From The Log of Christopher Columbus.


He did not start as the wind was still contrary and as it rained hard. He placed a large cross at the entrance of that harbour which I believe he called the Puerto Santo, in some solid rocks. The point is the one on the south-eastern side at the entrance to the harbour and whoever is obliged to enter this harbour must approach nearer to the point on the north-west than to the other on the south-east. Although at the foot of both points, next to the rock, there are twelve fathoms of water and it is very clear, yet at the entrance to the harbour, off the south-east point there is a shoal which shows above the surface of the water, which is far enough distant from the point so that one can pass between them if necessary, because at the foot of the shoal and of the cape the water is all twelve or fifteen fathoms deep, and at the entrance the prow must be turned to the south-west.


The wind was still contrary and he could not start. He says that every night there is a land breeze and that all the ships that may come there need have no fear of all the tempests in the world because they cannot reach the ships inside, on account of a shoal which is at the entrance to the harbour, etc. In the mouth of that river he says a ship's boy found certain stones which appeared to contain gold, and he brought them to show to the Sovereigns. He says that at a distance of a lombard shot from that place there are large rivers.


As the wind continued contrary he did not start from that harbour and he decided to go and see a very beautiful cape a quarter of a league from the harbour in the direction of the south-east: he went with the boats and some armed people: at the foot of the cape there was the mouth of a good river. He turned his prow to the south-east in order to enter and it was a hundred paces in width: it was a fathom deep at the entrance or in the mouth; but inside it was twelve fathoms, or five, and four, and two, and would contain as many ships as there are in Spain. Passing a branch of that river he went to the south-east and found a small bay or inlet in which he saw five very large rafts which the Indians call canoes, like fustas, very beautiful, and carved so that he says it was a pleasure to see them and at the foot of the mountain he saw that the land was all cultivated. They were under some very thick trees and in going along a path which led to them, they came across a ship yard very well arranged and covered so that neither the sun nor the water could do injury, and in it there was another canoe made of wood like the rest, like a fusta with seventeen benches for the rowers: it was a pleasure to see how it was constructed and its beauty. He ascended a mountain and then he found it all level and sowed with many products of the land and gourds, and it was delightful to see it: and in the midst of it there was a large village. He came suddenly upon the people of the village and as they saw the Spaniards they started to flee. The Indian whom the Spaniards had with them reassured them saying that they must not be afraid as they were good people. The Admiral caused them to be given hawks' bells and rings of brass and little green and yellow glass beads, with which they were much pleased. He saw that they had no gold nor any other precious thing and that it was sufficient to leave them in security and that all the surrounding territory was populated and that at the others fled through fear: and the Admiral assures the Sovereigns that ten men cause ten thousand Indians to flee. They are such cowards and so fearful that they carry no arms except spears, and on the end of the spears they have a small sharp stick which is hardened. He decided to return. He says that he easily took all the spears away from them, trading for them so that they gave away all they had. Having returned to the place where he had left the boats he sent certain Christians to the place where he had ascended, because it appeared to him that he had seen a large apiary. Before these people whom he had sent, returned, many Indians gathered and came to the boats where the Admiral had already united all his people. One of them went forward into the water near to the stern of the boat, and made a long speech which the Admiral did not understand, except that the other Indians from time to time raised their hands to heaven and shouted loudly. The Admiral thought they were re-assuring him and that his coming pleased them; but he saw the Indian he was taking with him change countenance and become yellow like wax and tremble greatly, saying by signs that the Admiral must go away out of the river as the Indians wished to kill them: and he approached a Christian who had a loaded cross-bow and showed it to the Indians and the Admiral understood that he said to them that it would kill them all because that cross-bow went a long ways and killed. He also took a sword and drew it from the scabbard, showing it to them and saying the same thing and when they heard that, they all commenced to flee, leaving the said Indian still trembling through cowardice and lack of courage, and he was a strong man and of good stature. The Admiral would not go out of the river but rather made them row inland toward the place where the Indians were, who were in great number, all stained with red and naked as their mothers gave them birth and some of them had feathers upon their heads and other plumes, and they all had handfuls of spears. "I approached them and gave them some mouthfuls of bread and asked them for their spears and I gave them for the spears, to some a small hawk's bell, to others a cheap little brass ring, and to others some worthless little beads: so that they all became pacified and they all came to the boats and gave us whatever they had for whatever was given them. The sailors had killed a tortoise and the pieces of the shell lay in the boat and the boys gave the Indians a piece as large as the finger nail, and the Indians gave them a handful of spears. They are people like the others I have found (says the Admiral) and have the same belief, and they believe that we came from heaven and whatever they have they without saying that it is little then give for whatever may be given them, and I believe that they would do the same with spices and gold if they had them. I saw a beautiful house not very large and having two doors, as they are all built so, and I entered it and saw a wonderful arrangement like chambers constructed in a certain manner which I do not know how to describe, with shells and other things fastened to the ceiling. And I thought it was a temple, and I called them and asked by signs if they prayed in it, and they said no, and one of them went up overhead and gave me all they had there, and I took some of it."


