From The Log of Christopher Columbus:


"I had been standing off and on this night for fear of not reaching land to anchor before morning, not knowing whether the coast was free from shoals or not, and so as to be able to hoist the sails at dawn. And as the island might be more than five leagues distant, rather it was about seven leagues, and the tide detained me, it was about mid-day when I reached the said island; and I found that the side which is toward San Salvador runs north and south a distance of five leagues, and the other side which I followed extended east and west a distance of more than ten leagues. And as from this island I saw another larger one to the west, I hoisted the sails in order to go all that day until night, because I would not have been able to go even as far as the point at the west: to this island I gave the name of the Isla de Santa Maria de la Concepcion, and almost at sunset I anchored near the said Cape to learn if there was gold there, because the natives whom I had caused to be taken on the island of San Salvador told me that the people there wore very large golden bracelets on the legs and arms. I quite believe that everything they said was a hoax in order to flee. Nevertheless my intention was, not to pass by any island of which I did not take possession, although having taken one, it could not be said that all were taken: and I anchored and remained there until to-day, Tuesday, when at dawn I went to land with the boats armed and I landed, and those people, who were many and as naked and of the same condition as those of the other island of San Salvador, allowed us to go on the island and gave us what we asked of them. And because the wind blew across strongly from the south-east, I would not remain there and left for the ship, and there was a large canoe beside the caravel Nina and one of the men from the island of San Salvador who was on board the caravel threw himself into the sea and went away in the canoe, and the night before at midnight, the other having thrown {blank in original} and went after the canoe, which fled {a medio echado el otro...y fue atras la almadia, la qual fugoi} so that there never was a boat which could overtake it, although we followed it a long way. Nevertheless he gained the land and they left the canoe, and some of my company went on land after them and all scattered like chickens, and we took the canoe which they had left, alongside the caravel Nina, where already there was coming from another point another small canoe with a man who came to barter a ball of cotton; and some sailors threw themselves into the sea and took him, because he would not enter the caravel: and I, being on the poop of the ship, saw everything and sent for him and gave him a red bonnet and some small beads of green glass which I put on his arm and two hawk's bells, which I put in his ears, and I ordered his canoe, which also was in the boat, to be returned to him and I sent him to land: and I made sail then in order to go to the other large island which I saw to the west, and I ordered the other canoe, which the caravel Nina was towing at the stern, to be loosened and I afterwards watched the shore at the time of the landing of the other Indian to whom I had given the aforesaid things and from whom I did not take the ball of cotton, although he wished to give it to me: and all the others went to him and he wondered greatly and it appeared to him that we were very good people and that the other Indian who had fled had done us some injury, and that we were taking him on this account: and it was for this purpose that I pursued this conduct with him and ordered him set at liberty and gave him the said things, in order that they should hold us in this esteem and that another time when your Highnesses send here again they may not receive your people badly: and all that I gave them was not worth four maravedis. And thus I departed, which might be at 10 o'clock, with the wind south-east and inclining toward south, in order to go to this other island which is very large and where all these men whom I am bringing from the island of San Salvador make signs that there is a great deal of gold and that they wear bracelets of it on their arms and on their legs and in their ears and in their noses and on their breasts. And it was nine leagues from this island of Santa Maria to this other island east to west, and all this part of the island runs north-west to south-east. And it appears that there might well be more than 28 leagues of this coast on this side. And it is very level without any mountain, the same as the coasts of the islands of San Salvador and Santa Maria and all the coasts are free from rocks, except that all have some rocks under water near the land, on account of which it is necessary to keep the eyes open when desirous of anchoring, and not to anchor very near land, although the waters are always very clear and the bottom can be seen. And at a distance of two lombard shots from all those islands the water is so deep that the bottom cannot be reached. These islands are very green and fertile and the breezes are very soft and there may be many things which I do not know, because I did not wish to stop, in order to discover and search many islands to find gold. And since these people make signs thus, that they wear gold on their arms and legs,--and it is gold, because I showed them some pieces which I have,--I cannot fail with the aid of our Lord, in finding it where it is native. And being in the middle of the gulf between these two islands, that is to say, the island of Santa Maria and this large one, which I named Fernandina, I found a man alone in a canoe who was going from the island of Santa Maria to Fernandina, and was carrying a little of his bread which might have been about as large as the fist, and a gourd of water, and a piece of reddish earth reduced to dust and afterwards kneaded, and some dry leaves I which must be a thing very much appreciated among them because they had already brought me some of them as a present at San Salvador: and he was carrying a small basket of their kind, in which he had a string of small glass beads and two blancas, by which I knew that he came from the island of San Salvador, and had gone from there to Santa Maria and was going to Fernandina. He came to the ship: I caused him to enter it, as he asked to do so, and I had his canoe placed on the ship and had everything which he was carrying guarded: and I ordered that bread and honey be given him to eat and something to drink. And I will go to Fernandina thus and will give him everything which belongs to him, that he may give good reports of us. So that, when your Highnesses send here, our Lord pleasing, those who come may receive honour and the Indians will give them of everything which they have."


