was not to pass any island without
taking possession, so that, one having been taken, the same may
be said of all. I anchored, and remained until to-day, Tuesday,
when I went to the shore with the boats armed, and landed. The
people, who were numerous, went naked, and were like those of
the other island of San Salvador. They let us go over the island,
and gave us what we required. As the wind changed to the S.E.,
I did not like to stay, and returned to the ship. A large canoe
was alongside the Niña, and one of the men of the island of San
Salvador, who was on board jumped into the sea and got into the
canoe. In the middle of the night before, another swam away behind
the canoe, which fled, for there never was boat that could have
overtaken her, seeing that in speed they have a great advantage.
So they reached the land and left the canoe. Some of my people
went on shore in chase of them, but they all fled like fowls and
the canoe they had left was brought alongside the caravel Niña,whither,
from another direction, another small canoe came, with a man who
wished to barter with skeins of cotton. Some sailors jumped into
the sea, because he would not come on board the caravel, and seized
him. I was on the poop of my ship, and saw everything. So I
sent for the man, gave him a red cap, some small beads of green
glass, which I put on his arms, and small bells, which I put in
his ears, and ordered his canoe, which was also on board, to be
returned to him. I sent him on shore, and presently made sail
to go to the other large island which was in sight to the westward.
I also ordered the other large canoe, which the caravel Niña
was towing astern, to be cast adrift; and I soon saw that it reached
the land at the same time as the man to whom I had given the above
things. I had not wished to take the skein of cotton that he
offered me. All the others came round him and seemed astonished,
for it appeared clear to them that we were good people. The other
man who had fled might do us some harm because we had carried
him off, and for that reason I ordered this man to be set free
and gave him the above things, that he might think well of us,
otherwise, when your Highnesses again send an expedition, they
might not be friendly. All the presents I gave were not worth
four maravedis. At 10 we departed with the wind S.W., and made
for the south, to reach that other island, which is very large,
and respecting which all the men that I bring from San Salvador
make signs that there is much gold, andthat they wear it as bracelets
on the arms, on the legs, in the ears and nose, and round the
neck. The distance of this island from that of Santa Maria is
9 leagues on a course east to west. All this part of the island
trends N.W. and S.E., and it appeared that this coast must have
a length of 28 leagues. It is very flat, without any mountain,
like San Salvador and Santa Maria, all being beach without rocks,
except that there are some sunken rocks near the land, whence
it is necessary to keep a good lookout when it is desired to anchor,
and not to come to very near the land; but the water is always
very clear, and the bottom is visible. At a distance of two shots
of a lombard, there is, off all these islands, such a depth that
the bottom cannot be reached. These islands are very green and
fertile, the climate very mild. They may contain many things
of which I have no knowledge, for I do not wish to stop, in discovering
and visiting many islands, to find gold. These people make signs
that it is worn on the arms and legs; and it must be gold, for
they point to some pieces that I have. I cannot err, with the
help of our Lord, in finding out where this gold has its origin.
Being in the middle of the channel between these two islands,
that is to say, that of Santa Maria and this large one, to which
I give the name of Fernandina, Icame upon a man alone in a canoe
going from Santa Maria to Fernandina. He had a little of their
bread, about the size of a fist, a calabash of water, a piece
of brown earth powdered and then kneaded, and some dried leaves,
which must be a thing highly valued by them, for they bartered
with it at San Salvador. He also had with him a native basket
with a string of glass beads, and two blancas, by which I knew
that he had come from the island of San Salvador, and had been
to Santa Maria, and thence to Fernandina. He came alongside the
ship, and I made him come on board as he desired, also getting
the canoe inboard, and taking care of all his property. I ordered
him to be given to eat bread and treacle, and also to drink:
and so I shall take him on to Fernandina, where I shall return
everything to him, in order that he may give a good account of
us, that, our Lord pleasing, when your Highnesses shall send here,
those who come may receive honor, and that the natives may give
them all they require."55.
Tuesday, 16th of October
"I sailed from the island of Santa Maria de la Conception
at about noon, to go to Fernandina Island, which appeared very
large to the westward, and I navigated all that day with light
winds. I could not arrive in time to be able to see the bottom,
so as to drop the anchor on a clear place, for it is necessary
to be very careful not to lose the anchors. So I stood off and
on all that night until day, when I came to an inhabited place
where I anchored, and whence that man had come that I found yesterday
in the canoe in mid channel. He had given such a good report
of us that there was no want of canoes alongside the ship all
that night, which brought us water and what they had to offer.
I ordered each one to be given something, such as a few beads,
ten or twelve of those made of glass on a thread, some timbrels
made of brass such as are worth a maravedi in Spain, and some
straps, all which they looked upon as most excellent. I also
ordered them to be given treacle to eat when they came on board.
At three o'clock I sent the ship's boat on shore for water,
and the natives with good will showed my people where the water
was, and they themselves brought the full casks down to the boat
and did all they could to please us.56.