He made sail with a light wind arid went out of that port which he named Puerto Santo: at a distance of two leagues he saw a good river of which he spoke yesterday. He went along the coast and all the land beyond the said cape extended east-south-east and west-north-west as far as Cabo Lindo which is to the east of the Cabo del Monte quarter south-east, and it is five leagues from one to the other. A league and a half from the Cabo del Monte there is another large river, somewhat crooked, and it appeared to have a good entrance and to be very deep; and three-quarters of a league from there he saw another very large river and it must flow from a long distance. It was a good one hundred paces wide at the mouth and there was no shoal in it and it was eight fathoms deep and had a good entrance, because he sent a boat to see it and sound it: and the water is fresh at some distance out into the sea and it is one of the richest he has found and must have large villages. Beyond Cabo Lindo there is a large bay which extends some distance to the east-north-east and south-east and south-south-west.


During all this night he beat about off Cabo Lindo, where he was at nightfall, in order to see the country which extended to the east and at sunrise he saw another cape two leagues and a half to the east: having passed that he saw that the coast turned to the south and inclined to the south-west and then saw a very high and beautiful cape in the said course and it was distant seven leagues from the other: He would have liked to go there had it not been that he was desirous of going to the island of Babeque which lay to the north-east according to what the Indians he was taking with him said, so he left it. Neither could he go to Babeque because the wind which was prevailing was north-east. While going along in this manner he looked to the south-east and saw land I and it was a very large island of which he says he had already been told by the Indians and that they called it Bohio and it was inhabited. He says that the inhabitants of Cuba or Juana and of all the other islands are very much afraid of these people, because he says that they eat men. The said Indians told him other very wonderful things by signs: but the Admiral does not say that he believed them, only that the natives of that island of Bohio must be more astute and intelligent in order to capture the others, as they were very much lacking in courage. Therefore as the wind was north-east and was becoming north, he determined to leave Cuba or Juana, which up to that time he had considered to be the continental land on account of its size as he had gone fully one hundred and twenty leagues on one of its coasts, and he started to the south-east quarter east; although the land which he had seen receded to the south-east this insured protection, because the wind always changed around from north to north-east and from there to the east and south-east. The wind changed a great deal and he carried all his sails, the sea was calm and the current helped him so that from morning until one o'clock he made eight miles an and that was not quite six hours, because they say there that the nights are about fifteen hours; afterwards he went ten miles an hour: and in this manner he went until sunset eighty-eight miles, which are twenty-two leagues all to the south-east. And as it was getting towards night, the Admiral ordered the caravel Nina to go onward and see the harbour by daylight, as she was a fast sailor: and on reaching the mouth of the harbour which was like the bay of Cadiz and as it was already night, the Nina sent her boat to sound the harbour which boat carried a lighted candle: and before the Admiral reached the place where the caravel was beating about and waiting for the boat to make signals to enter the harbour, the light in the boat was extinguished. As they saw no light the caravel ran out and made a light for the Admiral to see and he having reached them, they told him what had happened. While they were in this situation, the people in the boat made another light. The caravel went to the boat and the Admiral was not able to do so and remained all that night beating about.


