From The Log of Christopher Columbus.


The three men whom the Admiral had sent with the woman returned at three o'clock in the night, and they did not go with her as far as the village because it appeared a long way off, or because they were afraid. They said that the next day many people would come to the ships because they must already be re-assured by the news the woman would give them. The Admiral being desirous to learn whether there was anything valuable in that country and in order to have some conversation with the people as their land was so beautiful and fertile, and that they might be disposed to serve the Sovereigns, decided to send again to the village, confiding in the news given by the Indian woman that the Christians were good people. For this purpose he selected nine men well prepared with arms and adapted for such an affair, with whom an Indian from among those he had with him went also. They went to the village which was four leagues and a hall to the south-east and which they found in a very large valley and unoccupied; because when the Indians heard the Christians coming, they all fled inland leaving whatever they had behind them. The village consisted of more than three thousand men and had a thousand houses. The Indian the Christians had with them, ran after the others calling to them, saying that they must not be afraid as the Christians were not from Cariba, but instead they were from heaven and that they gave many beautiful things to every one they found. They were so much impressed with what he said, that they were re-assured and more than two thousand came together, and all came to the Christians and placed their hands upon their heads, which was a sign of great reverence and friendship, and they were all trembling until they were greatly re-assured. The Christians said that after they were entirely freed from fear they all went to their houses, and each one brought them some of whatever they had to eat, which was bread of "niames" I which are roots like large radishes, which they sow and which grow and are planted in all their lands, and upon which they live: and they make bread of them and boil and roast them and they taste like chestnuts, and there is no one who does not believe, in eating them, that they are chestnuts. They gave the Christians bread and fish and whatever they had. And as the Indians he had in the ship had understood that the Admiral desired to have a parrot, it appears that the Indian who was with the Christians told the other Indians something of this, and so they brought the Christians parrots and gave them as many as they wished without requiring anything for them. They begged them not to come away that night and said they would give them many other things they had in the mountains. At the time when all those people were together with the Christians they saw a great multitude of people coming with the husband of the woman whom the Admiral had honoured and sent back. They were carrying this woman upon their shoulders and they came to thank the Admiral for the honour he had done her and the presents he had given her. The Christians told the Admiral that they were all a handsomer people and of better disposition than any others they had found until that time: but the Admiral says that he does not know how they can be of better disposition than the others, causing it to be understood that all those who had been found in the other islands were very well disposed. As to their beauty the Christians say that there is no comparison as well in the women as the men and that they are whiter than the others and that among the rest they saw two young girls as white as any could be in Spain. They said also in regard to the beauty of the lands that the best in Castile in beauty and goodness had no comparison with them, and the Admiral also saw it from those he had seen and from those he had before him, and they told him that those which he saw were not to be compared with the lands in that valley and that they were as much different from the field of Cordova as day is from night. They said that all those lands were cultivated and that a river flowed through the middle of that valley very large and wide, and which could irrigate all the lands. All the trees were green and full of fruit, and the grasses were all in flower and very high: the roads were very wide and good, the breezes were like those in Castile in the month of April, the nightingale and other small birds were singing as they do in Spain in the same month, so that they say it was the sweetest thing in the world. Small birds sang sweetly during the nights: many crickets and frogs were heard: there were fish the same as in Spain. They saw many mastic trees and aloes and cotton plantations: they found no gold and it is not wonderful that in such a short time they did not find any. The Admiral here ascertained the number of hours in the day and the night and from sun to sun; he found that twenty ampolletas glasses of half an hour each passed, although he says there might have been some error either because they were not turned quickly enough, or because some of the sand did not run through. He says also that he found by the quadrant that he was thirty-four degrees distant from the equinoctial line.


He started from that Puerto de la Concepcion with a land breeze, and then after a little it calmed, and thus he experienced it each day of those he remained there. Afterward the wind became east. He navigated in this wind to the north-north-east and reached the Isla de la Tortuga and saw a point on this island which he called the Punta Pierna which was to the east-north-east of the head of the island, and might be at a distance of twelve miles, and from there he discovered another point which he called the Punta Lanzada in the same route to the north-east, which was about sixteen miles distant. And thus from the head of the Tortuga as far as the Punta Aguda it would be about forty-four miles, which are seven leagues, to the east-north-east. On that course there were some long strips of beaches. This island of Tortuga is a very high country but not mountainous, and is very beautiful and well populated the same as the island of Espanola and the land is all so cultivated that one appears to see the field of Cordova. Having seen that the wind was contrary and that he could not go to the island of Babeque, he decided to return to the Puerto de la Concepcion, from whence he had started, and he was not able to reach a river which is two leagues from the said harbour in the direction of the east.