"This island is very large, and I have determined to sail
round it, because, so far as I can understand, there is a mine
in or near it. The island is eight leagues from Santa Maria,
nearly east and west; and this point I had reached, as well as
all the coast, trends N.N.W. and S.S.E. I saw at least 20 leagues
of it, and then it had not ended. Now, as I am writing this,
I made sail with the wind at the south, to sail round the island,
and to navigate until I find Samaot, which is the island or city
where there is gold, as all the natives say who are on board,
and as those of San Salvador and Santa Maria told us. These people
resemble those of the said islands, with the same language and
customs, except that these appear to me a rather more domestic
and tractable people, yet also more subtle. For I observed that
those who brought cotton and other trifles to the ship, knew better
than the others how to make a bargain. In this island I saw cotton
cloths made like mantles. The people were better disposed, and
the women wore in front of their bodies a small piece of cotton
which scarcely covered them.57.
"It is a very green island, level and very fertile, and
I have no doubt that they sow and gather corn all the year round,
as well as other things. I saw many trees very unlike those of
our country. Many of them have their branches growing in different
ways and all from one trunk, and one twig is one form, and another
in a different shape, and so unlike that it is the greatest wonder
in the world to see the great diversity; thus one branch has leaves
like those of a cane, and others like those of a mastick tree:
and on a single tree there are five or six different kinds.
Nor are these grafted, for it may be said that grafting is unknown,
the trees being wild, and untended by these people. They do not
know any religion, and I believe they could easily be converted
to Christianity, for they are very intelligent. Here the fish
are so unlike ours that it is wonderful. Some are the shape of
dories, and of the finest colors in the world, blue, yellow, red,
and other tints, all painted in various ways, and the colors are
so bright that there is not a man who would not be astonished,
and would not take great delight in seeing them. There are also
whales. I saw no beasts on the land of any kind, except parrots
and lizards. A boy told me that he saw a large serpent. I saw
neither sheep, nor goats, nor any other quadruped. It is true
I have been here a short time, since noon, yet I could not have
failed to see some if there had been any. I will write respecting
the circuit of this island after I have been round it."58.
Wednesday, 17th of October
"At noon I departed from the village off which I was
anchored, and where I took in water, to sail round this island
of Fernandina. The wind was S.W. and South. My wish was to follow
the coast of this island to the S.E., from where I was, the whole
coast tending N.N.W. and S.S.E.; because all the Indians I bring
with me, and others, made signs to this southern quarter, as the
direction of the island they call Samoet, where the gold is.
Martin Alonso Pinzon, captain of the caravel Pinta, on board of
which I had three of the Indians, came to me and said that one
of them had given him to understand very positively that the island
might be sailed round much quicker by shaping a N.N.W. course.
I saw that the wind would not help me to take the course I desired,
and that it was fair for the other, so I made sail to the N.N.W.
When I was two leagues from the cape of the island, I discovered
a very wonderful harbor. It has one mouth, or, rather, it may
be said to have two, for there is an islet in the middle. Both
are very narrow, and within it is wide enough for a hundred ships,
if there was depth and a clean bottom, and the entrance was deep
enough. It seemed desirable to explore it and take soundings,
so I anchored outside, and went in with all the ship's boats,
when we saw there was insufficient depth. As I thought, when
I first saw it, that it was the mouth of some river, I ordered
the water-casks to be brought. On shore I found eight or ten
men, who presently came to us and showed us the village, whither
I sent the people for water, some with arms, and others with the
casks; and, as it was some little distance, I waited two hours
"During that time I walked among the trees, which was the
most beautiful thing I had ever seen, beholding as much verdure
as in the month of May in Andalusia. The trees are as unlike
ours as night from day, as are the fruits, the herbs, the stones,
and everything. It is true that some of the trees bore some resemblance
to those in Castile, but most of them are very different, and
some were so unlike that no one could compare them to anything
in Castile. The people were all like those already mentioned:
like them naked, and the same size. They give what they possess
in exchange for anything that may be given to them. I here saw
some of the ship's boys bartering broken bits of glass and crockery
for darts. The men who went for water told me that they had been
in the houses of the natives, and that they were very plain and
clean inside. Their beds and bags for holding things were like
nets of cotton. The houses are like booths, and very high, with
good chimneys. But, among many villages that I saw, there was
none that consisted of more than from twelve to fifteen houses.
Here they found that the married women wore clouts of cotton,
but not the young girls, except a few who were over eighteen years
of age. They had dogs, mastiffs, and hounds; and here they found
a man who had a piece of gold in his nose, the size of half a
castellano, on which they saw letters. I quarrelled with these
people because they would not exchange or give what was required;
as I wished to see what and whose this money was; and they replied
that they were not accustomed to barter.60.