When dawn came he found himself four leagues from the harbour. He named it Puerto Maria and he saw a beautiful cape to the south, quarter south-west which he named Cabo del Estrella, and it appeared to him that it was the last land of that island toward the south, and that the Admiral was about twenty-eight miles distant from it. Another country appeared to the east, like an island of no great size, at a distance of about forty miles. Another very beautiful cape of good shape lay to the east quarter south-east which he named Cabo del Elefante, and it was fifty-four miles distant from him. Another cape lay to the east-south-east which he named Cabo de Cinquin, and it was about twenty-eight miles distant from him. There was a large opening or arm of the sea which appeared like a river to the south-east a little on the quarter of the east and it was a matter of twenty miles distant from him. It appeared to him that between the Cabo del Elefante and Cinquin there was a very large channel and some of the sailors said it was a division of the island: he named that the Isla de la Tortuga. That great island appeared to be a very high land, not encircled by mountains but level like beautiful fields and it appeared to be all cultivated or a large part of it and the crops looked like wheat in the month of May in the country of Cordova. They saw many fires that night and by day much smoke like watch towers which appeared to be to guard against some people with whom they might be at war. At the coast of this land extends to the east. At the hour of vespers they entered the said harbour and as it was the day of St. Nicholas he named it Puerto de San Nicolao his honour, and at the entrance of the harbour they wondered at its beauty and goodness. And although he has praised the harbours of Cuba greatly, still without doubt he says that this one is not inferior hut rather surpasses them and none of them are similar to it. At the mouth and entrance it is a league and a half wide and the prow is turned to the south-south-east, although on account of the great width the prow can be turned wherever desired. It extends in this manner to the south-south-east two leagues: and at its entrance in the direction of the south it forms something like a promontory and from there it extends thus level as far as the cape where there is a very beautiful beach and a field of trees of a thousand kinds and all loaded with fruits which the Admiral believed to be spices and nutmegs but as they were not ripe he did not recognise the kind: and there was a river in the middle of the beach. The depth of this harbour is wonderful as up to arriving at land for a length of {lacuna} the lead did not touch the bottom at forty fathoms and there is, up to this stretch of water, a depth of fifteen fathoms and it is very clear, and so all the said harbour from each point up to the distance of a pace from land, is fifteen fathoms deep and clear. And in this manner all the water along the coast is very deep and clear so that not a single shoal appears: and at the foot of the land at about the distance of a boat's oar from it, it is five fathoms in depth and beyond the space of the said harbour, extending to the south-south-east, in which harbour a thousand caracks could beat about, an inlet of the harbour extends to the north-east a good half league inland, and always of the same width as if it were measured with a cord. It is so situated that being in that inlet which is twenty-five paces in width, the mouth of the large entrance cannot be seen, so that this harbour is inclosed; and the depth of this inlet from the beginning to the end is eleven fathoms and it all has a sandy bottom and it is eight fathoms deep up to where the vessels can touch land. All the harbour is very breezy and desabahado shelterless and there are no trees around it. All this island appears to have more rocks than any other which has been found: the trees are smaller and many of them are the same kind as those in Spain such as evergreen oaks and strawberry trees and others, and the same thing is true in regard to the grasses. The land is very high and all smooth and the breezes are very good, and it has not been as cold anywhere as here, although it is not to be considered as cold, but the Admiral called it so in comparison with the other countries. Opposite that harbour there was a beautiful plain and in the centre of it the aforesaid river: and in that region, he says, there must be great numbers of people since they saw the canoes in which so many of them navigate and some of them as large as a "fusta" with fifteen benches for the rowers. All the Indians fled when they saw the ships. Those Indians he was taking with him from the small islands were so desirous of going to their country, that they thought says the Admiral that after he left this place he was to take them to their homes, and that already they were suspicious because he did not take the route for their homes. On this account he says that he did not believe what they said nor did he understand them well nor did they understand him, and he says they were in the greatest fear in the world of the people of that island. So that if he had desired to talk with the people of that island it would have been necessary for him to remain there some days in that harbour, but he did not do it on account of seeing so much land and as he was doubtful that the good weather would continue. He hoped in the Lord that the Indians he was carrying would know his language and he would know theirs, and then he would return and would talk with this people, and that it would please the Lord (he says) that he should find a good trade in gold before he returned.