He started from the Puerto de la Concepcion again on his course, but on going out of the harbour the wind blew strongly from the east which was contrary for him, and he turned and went to the Tortuga and from there he made an excursion to see that river which he had wished to see and reach yesterday and was not able to do so, and this time he could not make it either, although he anchored half a league to the leeward on a beach,--a good and clear harbour. Having anchored his vessels he went with the boats to see the river and entered an arm of the sea which is a half league nearer and it was not the mouth. He returned and found the mouth which was not even a fathom in depth and which had a very strong current: he entered it with the boats in order to reach the villages which the people he had sent the day before yesterday had seen and he threw the line on land and by means of the sailors pulling on it the boats ascended a distance of two lombard shots and he was not able to go farther on account of the strong current in the river. He saw some houses and the large valley where the villages are, and he said that he had never seen a more beautiful thing; and that river flowed through the middle of the valley. He also saw people at the entrance to the river, but all started to flee. He says further that those people must be very much hunted since they live in so much fear, because on reaching any place they make smoke signals by means of towers throughout all the land, and they do this more in this island of Espanola and in Tortuga, which also is a large island, than in the others he had left behind. He named the valley Valle del Paraiso and the river Guadalquivir, because he says that it flows thus as large as the Guadalquivir by Cordova, and it shows very beautiful stones on its banks or edges and it is all navigable.


At midnight in a very light land breeze be made sail to get out of that gulf, and in coming from the coast of the Isla Espanola he sailed close to the wind because afterward at the hour of tercia the wind blew from the east. In the middle of the gulf he found a canoe with an Indian alone in it, upon which the Admiral wondered how he was able to keep himself upon the water when there was such a high wind. He caused him and his canoe to be placed in the ship, and to flatter him, gave him glass beads, hawks' bells and brass rings and took him in his ship to land at a village which was sixteen miles from there beside the sea, where the Admiral anchored and found a good anchorage on the beach next to the village, which appeared to be newly built because all the houses were new. The Indian then went away with his canoe to land and gave news of the Admiral and of the Christians as being good people although they already considered them so through information from the others where the six Christians had gone, and then more than five hundred men came and after a little their King came, and they all gathered on the beach near the ships for they were anchored very near the land. And then one by one and in crowds they came to the ship without bringing anything with them, although some of them wore grains of very fine gold in their ears and noses, which they then gave away willingly. The Admiral ordered that all should be treated honorably, "and (says he) because they are the best and mildest people in the world: and above all because I have great hope in our Lord that your Highnesses will make them all Christians and they will all belong to you, for I regard them as yours." He saw also that the said King was on the beach as they all showed him respect. The Admiral sent him a present which he says he received with great state, and that he must have been a young man of about twenty-one years of age, and that he had an old governor or tutor and other counsellors who counseled him and replied to him and that he spoke very few words. One of the Indians the Admiral had with him spoke with the King and told him how the Christians came from heaven and that they were going in search of gold, and wished to go to the Isla de Beneque: and he replied that it was well and that in the said island there was a great deal of gold; he showed the Admiral's Alguacil who took him the present, the course that must be taken to go there and said that in two days one could go from that place to the island, and that if the Spaniards needed anything in his country, he would give it to them very willingly. This King and all the others went about naked as their mothers gave them birth, and the women also, without any timidity and they are the handsomest men and women who had been found up to that time: exceedingly white so that if they wore clothing and were protected from the sun and the air they would be almost as white as the people in Spain, for this country is very cool and the best that language can describe: it is very high and upon the highest mountain ploughing could be done with oxen and everything could be transformed into arable lands and fields. In all Castile there is no land which can be compared to this in beauty and goodness. All this island and the island of Tortuga are entirely cultivated like the field of Cordova. They have the fields sown with "ajes" which are little branches which they plant, and at the foot of them small roots grow like carrots which serve as bread, and they grate them and knead them and make bread of them and afterward they plant the same little branch again in another place and it again produces four or five of those roots which are very palatable, and taste exactly like chestnuts. These which grow here are the largest and best he had seen anywhere, as he also says that he had them in Guinea. Those which grew in this place he says were as thick as the leg, and he says that all of the people there were strong and courageous and not feeble like the others he had found before, and they conversed very pleasantly and had no sect. And the trees there he says were so luxuriant that the leaves were not green but blackish in colour. It was a wonderful thing to see those valleys and the rivers and good waters and the lands suitable for bread-foods and for flocks of all kinds of which they had none, and suitable for orchards and for all the things in the world that a man may ask. Afterward in the afternoon the King came to the ship: the Admiral paid him the honour which was due him, and caused it to be said to him that he came from the Sovereigns of Castile who were the greatest Sovereigns in the world. But neither the Indians who were with the Admiral, who were the interpreters, believed anything of this, or the King either, but they believed the Christians came from heaven and that the realms of the Sovereigns of Castile were in the heavens and not in this world. The Christians gave the King some of the things of Castile to eat and he ate a mouthful and afterward gave all to his counsellors and to the Governor and to the others who were with him. "Your Highnesses may believe that these lands are so numerous and good and fertile and especially these of this Isla Espanola that there is no one who can describe it, and no one can believe it if he does not see it. And they may believe that this island and all the others are as much theirs as Castile as all that is necessary here is to build a town and order them to do what is desired. For I, with the people I have with me, who are not many in number, could go through these islands without any affront; as I have already seen three of these sailors go on land where there was a multitude of the Indians and they all fled without any one's wishing to do them harm. They have no arms and are all naked and have no knowledge of arms and are very cowardly, for a thousand of them would not face three Christians: and so they are suitable to be governed and made to work and sow and do everything else that shall be necessary, and to build villages and be taught to wear clothing and observe our customs."