I started from the islands of Santa Maria de la Concepcion when it was already about noon, for the island of Fernandina, which appears to be very large and is to the west, and I navigated all that day in a calm: I was not able to arrive in time to see the bottom in order to anchor in a clear place, because it is necessary to take great pains about this so as not to lose the anchors: and so I stood off and on all this night until day when I came to a village, where I anchored, and at which that man whom I found yesterday in the canoe in the middle of the gulf had arrived. He had given such good reports of us that all this night there was no lack of canoes alongside the ship, as the Indians brought us water and everything which they had. I ordered something given to each one of them, that is to say some little beads, 10 or 12 of them of glass on a thread, and some brass timbrels of the kind which are worth a maravedi each in Castile, and some leather straps, all of which they consider of the greatest excellence, and also ordered molasses to be given them that they might eat when they came on the ship: and then at the hour of tercia I sent the ship's small vessel on land for water, and they very willingly showed my people where the water was, and they themselves brought the barrels full to the vessel, and were very greatly rejoiced to give us pleasure. This island is very large and I have determined to sail around it, because according to what I can understand, in it or near it there are mines of gold. This island is eight leagues distant from the island of Santa Maria, almost east by west: and this point to which I came and all this coast extends north-north-west by south-south-east and I saw fully 20 leagues of it, but it did not end there. Now while writing this, I made sail with the wind from the south in order to endeavour to sail around all the island, and work until I find Samoat, which is the island or city where the gold is, as all those Indians who come here on the ship, say: and as those Indians from the island of San Salvador and Santa Maria told us. The people of Fernandina are similar to those of the said islands, and have the same language and customs, except that these appear to me to be somewhat more domestic, of better manners and more subtle, because I see that they have brought cotton here to the ship and other little things for which they know better how to exact payment than the others: and also on this island I saw cotton cloths made like head-dresses {mantillas} and the people are better disposed and the women wear in front a little piece of cotton which barely covers their genital parts. This island is very green and level and fertile, and I have no doubt that panic-grass {panizo} may be sown and harvested all the year, and also all other things: and I saw many trees very different from ours and among them many which had branches of many kinds and all from one trunk, and one little branch is of one kind and another of another kind and so different that it is the greatest wonder in the world, how great is the difference between one kind and another. For example, one branch had leaves like canes, and another like mastich-trees: and thus, on one tree alone, there are five or six of these kinds, and all are different: neither are they grafted, that it may he said that grafting does it; moreover are they found upon the mountains. Neither do these people take any care of them. They do not know any sect and I believe that they would very soon become Christians because they possess very good intelligence. There are fish here so different from ours that it is wonderful. There are some formed like cocks of the finest colours in the world, blue, yellow, red and of all colours, and others tinted in a thousand manners: and the colours are so fine that there is not a man who does not wonder at them, and who does not take great pleasure in seeing them. Also there are whales. I saw no beasts on land of any kind except parrots and lizards. A boy told me that he saw a large snake. I did not see sheep nor goats, nor any other beast; although I have been here a very short time, as it is mid-day, still if there had been any, I could not have missed seeing some. I will write about the circuit of this island after I have sailed around it."