At the passing of the quarter of dawn he made sail and started out of that Puerto de San Nicolas and navigated with the wind south-west two leagues to the north-east as far as a point which the Carenero makes, and a small promontory lay to the south-east and the Cabe de la Estrella to the south-west and from this the Admiral was twenty-four miles distant. From there he navigated to the east along the coast as far as Cabo Cinquin, a distance of about forty-eight miles. It is true that twenty miles of this extended to the east, quarter north-east and that coast is all a very high land and the water of great depth; it is twenty and thirty fathoms up to the edge of the land and at a distance of a lombard shot from land the bottom cannot be readied. The Admiral proved all this on that day along the coast, much to his pleasure, with the wind south-west. The promontory above mentioned, he says, reaches within a lombard shot of the Puerto de San Nicolas, and if it were cut off and made an island, it would be about three or four miles around. All that country was very high and did not have large trees but only evergreen oaks and strawberry-trees the same he says, as in the land of Castile. Before he reached the Cabo Cinquin and within two leagues, he discovered a small opening like a cut in the mountain, through which he discovered a very large valley and he saw that it was all sown with barley and he thought that there must be a great many people in that valley and on the borders of it there were large and high mountains and when he reached the Cabo de Cinquin the Cabo de la Tortuga lay to the north-east at a distance of about thirty-two miles, and off this Cabo Cinquin at the distance of a lombard shot is a rock in the sea which stands high up and which can be seen very well. And the Admiral being off the said Cape the Cabo del Elefante lay to the east, quarter south-east and was at a distance of about seventy miles and all the land was very high. And at a distance of six leagues he saw a large bay and he saw in the land within very large valleys and tracts of arable land and very high mountains, all like those in Castile. And then at a distance of eight miles he found a very deep river but very crooked, although one carack could enter it very well and the mouth was free from banks or shoals. And then at a distance of sixteen miles he found a very wide harbour, and so deep that he did not find the bottom at the entrance and only at three paces from the shore, where it was fifteen fathoms and it extends inland a quarter of a league. And although it was still very early being one o'clock after mid-day and the wind was in the stern and very strong, still because the sky looked as though it would rain very hard and it was very dark and cloudy,--which if it is dangerous in a familiar country is much more so when it is unfamiliar,--he decided to enter the harbour which he named Puerto de la Concepcion, and went to land in a rather small river which is at the end of the harbour, and which flows through some plains and level tracts of arable land which were wonderful to see on account of their beauty. He took nets to fish, and before he reached land a mullet {lisa} like those in Spain, jumped into the boat and until that time no fish had been seen like those in Castile. The sailors fished and killed others, also soles and other fish like those in Castile. He went a short distance along that country which is all cultivated and he heard the nightingales sing and other small birds like those of Castile. They saw five men, but they would not wait and fled. He found myrtle and other trees and grasses like those in Castile and the country and the mountains are like Castile.


There in that harbour it rained hard with the wind in the north and very strong. The harbour is safe from all the winds except the north wind although it cannot do any damage to vessels because there is a great surf or undertow which does not allow the ship to work upon the cables nor the water from the river {que no da lugar a que la nas labore sobre las amarras ni el agua del rio}. After midnight the wind shifted to the north-east and afterward to the east. This harbour is well sheltered from these winds by the island of Tortuga which is opposite it at a distance of thirty-six-miles.


This day it rained and the weather was wintry the same as in Castile in the month of October. No village had been seen except one very beautiful house in the Puerto de S. Nicolas and which was constructed better than those which had been seen in other places. The island is very large and the Admiral says that it will not be much to say that it measures two hundred leagues around {ne sera mucho que boje doscientas leguas}. He has seen that it is all well cultivated. He believed that all the villages must be at some distance from the sea from which place they can see when he is approaching, and so the inhabitants all fled and took with them all they had and lighted signal fires as though they were war-like people. This harbour is a thousand paces at the mouth which is a quarter of a league. In it there is no bank or shoal but rather the bottom can hardly be found until you go in to the shore of the sea and inside it extends a thousand paces in length all clear and with a sandy bottom, so that any ship whatever can anchor in it without fear and enter without caution. At the head of the harbour there are the mouths of two rivers which discharge a small quantity of water. Opposite there are some of the most beautiful plains in the world and which are almost like the lands of Castile only these are better, and on this account he named the island Espanola.