"After the water was taken I returned to the ship, made
sail, and shaped a course N.W., until I had discovered all the
part of the coast of the island which trends east to west. Then
all the Indians turned round and said that this island was smaller
than Samoet, and that it would be well to return back so as to
reach it sooner. The wind presently went down and then sprang
up from W.N.W., which was contrary for us to continue on the previous
course. So I turned back, and navigated all that night to E.S.E.,
sometimes to east and to S.E. This course was steered to keep
me clear of the land for there were very heavy clouds and thick
weather, which did not admit of my approaching the land to anchor.
On that night it rained very heavily from midnight until nearly
dawn, and even afterwards the clouds threatened rain. We found
ourselves at the S.W. end of the island, where I hoped to anchor
until it cleared up, so as to see the other island whither I have
to go. On all these days, since I arrived in these Indies, it
has rained more or less. Your Highnesses may believe that this
land is the best and most fertile, and with a good climate, level,
and as good as therei s in the world."61.
Thursday, 18th of October
"After it had cleared up I went before the wind, approaching
the island as near as I could, and anchored when it was no longer
light enough to keep under sail. But I did not go on shore, and
made sail at dawn. . . ."62.
Friday, 19th of October
"I weighed the anchors at daylight, sending the caravel
Pinta on an E.S.E. course, the caravel Niña S.S.E., while I shaped
a S.E. course, giving orders that these courses were to be steered
until noon, and that then the two caravels should alter course
so as to join companywith me. Before we had sailed for three
hours we saw an island to the east, for which we steered, and
all three vessels arrived at the north point before noon. Here
there is an islet, and a reef of rocks to seaward of it, besides
one between the islet and the large island. The men of San Salvador,
whom I bring with me, called it Saomete, and I gave it the name
of Isabella. The wind was north, and the said islet bore from
the island of Fernandina, whence I had taken my departure, east
and west. Afterwards we ran along the coast of the island, westward
from the islet, and found its length to be 12 leagues as far as
a cape, which I named Cabo Hermoso, at the western end. The island
is beautiful, and the coast very deep, without sunken rocks off
it. Outside the shore is rocky, but further in there is a sandy
beach, and here I anchored on that Friday night until morning.
This coast and the part of the island I saw is almost flat, and
the island is very beautiful; for if the other islands are lovely,
this is more so. It has many very green trees, which are very
large. The land is higher than in the other islands, and in it
there are some hills, which cannot be called mountains; and it
appears that there is much water inland. From this point to the
N.E. the coast makes a great angle, and there are many thick and
extensive groves. I wanted to go and anchor there, so as to go
on shore and see so much beauty; but the water was shallow, and
we could only anchor at a distance from the land. The wind also
was fair for going to this cape, where I am now anchored, to which
I gave the name of Cabo Hermoso, because it is so. Thus it was
that I do not anchor in that angle, but as I saw this cape so
green and so beautiful, like all the other lands of these islands,
I scarcely knew which to visit first; for I can never tire my
eyes in looking at such lovely vegetation, so different from ours.
I believe that there are many herbs and many trees that are worth
much in Europe for dyes and for medicines; but I do not know them,
and this causes me great sorrow. Arriving at this cape, I found
the smell of the trees and flowers so delicious that it seemed
the pleasantest thing in the world. To-morrow, before I leave
this place, I shall go on shore to see what there is at this cape.
There are no people, but there are villages in the interior,
where, the Indians I bring with me say, there is a king who has
much gold. To-morrow I intend to go so far inland as to find
the village, and see and have some speech with this king, who,
according to the signs they make, rules over all the neighboring
islands, goes about clothed, and wears much gold on his person.
I do not give much faith to what they say, as well because I
do not understand them well as because they are so poor in gold
that even a little that this king may have would appear much to
them. This cape, to which I have given the name of Cabo Fermoso,
is, I believe, on an island separated from Saometo, and there
is another small islet between them. I did not try to examine
them in detail, because it could not be done in 50 years. For
my desire is to see and discover as much as I can before returning
to your Highnesses, our Lord willing, in April. It is true that
in the event of finding places where there is gold or spices in
quantity I should stop until I had collected as much as I could.
I, therefore, proceed in the hope of coming across such places."63.
Saturday, 20th of October
"To-day, at sunrise, I weighed the anchors from where
I was with the ship, and anchored off the S.W. point of the island
of Saometo, to which I gave the name of Cabo de la Laguna, and
to the island Isabella. My intention was to navigate to the north-east
and east from the south-east and south, where, I understood from
the Indians I brought with me, was the village of the king. I
found the sea so shallow that I could not enter nor navigate in
it, and I saw that to follow a route by the south-east would be
a great round. So I determined to return by the route that I
had taken from the N.N.E. to the western part, and to sail round
this island to [reconnoitre it].64.
"I had so little wind that I never could sail along the
coast, except during the night. As it was dangerous to anchor
off these islands except in the day, when one can see where to
let go the anchor, for the bottom is all in patches, some clear
and some rocky, I lay to all this Sunday night. The caravels
anchored because they found themselves near the shore, and they
thought that, owing to the signals that they were in the habit
of making, I would come to anchor, but I did not wish to do so."65.
