Part I. The Exploration of the World
Author: Jules Verne
Illustrator: Léon Benett
Translator: Dora Leigh
CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS, 1436-1506.
Discovery of Madeira, Cape de Verd Islands, the Azores, Congo, and Guinea—Bartholomew Diaz—Cabot and Labrador—The geographical and commercial tendencies of the middle ages—The erroneous idea of the distance between Europe and Asia—Birth of Christopher Columbus—His first voyages—His plans rejected—His sojourn at the Franciscan convent—His reception by Ferdinand and Isabella—Treaty of the 17th of April, 1492—The brothers Pinzon—Three armed caravels at the port of Palos—Departure on the 3rd of August, 1492.
The year 1492 is an era in geographical annals. It is the date of the discovery of America. The genius of one man was fated to complete the terrestrial globe, and to show the truth of Gagliuffi's saying,—
Unus erat mundus; duo sint, ait iste; fuere.
The old world was to be entrusted with the moral and political education of the new. Was it equal to the task, with its ideas still limited, its tendencies still semi-barbarous, and its bitter religious animosities? We must leave the answer to these questions to the facts that follow.
Between the year 1405, when Béthencourt had just accomplished the colonization of the Canary Islands, and the year 1492, what had taken place? We will give a short sketch of the geographical enterprise of the intervening years. A considerable impetus had been given to science by the Arabs (who were soon to be expelled from Spain), and had spread throughout the peninsula. In all the ports, but more especially in those of Portugal, there was much talk of the continent of Africa, and the rich and wonderful countries beyond the sea. "A thousand anecdotes," says Michelet, "stimulated curiosity, valour and avarice, every one wishing to see these mysterious countries where monsters abounded and gold was scattered over the surface of the land." A young prince, Don Henry, duke of Viseu, third son of John I., who was very fond of the study of astronomy and geography, exercised a considerable influence over his contemporaries; it is to him that Portugal owes her colonial power and wealth and the expeditions so repeatedly made, which were vividly described, and their results spoken of as so wonderful, that they may have aided in awakening Columbus' love of adventure. Don Henry had an observatory built in the southern part of the province of Algarve, at Sagres, commanding a most splendid view over the sea, and seeming as though it must have been placed there to seek for some unknown land; he also established a naval college, where learned geographers traced correct maps and taught the use of the mariner's compass. The young prince surrounded himself with learned men, and especially gathered all the information he could as to the possibility of circumnavigating Africa, and thus reaching India. Though he had never taken part in any maritime expedition, his encouragement and care for seamen gave him the soubriquet of "the Navigator," by which name he is known in history. Two gentlemen belonging to Don Henry's court, Juan Gonzales Zarco, and Tristram Vaz Teixeira had passed Cape Nun, the terror of ancient navigators, when they were carried out to sea and passed near an island to which they gave the name of Porto-Santo. Sometime afterwards, as they were sailing towards a black point that remained on the horizon, they came to a large island covered with splendid forests; this was Madeira.
Prince Henry of Portugal—"The Navigator."
In 1433, Cape Bojador, which had for long been such a difficulty to navigators, was first doubled by the two Portuguese sailors, Gillianès and Gonzalès Baldaya, who passed more than forty leagues beyond it.
Encouraged by their example, Antonio Gonzalès, and Nuño Tristram, in 1441, sailed as far as Cape Blanco, "a feat," says Faria y Souza "that is generally looked upon as being little short of the labours of Hercules," and they brought back with them to Lisbon some gold-dust taken from the Rio del Ouro. In a second voyage Tristram noticed some of the Cape de Verd Islands, and went as far south as Sierra Leone. In the course of this expedition, he bought from some Moors off the coast of Guinea, ten negroes, whom he took back with him to Lisbon and parted with for a very high price, they having excited great curiosity. This was the origin of the slave-trade in Europe, which for the next 400 years robbed Africa of so many of her people, and was a disgrace to humanity.
In 1441, Cada Mosto doubled Cape Verd, and explored a part of the coast below it. About 1446, the Portuguese, advancing further into the open sea than their predecessors, came upon the group of the Azores. From this time all fear vanished, for the formidable line had been passed, beyond which the air was said to scorch like fire; expeditions succeeded each other without intermission, and each brought home accounts of newly-discovered regions. It seemed as if the African continent was really endless, for the further they advanced towards the south, the further the cape they sought appeared to recede. Some little time before this King John II. had added the title of Seigneur of Guinea to his other titles, and to the discovery of Congo had been added that of some stars in the southern hemisphere hitherto unknown, when Diogo Cam, in three successive voyages, went further south than any preceding navigator, and bore away from Diaz the honour of being the discoverer of the southern point of the African continent. This cape is called Cape Cross, and here he raised a monument called a padrao or padron in memory of his discovery, which is still standing. On his way back, he visited the King of Congo in his capital, and took back with him an ambassador and numerous suite of natives, who were all baptized, and taught the elements of the Christian religion, which they were to propagate on their return to Congo.
A short time after Diogo Cam's return in the month of August, 1487, three caravels left the Tagus under the command of Bartholomew Diaz, a gentleman attached to the king's household, and an old sailor on the Guinea seas. He had an experienced mariner under him, and the smallest of the three vessels freighted with provisions, was commanded by his brother Pedro Diaz. We have no record of the earlier part of this expedition; we only know, from Joao de Barros, to whom we owe nearly all we learn of Portuguese navigation, that beyond Congo he followed the coast for some distance, and came to an anchorage that he named "Das Voltas" on account of the manner in which he had to tack to reach it, and there he left the smallest of the caravels under the care of nine sailors. After having been detained here five days by stress of weather, Diaz stood out to sea, and took a southerly course, but for thirteen days his vessels were tossed hither and thither by the tempest.
As he went further south the temperature fell and the air became very cold; at last the fury of the elements abated, and Diaz took an easterly course hoping to sight the land, but after several days had passed, and being in about 42° south latitude, he anchored in the bay "dos Vaquieros," so named from the numbers of horned animals and shepherds, who fled inland at the sight of the two vessels.
At this time Diaz was about 120 miles east of the Cape of Good Hope, which he had doubled without seeing it. They then went to Sam Braz (now Mossel) bay, and coasted as far as Algoa bay and to an island called Da Cruz where they set up a padrao. But here the crews being much discouraged by the dangers they had passed through, and feeling much the scarcity and bad quality of the provisions, refused to go any farther. "Besides," they said, "as the land is now on our left, let us go back and see the Cape, which we have doubled without knowing it."