"At noon I started from the village where I was anchored and where I took water, in order to go and sail around this island of Fernandina, and the wind was south-west and south: and as my wish would be to follow this coast of this island where I was, to the south-east, because it extends thus all north-north-west and south-south-east: and I wished to follow the said course of the south and south-east, because,--in that region, according to these Indians I am bringing and another from whom I had indications,--in that region of the south is the island which they call Samoet, where gold is found. And Martin Alonzo Pinzon, captain of the caravel Pinta, upon which I sent three of these Indians, came to me and told me that one of them had very positively given him to understand that he would more quickly sail around the island in the direction of the north-north-west. I saw that the wind was not helping me on the course I wished to follow and was favourable for the other. I made sail to the north-north-west and when I was near the point of the island, at a distance of two leagues, I found a very wonderful harbour with one mouth: although it can be called two mouths because it has an island in the centre. And these mouths are both very narrow and the harbour is wide enough within for 100 ships, if it were clear and deep, and deep enough at the entrance. It appeared to me right to examine it well and sound it, and thus I anchored outside of it and entered it with all the boats belonging to the ships and we saw that it was not deep. And because I thought when I saw it that it was the mouth of some river, I had ordered barrels brought in order to take water, and on land I found some eight or ten men who immediately came to us and showed us the village near there, where I sent the people for water, one part with arms, others with barrels, and so they took it: and because it wasn't a little distance, I was detained for the space of two hours. During this time I walked among those trees, which was a more beautiful thing to see than any other I had ever seen: seeing so much verdure in such condition as it is in the month of May in Andalusia, and the trees were all as different from ours as day from night and also the fruits and grasses and the stones and all the things. It is true that some trees were of the same nature as those which are in Castile, although there was a very great difference, and there were so many other trees of other kinds that there is no one who can identify them or compare them to those in Castile. All the people were the same as the others already spoken of, of the same condition, naked in the same manner and of the same stature and they gave what they had for whatever thing we might give them: and here I saw that some of the ship's boys bartered spears for some worthless little pieces of broken porringers and glass, and the others who went for the water told me how they had been in the houses of the Indians and that they were very well swept and clean within, and their beds and coverings were of things which are like nets of cotton. Their houses are all like tents and are very high with good chimneys: but I did not see any village among many which I saw, which had more than 12 to 15 houses. Here they found that the married women wore breech-cloths of cotton and the young girls none, except some who were already eighteen years of age. And there were dogs here, mastiffs and lap-dogs {blanchetes} and they found an Indian here who had a piece of gold in his nose, which might be as large as half a castellano, on which they saw letters. I scolded them because they did not trade with him for it, and give him whatever he demanded in order to see what it was, and whose money it was: and they replied to me that he did not dare to exchange it with them. After having taken the water, I returned to the ship and made sail and went to the north-west, so far that I discovered all that part of the island as far as the coast which extends east and west, and then all these Indians said again that this island was smaller than the island of Samoet, and that it would be well to return backward in order to reach it more quickly. There the wind calmed and then commenced to blow west-north-west, which was contrary for our return to the place whence we had come, and so I returned and navigated all the past night to the east-south-east and sometimes to the east altogether and sometimes to the south-east. And I did this in order to get away from the land because it was very dark and cloudy and the weather was very threatening. The wind was light and did not allow me to reach land in order to anchor. Therefore this night it rained very hard from midnight almost until day, and it is yet cloudy and ready to rain: and we are at the point of the island on the south-eastern side where I hoped to anchor until the weather clears, in order to see the other islands to which I must go: and so it has rained a little or a great deal every day since I have been in these Indies. Your Highnesses may believe that this land is most fertile and temperate and level and the best there is in the world."


"After the weather cleared I followed the wind and went around the island when I was able, and anchored when the weather was not suitable to navigate: but I did not land, and at dawn I made sail."