The wind blew hard from the north-east and caused the anchors to drag half a cable's length at which the Admiral wondered, and he thought it was because the anchors were near land and the wind blew toward it. And having seen that the wind was contrary for him to go where he desired, he sent six men well armed on land, with orders to go two or three leagues inland to see if they could talk with anyone. They went and returned not having found any people or houses. They found nevertheless some huts and very wide roads, and places where many fires had been made. They saw the best lands in the world and they found many mastic trees and they brought some of it and said that there was a great deal, but that now is not the time to gather it because it does not now form into gum.


He did not start on account of the wind which was still east and north-east. In front of that harbour as has been said is the Isla de la Tortuga and it appears like a large island and the coast extends almost in the same direction as that of Espanola, and it may be at the most, from one to the other, ten leagues: that is to say, from the Cabo de Cinquin at the head of Tortuga, for then its coast extends to the south. He says he would like to see that place between these two islands in order to see the Isla Espanola, which is the most beautiful thing in the world, and because according to what the Indians he had with him said, one must go yonder to reach the island of Babeque. These Indians said that it was a very large island with very large mountains and rivers and valleys, and they said that the island of Bohio was larger than Juana which they call Cuba, and that it is not surrounded by water: and they appear to give it to be understood as continental land which is here behind this Espanola, and which they call Caritaba and say that it is of infinite importance and they almost make it appear reasonable that these countries may be harassed by astute people because the inhabitants of all these islands live in great fear of the people of Caniba, "and so I repeat as I have said at other times (he says) that Caniba is no other than the people of the Great Khan who must be very near here and have ships and come to capture these people, and as the captives do not return they believe they have eaten them. Each day we understand these Indians better and they understand us better, although many times they may have understood one thing for another (says the Admiral)." He sent people on land and they found a great deal of mastic not coagulated, and he says the rains must do this, and that in Xio they gather it in March and that in January they could gather it in these countries as it is so temperate. They caught many fish like those in Castile, dace, salmon, hake, doree, pampano, lisas mullet, conger eels, shrimp, and they saw sardines. They found a great deal of aloe.


They did not start on this day on account of the aforesaid contrary wind. He placed a large cross at the entrance of the harbour on the western side, on a very slight elevation, "as a sign (he says) that Your Highnesses hold the land for your own and principally as a sign of Jesus Christ, our Lord, and in honour of Christianity." Having placed the cross, three sailors started up the mountain to see the trees and grasses and they heard a large crowd of people, all naked like those they had seen, and they called to them and went after them, but the Indians fled. "And finally they took a woman who could go no farther because I (he says) had ordered them to take some of the Indians in order to show them honour and cause them to lose their fear and see if they had profitable things, as it appeared it could not be otherwise on account of the beauty of the country: and so they brought the woman, a very young and beautiful girl, to the ship, and she talked with those Indians, because they all had the same language." And the Admiral caused her to be clothed and gave her glass beads and hawks' bells and brass rings, and sent her to land again very honourably, according to his custom. He sent some persons from the ship with her; and three of the Indians he had with him, to talk with that people. The sailors who went in the boat, when they took her to land, told the Admiral that she did not wish to go out of the ship if she could not remain with the other Indian women he had caused to be taken in the Puerto de Mares de la Isla Juana of Cuba. All these Indians who came with that Indian woman, he says, came in a canoe, which is their caravel in which they navigate everywhere, and when they appeared at the entrance of the harbour and they saw the ships they turned backward and left the canoe yonder in some place, and went away on the road to their village. The Indian woman showed the location of the village. This woman wore a small piece of gold in her nose, which was an indication that there was gold in that island.

Columbus's Log: December, 1492 - continued

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.