Diaz called a council, and decided that they should go forwards in a north-easterly direction for two or three days longer. We owe it to his firmness of purpose that he was able to reach a river, 75 miles from Da Cruz that he called Rio Infante, but then the crew refusing to go farther, Diaz was obliged to return to Europe. Barros says, "When Diaz left the pillar that he had erected, it was with such sorrow and so much bitterness, that it seemed almost as though he were leaving an exiled son, and especially when he thought of all the dangers that he and his companions had passed through, and the long distance which they had come with only this memorial as a remembrance: it was indeed painful to break off when the task was but half completed." At last they saw the Cape of Good Hope, or as Diaz and his followers called it then, the "Cape of Torments," in remembrance of all the storms and tempests they had passed through before they could double it. With the foresight which so often accompanies genius, John II. substituted for the "Cape of Torments," the name of the "Cape of Good Hope," for he saw that now the route to India was open at last, and his vast plans for the extension of the commerce and influence of his country were about to be realized.
On the 24th of August, 1488, Diaz returned to Angra das Voltas, where he had left his smallest caravel. He found six of his nine men dead, and the seventh was so overcome with joy at seeing his companions again that he died also. No particular incident marked the voyage home; they reached Lisbon in December, 1488, after staying at Benin, where they traded, and at La Mina to receive the money gained by the commerce of the colony.
It is strange but true, that Diaz not only received no reward of any kind for this voyage which had been so successful, but he seemed to be treated rather as though he had disgraced himself, for he was not employed again for ten years. More than this the command of the expedition that was sent to double the cape which Diaz had discovered, was given to Vasco da Gama, and Diaz was only to accompany it to La Mina holding a subordinate position. He was to hear of the marvellous campaign of his successful rival in India, and to see what an effect such an event would have upon the destiny of his country.
He took part in Cabral's expedition which discovered Brazil, but he had not the pleasure of seeing the shores to which he had been the pioneer, for the fleet had only just left the American shore, when a fearful storm arose; four vessels sank, and among them the one that Diaz commanded. It is in allusion to his sad fate that Camoens puts the following prediction into the mouth of Adamastor, the spirit of the Cape of Tempests. "I will make a terrible example of the first fleet that shall pass near these rocks, and I will wreak my vengeance on him who first comes to brave me in my dwelling."
In fact it was only in 1497, maybe five years after the discovery of America, that the southern point of Africa was passed by Vasco da Gama, and it may be affirmed that if this latter had preceded Columbus, the discovery of the new continent might have been delayed for several centuries. The navigators of this period were very timorous, and did not dare to sail out into mid-ocean; not liking to venture upon seas that were but little known, they always followed the coast-line of Africa, rather than go further from land. If the Cape of Tempests had been doubled, the sailors would have gone by this route to India, and none would have thought of going to the "Land of Spices," that is to say Asia, by venturing across the Atlantic. Who, in fact, would have thought of seeking for the east by the route to the west? But in truth this was the great idea of that day, for Cooley says, "The principal object of Portuguese maritime enterprise in the fifteenth century was to search for a passage to India by the Ocean." The most learned men had not gone so far as to imagine the existence of another continent to complete the equilibrium and balance of the terrestrial globe. Some parts of the American continent had been already discovered, for an Italian navigator Sebastian Cabot had landed on Labrador in 1487, and the Scandinavians had certainly disembarked on this unknown land. The colonists of Greenland, too had explored Winland, but so little disposition was there at this time to believe in the existence of a new world, that Greenland, Winland, and Labrador were all thought to be a continuation of the European continent.
The main question before the navigators of the fifteenth century was the opening up of an easier communication with the shores of Asia. The route to India, China, and Japan (countries already known through the wonderful narrative of Marco Polo), viâ, Asia Minor, Persia, and Tartary, was long and dangerous. The transport of goods was too difficult and costly for these "ways terrestrial" ever to become roads for commerce. A more practicable means of communication must be found. Thus all the dwellers on the coasts, from England to Spain, as well as the people living on the shores of the Mediterranean, seeing the great Atlantic ocean open to their vessels, began to inquire, whether indeed this new route might not conduct them to the shores of Asia.
The sphericity of the Globe being established, this reasoning was correct, for going always westward, the traveller must necessarily at last reach the east, and as to the route across the ocean, it would certainly be open. Who could, indeed, have suspected the existence of an obstacle 9750 miles in length, lying between Europe and Asia, and called America?
We must observe also that the scientific men of the Middle Ages believed that the shores of Asia were not more than 6000 miles distant from those of Europe. Aristotle supposed the terrestrial globe to be smaller than it really is. Seneca said "How far is it from the shores of Spain to India? A very few days' sail, should the wind be favourable." This was also the opinion of Strabo. So it seemed that the route between Europe and Asia must be short, and there being such places for ships to touch at as the Azores and Antilles, of which the existence was known in the fifteenth century, the transoceanic communication promised not to be difficult. This popular error as to distance had the happy effect of inducing navigators to try to cross the Atlantic, a feat which, had they been aware of the 15,000 miles of ocean separating Europe from Asia, they would scarcely have dared to attempt.
We must in justice allow that certain facts gave, or seemed to give, reason to the partisans of Aristotle and Strabo for their belief in the proximity of the eastern shores. Thus, a pilot in the service of the King of Portugal, while sailing at 1350 miles' distance from Cape St. Vincent, the south-western point of the Portuguese province of Algarve, met with a piece of wood ornamented with ancient sculptures, which he considered must have come from a continent not far off. Again, some fishermen had found near the island of Madeira, a sculptured post and some bamboos, which in shape resembled those found in India. The inhabitants of the Azores also, often picked up gigantic pine-trees, of an unknown species, and one day two human bodies were cast upon their shores, "corpses with broad faces," says the chronicler Herrera, "and not resembling Christians."
These various facts tended to inflame imagination. As in the fifteenth century men had no knowledge of that great Gulf-stream, which, in nearing the European coasts, brings with it waifs and strays from America, so they could only imagine that these various débris must come from Asia. Therefore, they argued, Asia could not be far off, and the communication between these two extremes of the old continent must be easy. One point must be clearly borne in mind, no geographer of this period had any notion of the existence of a new world; it was not even a desire of adding to geographical knowledge which led to the exploration of the western route. It was the men of commerce who were the leaders in this movement, and who first undertook to cross the Atlantic. Their only thought was of traffic, and of carrying it on by the shortest road.
The mariner's compass, invented, according to the generally received opinion, about 1302, by one Flavio Gioja of Amalfi, enabled vessels to sail at a distance from the coasts, and to guide themselves when out of sight of land. Martin Béhaim, with two physicians in the service of Prince Henry of Portugal, had also added to nautical science by discovering the way of directing the voyager's course according to the position of the sun in the heavens, and by applying the astrolabe to the purposes of navigation. These improvements being adopted, the commercial question of the western route increased daily in importance in Spain, Portugal, and Italy, countries in which three-quarters of the science is made up of imagination. There was discussion, there were writings. The excited world of commerce disputed with the world of science. Facts, systems, doctrines, were grouped together. The time was come when there was needed one single intelligence to collect together and assimilate the various floating ideas. This intelligence was found. At length all the scattered notions were gathered together in the mind of one man, who possessed in a remarkable degree genius, perseverance, and boldness.