"At dawn I weighed the anchors and sent the caravel Pinta to the east and south-east and the caravel Nina to the south-south-east, and I, with the ship went to the south-east, having given orders that both should follow that course until mid-day, and then that both should change their courses and seek me: and then, before three hours had passed, we saw an island to the east towards which we directed ourselves, and all three ships reached it at the northern point before mid-day, where there is a rocky islet and a reef outside of it to the north, and another between it and the large island: The men from San Salvador whom I am carrying, named this island Saomete, and I named it Isabella. The wind was north and the said rocky islet was in the course of the island of Fernandina, from whence I had sailed east by west. And the coast of Isabella then extended from the rocky islet to the west 12 leagues, as far as a cape which I called the Cabo Hermoso, which is on the western side: and thus it is beautiful, round and very prominent with no shoals outside of it and at the point it is rocky and low, and farther inland there is a sandy beach, as is almost all the said coast: and I anchored here this night, Friday, until morning. All this coast and the part of the island which I saw, is almost all a beach and the island is the most beautiful thing I ever saw: for if the others are very beautiful, this is more so: it has many very green and very large trees: and the land is higher than that of the other islands which have been found. And on it there are some hillocks which cannot he called mountains, but which beautify the rest, and there appear to be many waters yonder in the centre of the island. From this side to the north-east there is a large point and there are many large thick groves. I wished to go and anchor at this point in order to land and see such a beautiful place: hut the water was shallow and I could not anchor except quite a way from land and the wind was very favourable for me to come to this cape, where I now anchored, and which I named Cabo Hermoso {Cape Beautiful} for such it is: and so I did not anchor at that point and also because I saw this cape from yonder, so green and so beautiful like all the other things and lands of these islands, so that I do not know where to go first: neither do my eyes weary of seeing such beautiful verdure so different from ours, and also I believe that there are here many herbs and trees, which are of great value in Spain for dyeing, for medicines and for spices, but I do not know them, which troubles me greatly. And on reaching this cape there came such a soft, sweet smell of flowers or trees from the land, that it was the sweetest thing in the world. In the morning before leaving here I will go on land to see what is here at this cape. There is no village except farther inland where these men I am bringing with me, say the King is and that he wears a great deal of gold. And in the morning I wish to go far enough to find the village and see or talk with the King, for according to the signs made by these Indians, he rules all these neighbouring islands and is clothed and wears a great deal of gold upon his person; although I do not put much faith in their sayings, as much because I do not understand them well, as because of knowing them to he so poor in gold that whatever small quantity this King wears it appears a great deal to them. This cape which I call Cabo Fermoso, I believe is an island apart from Saometo, and even that there is another small one midway between. I do not care to see so much thus in detail, because I could not do that in 50 years, and because I wish to go and discover the most that I can, in order to return to your Highnesses, God willing, in April. It is true that if I find where there is a quantity of gold or spices, it will detain me until I obtain as much as possible of them: and on this account I am not doing other than to go in search of them."


"To-day at sunrise, I weighed anchors from where I was anchored with the ship at this island of Saometo at the south-west cape which I named the Cabo de la laguna, as I had named the island Isabella, to navigate to the north-east and to the east from the south-eastern and southern part {of the island}, where, as I heard from these men I have with me, there was a village and also the King of the island: and I found all the water so shallow that I could not enter or sail to it, and I saw that by following the south-west route it would be a very large detour, and for this reason I determined to return by the north-north-east on the western side, the way I had come, and sail around this island in order to {lacuna: perhaps reconocerla--reconnoitre}. The wind was so light that I never could coast along the land except in the night: and as it is dangerous to anchor among these islands except in the daytime, when the eves can see where the anchor is thrown, because the bottom is all unequal, one spot suitable and another not,--I began to stand off and on all this Sunday night. The caravels anchored because they reached land early, and they thought that with the signals which they were accustomed to make, I would go and anchor, but I did not wish to do so."