Sunday, 21st of October
"At ten o'clock I arrived here, off this islet, and anchored,
as well as the caravels. After breakfast I went on shore, and
found only one house, in which there was no one, and I supposed
they had fled from fear, because all their property was left in
the house. I would notallow anything to be touched, but set out
with the captains and people to explore the island. If the others
already seen are very beautiful, green, and fertile, this is much
more so, with large trees and very green. Here there are large
lagoons with wonderful vegetation on their banks. Throughout
the island all is green, and the herbage like April in Andalusia.
The songs of the birds were so pleasant that it seemed as if
a man could never wish to leave the place. The flocks of parrots
concealed the sun; and the birds were so numerous, and of so many
different kinds, that it was wonderful. There are trees of a
thousand sorts, and all have their several fruits; and I feel
the most unhappy man in the world not to know them, for I am well
assured that they are all valuable. I bring home specimens of
them, and also of the land. Thus walking along round one of the
lakes I saw a serpent, which we killed, and I bring home the skin
for your Highnesses. As soon as it saw us it went into the lagoon,
and we followed, as the water was not very deep, until we killed
it with lances. It is 7 spans long, and I believe that there
are many like it in these lagoons. Here I came upon some aloes,
and I have determined to take ten quintals on board to-morrow,
for they tell me that they are worth a good deal. Also, while
in search of good water, we came to a village about half a league
from our anchorage. The people, as soon as they heard us, all
fled and left their houses, hiding their property in the wood.
I would not allow a thing to be touched, even the value of a
pin. Presently some men among them came to us, and one came quite
close. I gave him some bells and glass beads, which made him
very content and happy. That our friendship might be further
increased, I resolved to ask him for something; I requested him
to get some water. After I had gone on board, the natives came
to the beach with calabashes full of water, and they delighted
much in giving it to us. I ordered another string of glass beads
to be presented to them, and they said they would come again to-morrow.
I wished to fill up all the ships with water at this place, and,
if there should be time, I intended to search the island until
I had had speech with the king, and seen whether he had the gold
of which I had heard. I shall then shape a course for another
much larger island, which I believe to be Cipango, judging from
the signs made by the Indians I bring with me. They call it Cuba,
and they say that there are ships and many skilful sailors there.
Beyond this island there is another called Bosio, which they
also say is very large, and others we shall see as we pass, lying
between. According as I obtain tidings of gold or spices I shall
settle what should be done. I am still resolved to go to the
mainland and the city of Guisay, and to deliver the letters of
your Highnesses to the Gran Can, requesting a reply and returning
Monday, 22nd of October
"All last night and to-day I was here, waiting to see
if the king or other person would bring gold or anything of value.
Many of these people came, like those of the other islands, equally
naked, and equally painted, some white, some red, some black,
and others in many ways. They brought darts and skeins of cotton
to barter, which they exchanged with the sailors for bits of glass,
broken crockery, and pieces of earthenware. Some of them had
pieces of gold fastened in their noses, which they willingly gave
for a hawk's bell and glass beads. But there was so little that
it counts for nothing. It is true that they looked upon any little
thing that I gave them as a wonder, and they held our arrival
to be a great marvel, believing that we came from heaven. We
got water for the ships from a lagoon which is near the Cabo del
Isleo (Cape of the Islet), as we named it. In the said lagoon
Martin Alonso Pinzon, captain of the Pinta, killed another serpent
7 spans long, like the one we got yesterday. I made them gather
here as much of the aloe as they could find."67.
Tuesday, 23rd of October
"I desired to set out to-day for the island of Cuba,
which I think must be Cipango, according to the signs these people
make, indicative of its size and riches, and I did not delay any
more here nor [attempt to sail] . . . round this island to the
residence of this king or lord, and have speech with him, as I
had intended. This would cause me much delay, and I see that
there is no gold mine here. To sail round would need several
winds, for it does not blow here as men may wish. It is better
to go where there is great entertainment, so I say that it is
not reasonable to wait, but rather to continue the voyage and
inspect much land, until some very profitable country is reached,
my belief being that it will be rich in spices. That I have no
personal knowledge of these products causes me the greatest sorrow
in the world, for I see a thousand kinds of trees, each one with
its own special fruit, all green now as in Spain during the months
of May and June, as well as a thousand kinds of herbs with their
flowers; yet I know none of them except this aloe, of which I
ordered a quantity to be brought on board to bring to your Highnesses.
I have not made sail for Cuba because there is no wind, but a
dead calm with much rain. It rained a great deal yesterday without
causing any cold. On the contrary, the days are hot and the nights
cool, like May in Andalusia."68.