This man was no other than Christopher Columbus, born, probably near Genoa, about the year 1436. We say "probably," for the towns of Cogoreo and Nervi dispute with Savona and Genoa, the honour of having given him birth. The date of his birth varies, with different biographers, from 1430 to 1445, but the year 1436 would appear to be the correct one, according to the most reliable documents. The family of Columbus was of humble origin; his father, Domenic Columbus, a manufacturer of woollen stuffs, seems, however, to have been in sufficiently easy circumstances to enable him to give his children a more than ordinarily good education. The young Christopher, the eldest of the family, was sent to the University of Pavia, there to study Grammar, Latin, Geography, Astronomy, and Navigation.
At fourteen years of age Christopher left school and went to sea; from this time until 1487, very little is known of his career. It is interesting to give the remark of Humboldt on this subject, as reported by M. Charton; he said, "that he regretted the more this uncertainty about the early life of Columbus when he remembered all that the chroniclers have so minutely preserved for us upon the life of the dog Becerillo, or the elephant Aboulababat, which Haroun-al-Raschid sent to Charlemagne!" The most probable account to be gathered from contemporary documents and from the writings of Columbus himself, is that the young sailor visited the Levant, the west, the north, England several times, Portugal, the coast of Guinea, and the islands of Africa, perhaps even Greenland, for, by the age of forty "he had sailed to every part that had ever been sailed to before." He was looked upon as a thoroughly competent mariner, and his reputation led to his being chosen for the command of the Genoese galleys, in the war which that Republic was waging against Venice. He afterwards made an expedition, in the service of René, king of Anjou, to the coasts of Barbary, and in 1477, he went to explore the countries beyond Iceland.
This voyage being successfully terminated, Christopher Columbus returned to his home at Lisbon. He there married the daughter of an Italian gentleman, Bartolomeo Munez Perestrello, a sailor like himself and deeply interested in the geographical ideas of the day. The wife of Columbus, Dona Filippa, was without fortune, and Columbus, having none himself, felt he must work for the support of himself and his family. The future discoverer, therefore, set to work to make picture-books, terrestrial globes, maps, and nautical charts, and continued in this employment until 1481, but without at the same time abandoning his scientific and literary pursuits. It seems probable even, that during this period he studied deeply, and attained to knowledge far beyond that possessed by most of the sailors of his time. Can it have been that at this time "the Great Idea" first arose in his mind? It may well have been so. He was following assiduously the discussions relative to the western routes, and the facility of communication by the west, between Europe and Asia. His correspondence proves that he shared the opinion of Aristotle as to the relatively short distance separating the extreme shores of the old Continent. He wrote frequently to the most distinguished savants of his time. Martin Béhaim, of whom we have already spoken, was amongst his correspondents, and also the celebrated Florentine astronomer, Toscanelli, whose opinions in some degree influenced those of Columbus.
A Spanish Port.
At this time Columbus, according to the portrait of him given by his biographer Washington Irving, was a tall man, of robust and noble presence. His face was long, he had an aquiline nose, high cheek bones, eyes clear and full of fire; he had a bright complexion, and his face was much covered with freckles. He was a truly Christian man, and it was with the liveliest faith that he fulfilled all the duties of the Catholic religion.
At the time when Christopher Columbus was in correspondence with the astronomer Toscanelli, he learnt that the latter, at the request of Alphonso V., King of Portugal, had sent to the king a learned Memoir upon the possibility of reaching the Indies by the western route. Columbus was consulted, and supported the ideas of Toscanelli with all his influence; but without result, for the King of Portugal, who was engaged at the time in war with Spain, died, without having been able to give any attention to maritime discoveries. His successor, John II., adopted the plans of Columbus and Toscanelli with enthusiasm. At the same time, with most reprehensible cunning, he tried to deprive these two savants of the benefit of their proposition; without telling them, he sent out a caravel to attempt this great enterprise, and to reach China by crossing the Atlantic. But he had not reckoned upon the inexperience of his pilots, nor upon the violence of the storms which they might encounter; the result was, that some days after their departure, a hurricane brought back to Lisbon the sailors of the Portuguese king. Columbus was justly wounded by this unworthy action, and felt that he could not reckon upon a king who had so deceived him. His wife being dead, he left Spain with his son Diego, towards the end of the year 1484. It is thought that he went to Genoa and to Venice, where his projects of transoceanic navigation were but badly received.
Columbus knocks at a convent door.
However it may have been, in 1485 we find him again in Spain. This great man was poor, without resources. He travelled on foot, carrying Diego his little son of ten years old, in his arms. From this period of his life, history follows him step by step; she no more loses sight of him, and she has preserved to posterity the smallest incidents of this grand existence. We find Columbus arrived in Andalusia, only half a league from the port of Palos. Destitute, and dying of hunger, he knocked at the door of a Franciscan convent, dedicated to Santa Maria de Rabida, and asked for a little bread and water for his poor child and for himself. The superior of the convent, Juan Perez de Marchena, gave hospitality to the unfortunate traveller. He questioned him, and was surprised by the nobleness of his language, but still more astonished was he, by the boldness of the ideas of Columbus, who made the good Father the confidant of his aspirations. For several months the wandering sailor remained in this hospitable convent; some of the monks were learned men, and interested themselves about him and his projects; they studied his plans; they mentioned him to some of the well-known navigators of the time; and we must give them the credit of having been the first to believe in the genius of Christopher Columbus. Juan Perez showed still greater kindness; he offered to take upon himself the charge of the education of Diego, and he gave to Columbus a letter of recommendation addressed to the confessor of the Queen of Castille.
This confessor, prior of the monastery of Prado, was deep in the confidence of Ferdinand and Isabella; but he did not approve of the projects of the Genoese navigator, and he rendered him no service whatever with his royal penitent. Columbus must still resign himself to wait. He went to live at Cordova, where the court was soon to come, and for livelihood he resumed his trade of picture-seller. Is it possible to quote from the lives of illustrious men an instance of a more trying existence than this of the great navigator? Could ill-fortune have assailed any man with more cruel blows? But this indomitable, indefatigable man of genius, rising up again after each trial, did not despair. He felt within him the sacred fire of genius, he worked on unceasingly, he visited influential persons, spreading his ideas and defending them, and combating all objections with the most heroic energy. At length he obtained the protection of the great cardinal-archbishop of Toledo, Pedro Gonzalez de Mendoza, and thanks to him, was admitted into the presence of the King and Queen of Spain.