"At 10 o'clock I arrived here at this point of the islet and anchored as did also the caravels: and after having eaten, I landed. There was no other village here except one house, in which I did not find any one, as I believe they had fled through fear because all their domestic utensils were in the house. I did not allow my people to touch anything but I went with them and with these captains and people to see the island. If the other islands already seen are very beautiful, green and fertile, this one is much more so and has very large green groves. There are some large lakes here and upon them and around them, there are wonderful groves. They are very green here as well as in all the island and the grass is the same as it is in April in Andalusia. And the singing of the little birds is such that it appears a man would wish never to leave here, and the flocks of parrots obscure the sun. And there are large and small birds of so many kinds and so different from ours, that it is wonderful. And then there are a thousand kinds of trees, each with its own fruit and they are all wonderfully odoriferous. I am the most troubled man in the world that I do not know them, because I am very certain that they are all valuable things and I am bringing specimens of them and also of the herbs. In walking thus around one of these lakes I saw a serpent which we killed and I am bringing the skin to your Highnesses. When it saw us, it threw itself into the lake and we followed it there, as the water was not very deep, until we killed it with spears. It is seven palms in length. I believe there are many serpents like this one here in this lake. Here I recognised some aloes and to-morrow I have determined to have ten quintals brought to the ship, because they tell me it is very valuable. Also in searching for good water, we went to a village near here, a half league from where I am anchored: and the people of this village, as they saw us, all took to flight and left their houses, and hid their clothing ropas and what they possessed in the mountain. I did not allow anything to be taken, not the value of a pin. Afterward some of the men approached us and one came quite up to us. I gave him some hawk's bells and some little glass beads and he was very much pleased and very joyful. And that the friendship might increase and that I might require something of them, I asked him for water. And after I went on board the ship, they then came to the shore with their gourds full, and were very much pleased to give it to us. And I ordered that another string of little glass beads should be given them, and they said that they would come here to-morrow. I wished to fill all the ship's butts with water here; therefore, if the weather permits, I will then start and sail around this island, until I have speech with the King and see if I can obtain from him the gold which I hear he wears. And afterward I will leave for another very large island which I believe must be Cipango, according to the indications which those Indians I am taking with me, give me, and which they call Colba. They say that at this island there are many large ships and many skilled seamen. Near this island there is another which they call Bosio, which they say is also very large. And I will see the other islands which lie between in passing, and according to whether I find a quantity of gold or spices, I will determine what must be done. But still, I have determined to go to the mainland to the city of Guisay and give your Highnesses' letters to the Great Khan, and beg for a reply and come back with it."


All this night and to-day I remained here, waiting to see if the King of this country or other persons would bring gold or anything else of substance: and many of these people came, similar to the other people of the other islands, naked like them and painted, some white, some reddish, some blackish, and in many different fashions. They brought spears and some balls of cotton to trade, which they exchanged here with some sailors for pieces of glass, broken cups, and for pieces of earthen porringers. Some of them wore pieces of gold fastened to their noses, which they willingly gave for a hawk's bell suitable for the foot of a sparrow-hawk, and for small glass beads; but it is so small a quantity of gold, that it is nothing. It is true that however little was given them for the gold, they yet considered our coming very wonderful and believed that we had come from heaven. We took water for the ships from a lake here which is near the Point of the Island {cabo del isleo} as I shall name it: and in the said lake Martin Alonso Pinzon, captain of the Pinta, killed another serpent like the one of yesterday which was seven palms in length, and here I had all the aloes taken which were found."


"I would like to leave here to-day for the island of Cuba which I believe must be Cipango {Japan} according to the description which these people give of its size and richness, and I will not remain here longer, neither {lacuna: perhaps--will I sail} around this island to go to the village, as I had determined, in order to talk with this King or Lord. For I must not delay much since I see that there is no gold-mine and it needs many kinds of winds to sail around this island, and it does not blow thus as men would like. And as I must go where great trade may be had, I say that it is not reasonable to delay, but to pursue my journey and discover much land until I encounter a very profitable country, although my understanding is that this one is very well provided with spices: but I do not know them, which causes me the greatest trouble in the world, as I see a thousand species of trees, each of which has its kind of fruit and they are as green now as they are in Spain in the months of May and June: and there are a thousand kinds of herbs the same as of flowers, and of them all I recognised only these aloes, of which I to-day also ordered a large quantity brought to the ship to carry it to your Highnesses. And I have not made nor am I making sail for Cuba, because there is no wind, but a dead calm, and it rains hard: and it rained a great deal yesterday without making it cool, but rather it is warm during tile day and the nights are temperate like those in Spain in the month of May in Andalusia."

Columbus's Log: October, 1492 continued - 2

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