Wednesday, 24th of October
"At midnight I weighed the anchors and left the anchorage
at Cabo del Isleo, in the island of Isabella. From the northern
side, where I was, I intended to go to the island of Cuba, where
I heard of the people who were very great, and had gold, spices,
merchandise, and large ships. They showed me that the course
thither would be W.S.W., and so I hold. For I believe that it
si so, as all the Indians of these islands, as well as those I
brought with me in the ships, told me by signs. I cannot understand
their language, but I believe that it is of the island of Cipango
that they recount these wonders. On the spheres I saw, and on
the delineations of the map of the world, Cipango is in this
region. So I shaped a course W.S.W. until daylight, but at dawn
it fell calm and began to rain, and went on nearly all night.
I remained thus, with little wind, until the afternoon, when
it began to blow fresh. I set all the sails in the ship, the
mainsail with the two bonnets, the foresail, spritsail, mizzen,
main topsail, and the boat's sail on the poop. So I proceeded
until nightfall, when the Cabo Verde of the island of Fernandina,
which is at the S.W. end, bore N.W. distant 7 leagues. As it
was now blowing hard, and I did not know how far it was to this
island of Cuba, I resolved not to go in search of it during the
night; all these islands being very steep-to, with no bottom round
them for a distance of two shots of a lombard. The bottom is
all is patches, one bit of sand and another of rock, and for this
reason it is not safe to anchor without inspection with the eye.
So I determined to take in all sails except the foresail, and
to go on under that reduced canvas. Soon the wind increased,
while the route was doubtful, and there was very thick weather,
with rain. I ordered the foresail to be furled, and we did not
make two leagues during that night."69.
Thursday, 25th of October
"I steered W.S.W. from after sunset until 9 o'clock,
making 5 leagues. Afterwards I altered course to the west, and
went 8 miles an hour until one in the afternoon; and from that
time until three made good 44 miles. Then land was sighted, consisting
of 7 or 8 islands, the group running north and south, distant
from us 5 leagues."70.
Friday, 26th of October
"The ship was on the south side of the islands, which
were all low, distant 5 or 6 leagues. I anchored there. The
Indians on board siad that thence to Cuba was a voyage in their
canoes of a day and a half; these being small dug-outs without
a sail. Such are their canoes. I departed thence for Cuba, for
by the signs the Indians made of its greatness, and of its gold
and pearls, I thought that it must be Cipango."71.
Saturday, 27th of October
"I weighed from these islands at sunrise, and gave them
the name of Las Islas de Arena, owing to the little depth the
sea had for a distance of 6 leagues to the southward of them.
We went 8 miles an hour on a S.S.W. course until one o'clock,
having made 40 miles. Unitl night we had run 28 miles on the
same course, and before dark the land was sighted. At night there
was much rain. The vessels, on Saturday until sunset, made 17
leagues on a S.S.W. course."72.
Sunday, 28th of October
"I went thence in search of the island of Cuba on a S.S.W.
course, making for the nearest point of it, and entered a very
beautiful river without danger of sunken rocks or other impediments.
All the coast was clear of dangers up to the shore. The mouth
of the river was 12 brazas across, and it is wide enough for a
vessel to beat in. I anchored about a lombard-shot inside."
The Admiral says that "he never beheld such a beautiful
place, with trees bordering the river, handsome, green, and different
from ours, having fruits and flowers each one according to its
nature. There are many birds, which sing very sweetly. There
are a great number of palm trees of a different kind from those
in Guinea and from outs, of a middling height, the trunks without
that covering, adn the leaves very large, with which they thatch
their houses. The country is very level." The Admiral jumped
into his boat and went on shore. He came to two houses, which
he believed to beong to fishermen who had fled from fear. In
one of them he found a kind of dog that never barks, and in both
there were nets of palm-fibre and cordage, as well as horn fish-hooks,
bone harpoons, and other apparatus "for fishing, and several
hearths. He believed that many people lived together in one house.
He gave orders that nothing in the houses should be touched,
and so it was done." The herbage was as thick as in Andalusia
during April and May. He found much purslane and wild amaranth.
He returned to the boat and went up the river for some distance,
and he says it was great pleasure to see the bright verdure, and
the birds, which he could not leave to go back. He says that
this island is the most beautiful that eyes have seen, full of
good harbors and deep rivers, and the sea appeared as if it never
rose;for the herbage on the beach nearly reached the waves, which
does not happen where the sea is rough. (Up to that time they
had not experienced a rough sea among all those islands.) He
says that the island is full of very beautiful mountains, although
they are not very extensive as regards length, but high; and all
the country is high like Sicily. It is abundantly supplied with
water, as they gathered from the Indians they had taken with them
from the island of Guanahani. These said by signs that there
are ten great rivers, and that they cannot go round the island
in twenty days. When they came near land with the ships, two
canoes came out; and, when they saw the sailors get into a boat
and row about to find the depth of the river where they could
anchor, the canoes fled. The Indians say that in this island
there are gold mines and pearls, and the Admiral saw a likely
place for them and mussel-shells, which are signs of them. He
understood that large ships of the Gran Can came here, and that
from here to the mainland was a voyage of ten days. The Admiral
called this river and harbor San Salvador. 73.