Christopher Columbus must have imagined himself now at the end of all his troubles. Ferdinand and Isabella received his project favourably, and caused it to be submitted for examination to a council of learned men, consisting of bishops and monks who were gathered together ad hoc in a Dominican convent at Salamanca. But the unfortunate pleader was not yet at the end of his vicissitudes. In this meeting at Salamanca all his judges were against him. The truth was, that his ideas interfered with the intolerant religious notions of the fifteenth century. The Fathers of the Church had denied the sphericity of the earth, and since the earth was not round they declared that a voyage of circumnavigation was absolutely contrary to the Bible, and could not therefore, on any logical theory, be undertaken. "Besides," said these theologians, "if any one should ever succeed in descending into the other hemisphere, how could he ever mount up again into this one?" This manner of arguing was a very formidable one at this period; for Christopher Columbus saw himself, in consequence, almost accused of heresy, the most unpardonable crime which could be committed in these intolerant countries. He escaped any evil consequences from the hostile disposition of the Council, but the execution of his project was again adjourned.
Building a caravel.
Long years passed away. The unfortunate man of genius, despairing of success in Spain, sent his brother to England to make an offer of his services to the king, Henry VII. But it is probable that the king gave no answer. Then Christopher Columbus turned again with unabated perseverance to Ferdinand, but Ferdinand was at this time engaged in a war of extermination against the Moors, and it was not until 1492, when he had chased the Moors from Spain, that he was able again to listen to the solicitations of the Genoese sailor.
This time the affair was thoroughly considered, and the king consented to the enterprise. But Columbus, as is the manner of proud natures, wished to impose his own conditions. They bargained over that which should enrich Spain! Columbus, in disgust, was without doubt ready to quit, and for ever, this ungrateful country, but Isabella, touched by the thought of the unbelievers of Asia, whom she hoped to convert to the Catholic faith, ordered Columbus to be recalled, and then acceded to all his demands.
Columbus was in the fifty-sixth year of his age when he signed a treaty with the King of Spain at Santa-Feta on the 17th of April, 1492, being eighteen years after he had first conceived his project, and seven years from the time of his quitting the monastery of Palos. By this solemn convention, the dignity of high admiral was to belong to Columbus in all the lands which he might discover, and this dignity was to descend in perpetuity to his heirs and successors. He was named viceroy and governor of the new possessions which he hoped to conquer in the rich countries of Asia, and one-tenth part of the pearls, precious stones, gold, silver, spices, provisions, and merchandise of whatever kind, which might be acquired in any manner whatsoever, within the limits of his jurisdiction, was of right to belong to him.
All was arranged, and at length Columbus was to put his cherished projects in execution. But let us repeat, he had no thought of meeting with the New World, of the existence of which he had not the faintest suspicion. His aim was "to explore the East by the West, and to pass by the way of the West to the Land whence come the spices." One may even aver that Columbus died in the belief that he had arrived at the shores of Asia, and never knew himself that he had made the discovery of America. But this in no way lessens his glory; the meeting with the new Continent was but an accident. The real cause of the immortal renown of Columbus was that audacity of genius which induced him to brave the dangers of an unknown ocean, to separate himself afar from those familiar shores, which, until now, navigators had never ventured to quit, to adventure himself upon the waves of the Atlantic Ocean in the frail ships of the period, which the first tempest might engulf, to launch himself, in a word, upon the deep darkness of an unknown sea.
The preparations began, Columbus entering into an arrangement with some rich navigators of Palos, the three brothers Pinzon, who made the necessary advances for defraying the expenses of fitting out the ships. Three caravels, named the Gallega, the Nina, and the Pinta, were equipped in the port of Palos. The Gallega was destined to carry the admiral, who changed her name to the Santa-Maria. The Pinta was commanded by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and the Nina by his two brothers, Francis Martin, and Vincent Yanez Pinzon. It was difficult to man the ships, sailors generally being frightened at the enterprise, but at last the captains succeeded in getting together one hundred and twenty men, and on Friday, August 3rd, 1492, the admiral crossing at eight o'clock in the morning the bar of Saltez, off the town of Huelva, in Andalusia, adventured himself with his three half-decked caravels upon the Atlantic waves.
During the first day's voyage, the admiral—the title by which he is usually known in the various accounts of his exploits—bearing directly southwards, sailed forty-five miles before sunset; turning then to the south-east, he steered for the Canaries, in order to repair the Pinta, which had unshipped her rudder, an accident caused perhaps by the ill-will of the steersman, who dreaded the voyage. Ten days later Columbus cast anchor before the Great Canary Island, where the rudder of the caravel was repaired. Nineteen days afterwards he arrived before Gomera, where the inhabitants assured him of the existence of an unknown land in the west of the Archipelago. He did not leave Gomera until the 6th of September. He had received warning that three Portuguese ships awaited him in the open sea, with the intention of barring his passage; however, without taking any heed of this news, he put to sea, cleverly avoided meeting his enemies, and steering directly westward, he lost all sight of land. During the voyage the admiral took care to conceal from his companions the true distance traversed each day; he made it appear less than it really was in the daily abstracts of his observations, that he might not add to the fear already felt by the sailors, by letting them know the real distance which separated them from Europe. Each day he watched the compasses with attention, and it is to him we owe the discovery of the magnetic variation, of which he took account in his calculations. The pilots, however, were much disturbed on seeing the compasses all "north-westers," as they expressed it.
Christopher Columbus on board his caravel.
On the 14th of September the sailors saw a swallow and some tropic-birds. The sight of these birds was an evidence of land being near, for they do not usually fly more than about seventy miles out to sea. The temperature was very mild, the weather magnificent; the wind blew from the east and wafted the caravels in the desired direction. But it was exactly this continuance of east wind which frightened the greater part of the sailors, who saw in this persistence, so favourable for the outward voyage, the promise of a formidable obstacle to their return home. On the 16th of September some tufts of seaweed, still fresh, were seen floating on the waves. But no land was to be seen, and this seaweed might possibly indicate the presence of submarine rocks, and not of the shores of a continent. On the 17th, thirty-five days after the departure of the expedition, floating weeds were frequently seen, and upon one mass of weed was found a live cray-fish, a sure sign this of the proximity of land.
During the following days a large number of birds, such as gannets, sea-swallows, and tropic-birds, flew around the caravels. Columbus turned their presence to account as a means of reassuring his companions, who were beginning to be terribly frightened at not meeting with land after six weeks of sailing. His own confidence never abated, but putting firm trust in God, he often addressed energetic words of comfort to those around him, and made them each evening chant the Salve Regina, or some other hymn to the Virgin. At the words of this heroic man, so noble, so sure of himself, so superior to all human weaknesses, the courage of the sailors revived, and they again went onwards.
We can well imagine how anxiously both officers and men scanned the western horizon towards which they were steering. Each one had a pecuniary motive for wishing to be the first to descry the New Continent, King Ferdinand having promised a reward of 10,000 maravédis, or 400 pounds sterling, to the first discoverer. The latter days of the month of September were enlivened by the presence of numerous large birds, petrels, man-of-war birds, and damiers, flying in couples, a sign that they were not far away from home. So Columbus retained his unshaken conviction that land could not be far off.
On the 1st of October, the admiral announced to his companions that they had made 1272 miles to the west since leaving Ferro; in reality, the distance traversed exceeded 2100 miles, and of this Columbus was quite aware, but persisted in his policy of disguising the truth in this particular. On the 7th of October, the crews were excited by hearing discharges of musketry from the Nina, the commanders of which, the two brothers Pinzon, thought they had descried the land; they soon found, however, that they had been mistaken. Still, on their representing that they had seen some parroquets flying in a south-westerly direction, the admiral consented to change his route so far as to steer some points to the south, a change which had happy consequences in the future, for had they continued to run directly westward, the caravels would have been aground upon the great Bahama Bank, and would probably have been altogether destroyed.
Still the ardently desired land did not appear. Each evening the sun as it went down dipped behind an interminable horizon of water. The crews who had several times been the victims of an optical illusion, now began to murmur against Columbus, "the Genoese, the foreigner," who had enticed them so far away from their country. Some symptoms of mutiny had already shown themselves on board the vessels, when, on the 10th of October, the sailors openly declared that they would go no further. In treating of this part of the voyage, the historians would seem to have drawn somewhat upon their imagination; they narrate scenes of serious import which took place upon the admiral's caravel, the sailors going so far as even to threaten his life. They say also, that the recriminations ended by a kind of arrangement, granting a respite of three days to Columbus, at the end of which time, should land not have been then discovered, the fleet was to set out on its return to Europe. All these statements we may look upon as pure fiction; there is nothing in the accounts given by Columbus himself which lends them the smallest credibility. But it has been needful to touch upon them, for nothing must be omitted relating to the great Genoese Navigator, and some amount of legend mixed up with history does not ill beseem the grand figure of Christopher Columbus. Still, it is an undoubted fact that there was much murmuring on board the caravels, but it would seem that the crews, cheered by the words of the admiral, and by his brave attitude in the midst of uncertainty, did not refuse to do their duty in working the ships.
On the 11th of October, the admiral noticed alongside of his vessel, a reed still green, floating upon the top of a large wave: at the same time the crew of the Pinta hoisted on board another reed, a small board, and a little stick, which appeared to have been cut with an instrument of iron; it was evident that human hands had been employed upon these things. Almost at the same moment, the men of the Nina perceived a branch of some thorny tree covered with blossoms. At all this every one rejoiced exceedingly; there could be no doubt now of the proximity of the coast. Night fell over the sea. The Pinta, the best sailor of the three vessels, was leading. Already, Columbus himself, and one Rodrigo Sanchez, comptroller of the expedition, had thought they had seen a light moving amidst the shadows of the horizon, when a sailor named Rodrigo, on board the Pinta, cried out, "Land, land."
What must have been the feelings in the breast of Columbus at that moment?
What must have been the feelings in the breast of Columbus at that moment? Never had any man, since the first creation of the human race experienced a similar emotion to that now felt by the great navigator. Perhaps even it is allowable to think that the eye which first saw this New Continent, was indeed that of the admiral himself. But what matters it? The glory of Columbus consisted not in the having arrived, his glory was in the having set out. It was at two o'clock in the morning that the land was first seen, when the caravels were not two hours' sail away from it. At once all the crews deeply moved, joined in singing together the Salve Regina. With the first rays of the sun they saw a little island, six miles to windward of them. It was one of the Bahama group; Columbus named it San Salvador, and immediately falling on his knees, he began to repeat the hymn of Saint Ambrose and Saint Augustine: "Te Deum laudamus, Te Deum confitemur."
When Columbus returned on board, several of the savages swam after his boat; the next day, the 13th, they came in crowds around the ships, on board of enormous canoes shaped out of the trunks of trees; they were guided by means of a kind of baker's shovel, and some of the canoes were capable of holding forty men. Several natives wore little plates of gold hanging from their nostrils; they appeared much surprised at the arrival of the strangers, and quite believed that these white men must have fallen from the skies. It was with a mixture of respect and curiosity that they touched the garments of the Spaniards, considering them doubtless, a kind of natural plumage. The scarlet coat of the admiral excited their admiration above everything, and it was evident they looked upon Columbus as a parroquet of a superior species; at once they seemed to recognize him as the chief amongst the strangers.
So Columbus and his followers visited this new island of San Salvador. They were never tired of admiring the beauty of its situation, its magnificent groves, its running streams, and verdant meadows. The fauna of the island offered little variety; parroquets of radiant plumage abounded amongst the trees, but they appeared to be the only species of birds upon the island. San Salvador presented an almost flat plateau of which no mountain broke the uniformity; a small lake occupied the centre of the island. The explorers imagined that San Salvador must contain great mineral riches, since the inhabitants were adorned with ornaments of gold. But was this precious metal derived from the island itself? Upon this point the admiral questioned one of the natives, and succeeded in learning from him by means of signs, that in turning the island and sailing towards the south, the admiral would find a country of which the king possessed great vessels of gold and immense riches. The next morning, at daybreak, Columbus gave orders to have the ships prepared for sea; he set sail, and steered towards the continent of which the natives had spoken, which, as he imagined, could be none other than Cipango.
Here an important observation must be made, showing the state of geographical knowledge at this period: viz. that Columbus now believed himself to have arrived at Asia, Cipango being the name given by Marco Polo to Japan. This error of the admiral, shared in by all his companions, was not rectified for many years afterwards, and thus, as we have already remarked, the great navigator after four successive voyages to the islands, died, without knowing that he had discovered a new world. It is beyond doubt that the sailors of Columbus, and Columbus himself, imagined that they had arrived, during that night of the 12th October, 1492, either at Japan, or China, or the Indies. This is the reason why America so long bore the name of the "Western Indies," and why the aborigines of this continent, in Brazil and in Mexico, as well as in the United States, are still classed under the general appellation of "Indians."
So Columbus dreamt only of reaching the shores of Japan. He coasted along San Salvador, exploring its western side. The natives, running down to the shore, offered him water and cassava bread, made from the root of a plant called the "Yucca." Several times the admiral landed upon the coast at different points, and with a sad want of humanity, he carried away some of the natives, that he might take them with him to Spain. Poor men! already the strangers began to tear them from their country; it would not be long before they began to sell them! At last the caravels lost sight of San Salvador, and were again upon the wide ocean.