Monday, 29th of October
The Admiral weighed anchor from this port and sailed to the
westward, to go to the city, where, as it seemed, the Indians
said that there was a king. They doubled a point six leagues
to the N.W., and then another point, then east ten leagues.
After another league he saw a river with no very large entrance,
to which he gave the name of Rio de la Luna. He went on until
the hour of vespers. He saw another river much larger than the
others, as the Indians told him by signs, and near he saw goodly
villages of houses. He called the river Rio de Mares. He sent
two boats on shore to a village to communicate, and one of the
Indians he had brought with him, for now they understood a little,
and show themselves content with Christians. All the men, women,
and children fled, abandoning their houses with all they contained.
The Admiral gave orders that nothing should be touched. The
houses were better than those he had seen before, and he believed
that the houses would improve as he approached the mainland.
They were made like booths, very large, and looking like tents
in a camp without regular streets, but one here and another there.
Within they were clean and well swept, with the furniture well
made. All are of palm branches beautifully constructed. They
found many images in the shape of women, and many heads like masks,
very well carved. It was not known whether these were used as
ornaments, or to be worshipped. They had dogs which never bark,
and wild birds tamed in their houses. There was a wonderful supply
of nets and other fishing implements, but nothing was touched.
He believed that all the people on the coast were fishermen,
who took the fish inland, for this island is very large, and so
beautiful, that he is never tired of praising it. He says he
found trees and fruits of very marvellous taste; and adds that
they must have cows or other cattle, for he saw skulls which were
like those of cows. The songs of the birds and the chirping
of crickets throughout the night lulled everyone to rest, while
the air was soft and healthy, and the nights neither hot nor cold.
On the voyage through the other islands there was great heat,
but here it is tempered like the month of May. He attributed
the heat of the other islands to their flatness, and to the wind
coming from the east, which is hot. The water of the rivers was
salt at the mouth, and they did not know whence the natives got
their drinking-water, though they have sweet water in their houses.
Ships are able to turn in this river, both entering and coming
out, and there are very good leading-marks. He says that all
this sea appears to be constantly smooth, like the river at Seville,
and the water suitable for the growth of pearls. He found large
shells unlike those of Spain. Remarking on the position of the
river and port, to which he gave the name of San Salvador, he
describes its mountains as lofty and beautiful, like the Pena
de las Enamoradas, and one of them has another little hill on
its summit, like a graceful mosque. The other river and port,
in which he now was, has two round mountains to the S.W., and
a fine low cape running out to the W.S.W.74.
Tuesday, 30th of October
He left the Rio de Mares and steered N.W., seeing a cape covered
with palm trees, to which he gave the name of Cabo de Palmas,
after having made good 15 leagues. The Indians on board the
caravel Pinta said that beyond that cape there was a river, and
that from the river to Cuba it was four days' journey. The captain
of the Pinta reported that he understood from that, that this
Cuba was a city, and that the land was a great continent tending
far to the north. The king of that country, he gathered, was
at war with the Gran Can, whom they called Cami, and his land
or city Fava, with many other names. The Admiral resolved to
proceed to that river, and to send a present, with the letter
of the Sovereigns, to the king of that land. For this service
there was asailor who had been to Guinea, and some of the Indians
of Guanahani wished to go with him, and afterwards to return to
their homes. TheAdmiral calculated that he was forty-two degrees
to the north of the equinoctial line (but the handwriting is here
illegible). He says that he must attempt to reach the Gran Can,
who he thought was here or at the city of Cathay, which belongs
to him, and is very grand, as he was informed before leaving Spain.
All this land, he adds, is low and beautiful, and the sea deep.75.
Wednesday, 31st of October
All Tuesday night he was beating to windward, and he saw a
river, but could not enter it because the entrance was narrow.
The Indians fancied that the ships could enter wherever their
canoes could go. Navigating onwards, he came to a cape running
out very far, and surrounded by sunken rocks, and he saw a bay
where small vessels might take shelter. He could not proceed
because the wind had come round to the north, and all the coast
runs N.W. and S.E. Another cape further on ran out still more.
For these reasons, and because the sky showed signs of a gale,
he had to return to the Rio de Mares.76.
Thursday, November the 1st
At sunrise the Admiral sent the boats on shore to the houses
that were there, and they found that all the people had fled.
After some time a man made his appearance. The Admiral ordered
that he should be left to himself, and the sailors returned to
the boats. After dinner, one of the Indians on board was sent
on shore. He called out from a distance that there was nothing
to fear, because the strangers were good people and would do no
harm to anyone, nor were they people of the Gran Can, but they
had given away their things in many islands where they had been.
The Indian then swam on shore, and two of the natives took him
by the arms and brought him to a house, where they heard what
he had to say. When they were certain that no harm would be done
to them they were reassured, and presently more than sixteen canoes
came to the ships with cotton-thread and other trifles. The Admiral
ordered that nothing should be taken from them, that they might
understand that he sought for nothing but gold, which they call
nucay. Thus they went to and fro between the ships and the shore
all day, and they came to the Christians on shore with confidence.