Fortune had favoured Columbus in thus guiding him into the centre of one of the most beautiful archipelagos which the world contains. These new lands which he discovered were as a casket of precious stones, which needed only to be opened, and the hands of the discoverer were full of treasures. On the 15th October, at sunset, the flotilla came to anchor near the western point of a second island, at a distance of only fifteen miles from San Salvador; this island was named Conception; on the morrow the admiral landed upon the shore, having his men well armed for fear of surprise; the natives, however, proved to be of the same race as those of San Salvador, and gave a kind welcome to the Spaniards. A south-easterly wind having arisen, Columbus soon put to sea again, and twenty-seven miles further westward, he discovered a third island, which he called Fernandina, but which now goes by the name of the Great Exuma. All night they lay-to, and next day, the 17th October, large native canoes came off to the vessels. The relations with the natives were excellent, the savages peacefully exchanging fruit, and small balls of cotton for glass beads, tambourines, needles, which took their fancy greatly, and some molasses, of which they appeared very fond. These natives of Fernandina wore some clothing, and appeared altogether more civilized than those of San Salvador; they inhabited houses made in the shape of tents and having high chimneys; the interiors of these dwellings were remarkably clean and well kept. The western side of the island, with its deeply indented shore, formed a grand natural harbour, capable of containing a hundred vessels.
But Fernandina did not afford the riches so much coveted by the Spaniards as spoils to take back to Europe; there were no gold-mines here; the natives who were on board the flotilla always spoke, however, of a larger island, situated to the south and called Saometo, in which the precious metal was found. Columbus steered in the direction indicated, and during the night of Friday, the 19th of October, he cast anchor near this Saometo, calling it Isabella; in modern maps it goes by the name of Long Island. According to the natives of San Salvador, there was a powerful king in this island, but the admiral for several days awaited in vain the advent of this great personage; he did not show himself. The island of Isabella was beautiful of aspect, with its clear lakes, and thick forests; the Spaniards were never tired of admiring the new type of nature presented to their view, and of which the intense verdure was wonderful to European eyes. Parroquets in innumerable flocks were flying amongst the thick trees, and great lizards, doubtless iguanas, glided with rapid movements in the high grass. The inhabitants of the island fled at first at the sight of the foreigners, but soon becoming bolder, they trafficked with the Spaniards in the productions of their country.
Still Columbus held firmly to the notion of reaching the shores of Japan. The natives had mentioned to him a large island a little to the west which they called Cuba, and this the admiral supposed must form part of the kingdom of Cipango; he felt little doubt but that he would soon arrive at the town of Quinsay, or Hang-tchoo-foo, formerly the capital of China. With this object, as soon as the winds permitted, the fleet weighed anchor. On Thursday, the 25th of October, seven or eight islands lying in a straight line were sighted, these were probably the Mucaras. Columbus did not stop to visit them, and on the Sunday he came in sight of Cuba. The caravels were moored in a river, to which the Spaniards gave the name of San Salvador; after a short stay, they sailed again towards the west, and entered a harbour situated at the mouth of a large river which was afterwards called the harbour of Las Nuevitas del Principe.
Numerous palm-trees were growing upon the shores of the island, having leaves so broad that only one was required for roofing a native hut. The natives had fled at the approach of the Spaniards, who found upon the shore idols of female form, tame birds, bones of animals, also dumb dogs, and some fishing instruments. The Cuban savages, however, were ready to be enticed like the others, and they consented to barter their goods with the Spaniards. Columbus believed himself to be now on the mainland, and only a few leagues from Hang-tchoo-foo; this idea being so rooted in his mind, that he even busied himself in despatching some presents to the great Khan of China. On the 2nd of November he desired one of the officers of his ship, and a Jew who could speak Hebrew, Chaldee, and Arabic, to set out to seek this native monarch. The ambassadors, carrying with them strings of beads, and having six days given to them for the fulfilment of their mission, started, taking a route leading towards the interior of this so-called continent.
In the meantime, Columbus explored for nearly six miles a splendid river which flowed beneath the shade of woods of odoriferous trees. The inhabitants freely bartered their goods with the Spaniards, and frequently mentioned to them a place named Bohio, where gold and pearls might be obtained in abundance. They added that men lived there who had dogs' heads, and who fed upon human flesh.
The admiral's envoys returned to the port on the 6th of November, after a four days' absence. Two days had sufficed to bring them to a village composed of about fifty huts, where they were received with every mark of respect; the natives kissing their feet and hands, and taking them for deities descended from the skies. Among other details of native customs, they reported that both men and women smoked tobacco by means of a forked pipe, drawing up the smoke through their nostrils. These savages were acquainted with the secret of obtaining fire by rubbing briskly two pieces of wood against each other. Cotton was found in large quantities in the houses, made up into the form of tents, one of these containing as much as 11,000 pounds of the material. As to the grand khan they saw no vestige of him.
Another consequence of the error of Columbus must be noticed here, one which, according to Irving, changed the whole series of his discoveries. He believed himself to be on the coast of Asia, and therefore looked upon Cuba as a portion of that continent. In consequence, he never thought of making the tour of Cuba, but decided on returning towards the east. Now, had he not been deceived on this occasion, and had he continued to follow the same direction as at first, the results of his enterprise would have been greatly modified. He might then have drifted towards Florida at the south-eastern point of North America, or he might have run direct to Mexico. In this latter case, instead of ignorant and savage natives, what would he have found? The inhabitants of the great Aztec Empire, of the half-civilized kingdom of Montezuma. There he would have seen towns, armies, enormous wealth, and his rôle would no doubt have been the same as that afterwards played by Fernando Cortès. But it was not to be thus, and the admiral, persevering in his mistake, directed his flotilla towards the east, weighing anchor on the 12th of November, 1492.
Columbus tacked in and out along the Cuban coast; he saw the two mountains—Cristal and Moa; he explored a harbour to which he gave the name of Puerto del Principe, and an archipelago which he called the Sea of Nuestra Señora. Each night the fishermen's fires were seen upon the numerous islands, the inhabitants of which lived upon spiders and huge worms. Several times the Spaniards landed upon different points of the coast, and there planted the cross as a sign of taking possession of the country. The natives often spoke to the admiral about a certain island of Babeque, where gold abounded, and thither Columbus resolved to go, but Martin-Alonzo Pinzon, the captain of the Pinta, the best sailer of the three ships, was beforehand with him, and at day-break on the 21st of November, he had completely disappeared from sight. The admiral was very angry at this separation, his feelings on the subject appearing plainly in his narrative, where he says, "Pinzon has said and done to me many like things." Continuing his exploration of the coast of Cuba, Columbus discovered the Bay of Moa, the Point of Mangle, Point Vaez, and the harbour of Barracoa, but nowhere did he meet with cannibals, although the huts of the natives were often to be seen adorned with human skulls, a sight which appeared to give great satisfaction to the islanders on board the fleet. On the following days, they saw the Boma River, and the caravels, doubling the point of Los Azules, found themselves upon the eastern part of the island, whose coast they had now reconnoitred for a distance of 375 miles. But Columbus instead of continuing his route to the south turned off to the east, and on the 5th of December perceived a large island, called by the natives Bohio. This was Hayti, or San Domingo.
In the evening, the Nina by the admiral's orders, entered a harbour which was named Port Mary; it is situated at the north-western extremity of the island, and, with the cape near which it lies, is now called St. Nicholas. The next day the Spaniards discovered a number of headlands, and an islet, called Tortuga Island. Everywhere on the appearance of the ships, the Indian canoes took to flight. The island, along which they were now coasting, appeared very large and very high, from which latter peculiarity it gained, later on, its name of Hayti, which signifies High Land. The coast was explored by the Spaniards as far as Mosquito Bay; its natural features, its plains and hills, its plants and the birds which fluttered amongst the beautiful trees of the island, all recalled to the memory the landscapes of Castille, and for this reason Columbus named it Hispaniola, or Spanish Island. The inhabitants were extremely timid and distrustful; they fled away into the interior and no communication could be held with them. Some sailors, however, succeeded in capturing a young woman, whom they carried on board with them. She was young and rather pretty. The admiral gave her, besides rings and beads, some clothing, of which she had great need, and after most generous treatment, he sent her back to shore.
This good conduct had the result of taming the natives, and the next day, when nine of the sailors, well armed, ventured as far as sixteen miles inland, they were received with respect, the savages running to them in crowds, and offering them everything which their country produced. The sailors returned to the ships enchanted with their excursion. The interior of the island they had found rich in cotton plants, mastic-trees and aloes, while a fine river, named afterwards the Three Rivers, flowed gently along its limpid course. On December 15th, Columbus again set sail, and was carried by the wind towards Tortuga Island, upon which he saw a navigable stream of water, and a valley so beautiful that he called it the Vale of Paradise. The day following, having tacked into a deep gulf, an Indian was seen who, notwithstanding the violence of the wind, was skilfully manoeuvring a light canoe. This Indian was invited to come on board, was loaded with presents by the admiral, and then put on shore again, at one of the harbours of Hispaniola, now called the Puerto de Paz. This kindness tended to attach the natives to the admiral, and from that day they came in numbers round the caravels; their king came with them, a strong, vigorous, and somewhat stout young man of twenty years of age; he was naked, like his subjects of both sexes, who showed him much respect, but with no appearance of servility. Columbus ordered royal honours to be rendered to him, and in return, the king, or rather cacique, informed the admiral that the provinces to the east abounded in gold.
Columbus named it the Vale of Paradise.
Next day another cacique arrived, offering to place all the treasures of his country at the service of the Spaniards. He was present at a fête in honour of the Virgin Mary, that Columbus caused to be celebrated with great pomp on board his vessel, which was gaily dressed with flags on the occasion. The cacique dined at the admiral's table, apparently enjoying the repast; after he had himself tasted of the different viands and beverages, he sent the dishes and goblets to the members of his suite; he had good manners, spoke little, but showed great politeness. After the feast, he gave the admiral some thin leaves of gold, while Columbus, on his side, presented him with some coins, upon which were engraved the portraits of Ferdinand and Isabella, and after explaining to him by signs that these were the representations of the most powerful sovereigns in the world, he caused the royal banners of Castille to be displayed before the savage prince. When night fell, the cacique retired, highly delighted with his visit; and on his departure he was saluted with a salvo of artillery. On the day following, the crews before quitting this hospitable coast, set up a large cross in the middle of the little town. In issuing from the gulf formed by Tortuga Island and Hispaniola, they discovered several harbours, capes, bays, and rivers; at the point of Limbé, a small island which Columbus named St. Thomas, and finally, an enormous harbour safe and sheltered, hidden between the island and the Bay of Acul, and to which access was given by a canal surrounded by high mountains covered with trees.
The admiral often disembarked upon this coast, the natives receiving him as an ambassador from heaven, and imploring him to remain among them. Columbus gave them quantities of little bells, brass rings, glass beads, and other toys, which they eagerly accepted. A cacique named Guacanagari, reigning over the province of Marien, sent to the admiral a belt adorned with the figure of an animal with large ears, of which the nose and tongue were made of beaten gold. Gold appeared to be abundant in the island, and the natives soon brought a considerable quantity of it to the strangers. The inhabitants of this part of Hispaniola seemed to be superior in intelligence and appearance to those of that portion of the island which had been first visited; in the opinion of Columbus, the paint, red, black, or white, with which the natives covered their bodies, served to protect them from sunstroke. The huts of these savages were pretty and well built. Upon Columbus questioning them as to the country which produced gold, they always indicated one towards the east, a country which they called Cibao, and which the admiral continued to identify with Cipango or Japan.
On Christmas Day a serious accident occurred to the admiral's caravel, the first damage sustained in this hitherto prosperous voyage. An inexperienced steersman was at the helm of the Santa-Maria during an excursion outside the Gulf of St. Thomas; night came on, and he allowed the vessel to be caught in some currents which threw her upon the rocks; the caravel grounded and her rudder stuck fast. The admiral, awakened by the shock, ran upon deck; he ordered an anchor to be fastened forward, by which the ship might warp herself off and so float again. The master and some of the sailors charged with the execution of this order, jumped into the long boat, but seized with a sudden panic, they rowed away in haste to the Nina. Meantime the tide fell, and the Santa-Maria ran further aground; it became necessary to cut away the masts to lighten her, and soon it was evident that everything on board must be removed to the other ship. The cacique Guacanagari, quite understanding the dangerous situation of the caravel, came with his brothers and other relations, accompanied by a great number of the Indians, and helped in unlading the ship. Thanks to this prince, not a single article of the cargo was stolen, and during the whole night armed natives kept watch around the stores of provisions.