The Admiral saw no gold whatever among them, but he says that
he saw one of them with a piece of worked silver fastened to his
nose. They said, by signs, that within three days many merchants
from inland would come to buy the things brought by the Christians,
and would give information respecting the king of that land.
So far as could be understood from their signs, he resided at
a distance of four days' journey. They had sent many messengers
in all directions, with news of the arrival of the Admiral. "These
people," says the Admiral, "are of the same appearance
and have the same customs as those of the other islands, without
any religion so far as I know, for up to this day I have never
seen the Indians on board say any prayer; though they repeat the
Salve and Ave Maria with their hands raised to heaven, and they
make the sign of the cross. The language is also the same, and
they are all friends; but I believe that all these islands are
at war with the Gran Can, whom they called Cavila, and his province
Bafan. They all go naked like the others." This is what
the Admiral says. "The river," he adds, "is very
deep, and the ships can enter the mouth, going close to the shore.
The sweet water does not come within a league of the mouth.
It is certain," says the Admiral, "that this is the
mainland, and that I am in front of Zayto and Guinsay, a hundred
leagues, a little more or less, distant the one from the other.
It is very clear that no one before has been so far as this
by sea. Yesterday, with wind from the N.W., I found it cold."77.
Friday, 2nd of November
The Admiral decided upon sending two Spaniards, one named
Rodrigo de Jerez, who lived in Ayamonte, and the other Luis de
Torres, who had served in the household of the Adelantado of Murcia,
and had been a Jew, knowing Hebrew, Chaldee, and even some Arabic.
With these men he sent two Indians, one from among those he had
brought from Guanahani, and another a native of the houses by
the river-side. He gave them strings of beads with which to buy
food if they should be in need, and ordered them to return in
six days. He gave them specimens of spices,to see if any were
to be found. Their instructions were to ask for the king of that
land, and they were told what to say on the part of the Sovereigns
of Castile, how they had sent the Admiral with letters and a present,
to inquire after his health and establish friendship, favoring
him in what he might desire from them. They were to collect information
respecting certain provinces, ports, and rivers of which the Admiral
had notice, and to ascertain their distances from where he was.78.
This night the Admiral took an altitude with a quadrant, and
found that the distance from the equinoctial line was 42 degrees.
He says that, by his reckoning, he finds that he has gone over
1142 leagues from the island of Hierro. He still believes that
he has reached the mainland.79.
Saturday, 3rd of November
In the morning the Admiral got into the boat, and, as the
river is like a great lake at the mouth, forming a very excellent
port, very deep, and clear of rocks, with a good beach for careening
ships, and plenty of fuel, he explored it until he came to fresh
water at a distance of two leagues from the mouth. He ascended
a small mountain to obtain a view of the surrounding country,
but could see nothing, owing to the dense foliage of the trees,
which were very fresh and odoriferous, so that he felt no doubt
that there were aromatic herbs among them. He said that all he
saw was so beautiful that his eyes could never tire of gazing
upon such loveliness, nor his ears of listening to the songs of
birds. That day many canoes came to the ships, to barter with
cotton threads and with the nets in which they sleep, called hamacas.80.
Sunday, 4th of November
At sunrise the Admiral again went away in the boat, and landed
to hunt the birds he had seen the day before. After a time, Martin
Alonso Pinzon came to him with two pieces of cinnamon, and said
that a Portuguese, who was one of his crew, had seen an Indian
carrying two very large bundles of it; but he had not bartered
for it, because of the penalty imposed by the Admiral on any one
who bartered. He further said that this Indian carried some brown
things like nutmegs. The master of the Pinta said that he had
found the cinnamon trees. The Admiral went to the place, and
found that they were not cinnamon trees. The Admiral showed the
Indians some specimens of cinnamon and pepper he had brought from
Castile, and they knew it, and said, by signs, that there was
plenty in the vicinity, pointing to the S.E. He also showed them
gold and pearls, on which certain old men said that there was
an infinite quantity in a place called Bohio, and that the people
wore it on their necks, ears, arms, and legs, as well as pearls.
He further understood them to say that there were great ships
and much merchandise, all to the S.E. He also understood that,
far away, there were men with one eye, and others with dogs' noses
who were cannibals, and that when they captured an enemy, they
beheaded him and drank his blood, and cut off his private parts.81.
The Admiral then determined to return to the ship and wait for
the return of the two men he had sent, intending to depart and
seek for those lands, if his envoys brought some good news touching
what he desired. The Admiral further says: "These people
are very gentle and timid; they go naked, as I have said, without
arms and without law. The country is very fertile. The people
have plenty of mames which are like carrots and have the flavor
of chestnuts; and they have faxones and beans of kinds very different
from ours. They also have much cotton, which they do not sow,
as it is wild in the mountains, and I believe they collect it
throughout the year, because I saw pods empty, others full, and
flowers all on one tree. There are a thousand other kinds of
fruits, which it is impossible for me to write about, and all
must be profitable." All this the Admiral says.82.
Monday, 5th of November
This morning the Admiral ordered the ship to be careened,
afterwards the other vessels, but not all at the same time. Two
were always to beat the anchorage, as a precaution; although he
says that these people were very safe, and that without fear all
the vessels might have been careened at the same time. Things
being in this state, the master of the Niña came to claim a reward
from the Admiral because he had found mastic, but he did not bring
the specimen, as he had dropped it. The Admiral promised him
a reward, and sent Rodrigo Sanchez and master Diego to the trees.
They collected some, which was kept to present to the Sovereigns,
as well as the tree. The Admiral says that he knew it was mastic,
though it ought to be gathered at the proper season. There is
enough in that district for a yield of 1000 quintals every year.
The Admiral also found here a great deal of the plant called
aloe. He further says that the Puerto de Mares is the best in
the world, with the finest climate and the most gentle people.
As it has a high, rocky cape, a fortress might be built, so that,
in the event of the place becoming rich and important, the merchants
would be safe from any other nations. He adds: "The Lord,
in whose hands are all victories, will ordain all things for his
service. An Indian said by signs that the mastic was good for
pains in the stomach."83.
Tuesday, 6th of November
Yesterday, at night, says the Admiral, the two men came back
who had been sent to explore the interior. They said that after
walking 12 leagues they came to a village of 50 houses, where
there were a thousand inhabitants, for many live in one house.
These houses are like very large booths. They said that they
were received with great solemnity, according to custom, and all,
both men and women, came out to see them. They were lodged in
the best houses, and the people touched them, kissing their hands
and feet, marvelling and believing that they came from heaven,
and so they gave them to understand. They gave them to eat of
what they had. When they arrived, the chief people conducted
them by the arms to the principal house, gave them two chairs
on which to sit, and all the natives sat round them on the ground.
The Indian who came with them described the manner of living
of the Christians, and said that they were good people. Presently
the men went out, and the women came sitting round them in the
same way, kissing their hands and feet, and looking to see if
they were of flesh and bones like themselves. They begged the
Spaniards to remain with them at least five days. The Spaniards
showed the natives specimens of cinnamon, pepper, and other spices
which the Admiral had given them, and they said, by signs, that
there was plenty at a short distance from thence to S.E., but
that there they did not know whether there was any. Finding
that they had no information respecting cities, the Spaniards
returned; and if they had desired to take those who wished to
accompany them, more than 500 men and women would have come, because
they thought the Spaniards were returning to heaven. There came,
however, a principal man of the village and his son, with a servant.
The Admiral conversed with them, and showed them much honor.
They made signs respecting many lands and islands in those parts.
The Admiral thought of bringing them to the Sovereigns. He says
that he knew not what fancy took them; either from fear, or owing
to the dark night, they wanted to land. The ship was at the time
high and dry, but, not wishing to make them angry, he let them
go on their saying that they would return at dawn, but they never
came back. The two Christians met with many people on the road
going home, men and women with a half-burnt weed in their hands,
being the herbs they are accustomed to smoke. They did not find
villages on the road of more than five houses, all receiving them
with the same reverence. They saw many kinds of trees, herbs,
and sweet-smelling flowers; and birds of many different kinds,
unlike those of Spain, except the partridges, geese, of which
there are many, and singing nightingales. They saw no quadrupeds
except the dogs that do not bark. The land is very fertile,
and is cultivated with yams and several kinds of beans different
from ours, as well as corn. There were great quantities of cotton
gathered, spun, and worked up. In asingle house they saw more
than 500 arrobas, and as much as 4000 quintals could be yielded
every year. The Admiral said that "it did not appear to
be cultivated, and that it bore all the year round. It is very
fine, and has a large boll. All that was possessed by these people
they gave at a very low price, and a great bundle of cotton was
exchanged for the point of a needle or other trifle. They are
a people," says the Admiral, "guileless and unwarlike.
Men and women go as naked as when their mothers bore them. It
is true that the women weara very small piece of cotton-cloth
which covers their private parts and no more, and they are of
very good appearance, not very dark, less so than the Canarians.
I hold, most serene Princes, that if devout religious persons
were here, knowing the language, they would all turn Christians.
I trust in our Lord that your Highnesses will resolve upon this
with much diligence, to bring so many great nations within the
Church, and to convert them; as you have destroyed those who would
not confess the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. And after
your days, all of us being mortal, may your kingdoms remain in
peace, and free from heresy and evil, and may you be well received
before the eternal Creator, to whom I pray that you may have long
life and great increase of kingdoms and lordships, with the will
and disposition to increase the holy Christian religion as you
have done hitherto. Amen!"84.
"To-day I got the ship afloat, and prepared to depart on
Thursday, in the name of God, and to steer S.E. in search of gold
and spices, and to discover land."85.
These are the words of the Admiral, who intended to depart on
Thursday, but, the wind being contrary, he could not go until
the 12th of November.86.