The next day Guacanagari went on board the Nina, to console the admiral, and to place all his own possessions at his disposal, at the same time offering him a repast of bread, doe's flesh, fish, roots, and fruit. Columbus, much moved by these tokens of friendship, formed the design of founding an establishment on this island. With this purpose in view, he addressed himself to gain the hearts of the Indians by presents and kindness, and wishing also to give them an adequate notion of his power, he ordered the discharge of an arquebuse and a small cannon, of which the reports frightened the poor savages terribly. On December 26th, the Spaniards commenced the construction of a fort upon this part of the coast, the intention of the admiral being to leave there a certain number of men, with a year's provision of bread, wine, and seed, and to give them the long boat belonging to the Santa-Maria. The works at the fort were pushed forward with rapidity. It was also on the 26th that they received news of the Pinta, which had been separated from the flotilla since November 21st. The natives announced that she was at anchor in a river at the extreme point of the island, but a canoe despatched by Guacanagari returned without having found her. Then Columbus, not wishing to continue his explorations under the present conditions, since the loss of the Santa-Maria, which could not be floated again, left him but one caravel, decided to return to Spain, and preparations for the departure began.
On the 2nd of January Columbus caused his soldiers to act a mimic battle, greatly to the admiration of the cacique and his subjects. Afterwards the admiral chose out thirty-nine men to form the garrison of the fortress during his absence, naming Rodrigo de Escovedo as their commander. The greater part of the cargo of the Santa-Maria was to be left behind with them, for their year's provision. Amongst these first colonists of the New World were included a writer, an alguazil, a cooper, a doctor, and a tailor. These Spaniards were charged with the mission of seeking for gold-mines, and of choosing a suitable site for the building of a town. On the 3rd of January, after solemn leave-takings of the cacique and the new colonists, the Nina weighed anchor and sailed out of the harbour. An island was soon discovered, having upon it a very high mountain; to this was given the name of Monte-Christi. Columbus had already sailed for two days along the coast, when he was aware of the approach of the Pinta, and very soon her captain, Martin Alonzo Pinzon, came on board the Nina, endeavouring to excuse his conduct. The real truth was that Pinzon had taken the lead with the view of being the first to reach the pretended island of Babeque, of which the riches had been described in glowing colours by the natives. The admiral was very ready to accept the bad reasons given him by Captain Pinzon, and learnt from him that the Pinta had done nothing but coast along the shores of Hispaniola, without discovering any new island.
On the 7th of January the ships lay to, to stop a leak which had sprung in the hold of the Nina. Columbus profited by this delay to explore a wide river, situated about three miles from Monte-Christi, and which carried so much gold-dust along with it, that he gave it the name of the Golden River. The admiral would have desired to visit this part of Hispaniola with greater care, but the crews were in haste to return home, and under the influence of the brothers Pinzon, began to murmur against his authority.
On the 9th of January the caravels set sail and steered towards the east-south-east, skirting the coast, and distinguishing by names even its smallest sinuosities; of such were point Isabella, the cape of La Roca, French Cape, Cape Cabron, and the Bay of Samana, situated at the eastern extremity of the island, where was a port, in which the fleet, being becalmed, came to anchor. At first the relations between the foreigners and the natives were excellent, but a change was suddenly perceived, the savages ceasing to barter, and making some hostile demonstrations, which left no doubt of the bad intentions entertained by them. On the 13th of January the savages made a sudden and unexpected attack upon the Spaniards, who, however, put a bold face on the matter, and by the aid of their weapons, put their enemies to flight after a few minutes' combat. Thus, for the first time, the blood of the Indian flowed beneath the hand of the European.
On the morrow Columbus again set sail, having on board four young natives, whom, notwithstanding their objections, he persisted in carrying off with him. His crews, embittered and fatigued, caused him great uneasiness, and in his narrative of the voyage, this great man, superior though he were to all human weaknesses, and a being whom adverse fate could not humble, bemoans himself bitterly over this trial. It was on the 16th of January that the homeward voyage commenced in good earnest, and Cape Samana, the extreme point of Hispaniola, disappeared below the horizon. The passage proved a quick one, and no incident is recorded until the 12th of February, when the vessels encountered a fearful storm lasting three days, with furious wind, enormous waves, and much lightning from the north-north-east. Three times did the terrified sailors make a vow of pilgrimage to St. Mary of Guadalupe, to our Lady of Loretto, and to St. Clara of Moguer, and at length, in extremity of fear, the whole crew swore to go and pray in their shirts and with naked feet in some church dedicated to the Virgin. But in spite of all, the storm raged with redoubled fury, and even the admiral feared for the result. In case of a catastrophe, he thought it well hastily to write upon a parchment an abstract of his discoveries, with a request that who ever should find the document would forward it to the King of Spain; wrapping the parchment in oil-cloth, he enclosed it in a wooden barrel, which was thrown into the sea.
At sunrise on the 15th of February the hurricane abated, the two caravels which had been separated by the storm again joined company, and after three days they cast anchor at the island of St. Mary, one of the Azores; as soon as they arrived there, the admiral sought to further the accomplishment of the vows made during the storm, and with this object, sent half of his people on shore; but these were unhappily made prisoners by the Portuguese, who did not restore them to liberty for five days, notwithstanding the urgent remonstrances made by Columbus. The admiral put to sea again on the 23rd of February; again the winds were contrary, and again, amidst a violent tempest, he took fresh vows in company with all his crew, promising to fast on the first Saturday which should follow their arrival in Spain. At last, on the 4th of March, the pilots sighted the mouth of the Tagus, in which the Nina took refuge, whilst the Pinta, caught by the wind, was carried away into the Bay of Biscay.
The Portuguese welcomed the admiral kindly, the king even admitting him to an audience. Columbus was in haste to return to Spain; as soon as the weather permitted, the Nina again set sail, and at mid-day on the 15th of March, she cast anchor in the port of Palos, after seven months and a half of navigation, during which Columbus had discovered the islands of San Salvador, Conception, Great Exuma, Long Island, the Mucaras, Cuba, and San Domingo.
The court of Ferdinand and Isabella was then at Barcelona, whither the admiral was summoned. He set out immediately, taking with him the Indians whom he had brought from the New World. The enthusiasm he excited was extreme; from all parts the people ran to look at him as he passed, rendering him royal honours. His entry into Barcelona was magnificent. The king and queen, with the grandees of Spain, received him with great pomp at the palace of the Deputation. He there gave an account of his wonderful voyage, and presented the specimens of gold which he had brought with him; then all the assembly knelt down and chanted the Te Deum. Christopher Columbus was afterwards ennobled by letters patent, and the king granted him a coat of arms bearing this device: "To Castille and Leon, Columbus gives a New World." The fame of the Genoese navigator rang through the whole of Europe; the Indians whom he had brought with him were baptized in presence of the whole court; and thus, the man of genius, so long poor and unknown, had now risen to the highest point of celebrity.
Page 1 of 2
TO CONTINUE IN PAGE 2
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 1
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 2
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 3
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 4
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 5
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 6
History Channel - Documentary about Columbus - Part 7 of 7
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Did Columbus really discover America