It blew that night strongly, the wind being east-north-east but the sea did not change much, because the Isla de la Tortuga which is in front of it and makes a shelter for it, protected and guarded it. So he remained there during that day. He sent some of the sailors to fish with nets. The Indians associated with the Christians a great deal and they brought them certain arrows belonging to the people of Caniba or the Canibales, and these arrows are made of spikes of canes and they use some little sharp hardened sticks for them and they are very large. They showed the Christians two men who had lost some pieces of flesh from their bodies, and made them understand that the Cannibals had eaten them by piece-meals. The Admiral did not believe it. He again sent certain Christians to the village, and by trading some worthless little glass beads they obtained some pieces of gold beaten into the form of a thin leaf. One Indian whom the Admiral took for the Governor of that Province and who was called Cacique, they observed to have a piece of that gold leaf as large as the hand and it appeared that he wished to trade it. He went away to his house and the others remained in the plaza and he caused that piece of gold to be broken into very small pieces, and bringing a piece at a time, he traded for it. After there was no more remaining, he said by signs that he had sent for more and the next day they would bring it to him. All these things, and their manner, and their customs, and meekness and counsel show them to be a more alert and intelligent people than the others he had found up to that time, says the Admiral. In the afternoon a canoe came there from the Isla de la Tortuga with all of forty men and on reaching the beach all the people of the village who were together seated themselves as a sign of peace, and some from the canoe, and then almost all came on land. "The Cacique arose alone and with words which appeared to be threatening made them return to the canoe and threw them water and took stones from the beach and threw them in the water: and after all had very obediently placed themselves in the canoe and embarked, he took a stone and placed it in the hand of my Alguacil whom I had sent on land with the Escribano and others to see if they could bring back anything valuable,--that he might throw it, and the Alguacil would not do so." That Cacique there showed very plainly that be favoured the Admiral. The canoe then went away and they said to the Admiral after its departure that in Tortuga there was more gold than in the island of Espanola because it is nearer Baneque. The Admiral said that he believed there were no mines of gold either in the Isla Espanola or Tortuga, but that they brought it from Baneque and that they bring a small quantity because they have nothing to give for it, and that country is so rich that it is not necessary for them to work much to sustain themselves or clothe themselves as they go naked. And the Admiral believed that this was very near the fountain head and that our Lord was about to show him where the gold originates. He was informed that from there to Baneque it was four days' journey which must have been thirty or forty leagues, which he could make in one day of good wind.


He remained anchored by this beach during this day as there was no wind and also because the Cacique had said that gold would be brought not because he considered says the Admiral that much gold could be brought as there were no mines there, but in order to know better from whence it was brought. Then at dawn he ordered the ship and caravels decorated with arms and banners for the festival, as this was the day of Sancta Maria de la O, or the commemoration of the Annunciation. They fired many lombard shots: and the King of that Isla Espanola says the Admiral had arisen early from his house which must have been at a distance of five leagues from there, as well as he could judge, and he reached that village at the hour of tercia, where there were already some of the people from the ship whom the Admiral had sent to see if any gold was brought: these Christians said that more than two hundred men came with the King and that four men brought him in a litter and that he was a young man as told above. To-day as the Admiral was eating below the forecastle the King arrived at the ship with all his people. And the Admiral says to the Sovereigns: "With out doubt his state and the respect which they all show him would appear well to your Highnesses, although they are all without clothing. And as be entered the ship he found that I was eating at the table below the stern forecastle, and he came quickly to seat himself beside me and would not allow me to go to meet him or get up from the table but only that I should eat. I thought that he would like to eat some of our viands: and I then ordered that things should be brought him to eat. And when he entered under the forecastle, he signed with his band that all his people should remain without and they did so with the greatest haste and respect in the world and all seated themselves on the deck, except two men of mature age whom I took to be his counsellors and governors and who came and seated themselves at his feet: and of the viands which I placed before him he took of each one as much as may be taken for a salutation and then he sent the rest to his people and they all ate some of it and he did the same with the drink which he only touched to his mouth and then gave it to the others in the same way and it was all done in wonderful state and with very few words and whatever he said, according to what I was able to understand, was very formal and prudent and those two looked in his face and spoke for him and with him and with great respect. After eating, a page brought a belt which is like those of Castile in shape, but of a different make, which he took and gave to me and also two wrought pieces of gold which were very thin, as I believe they obtain very little of it here, although I consider they are very near the place where it has its home and that there is a great deal of it. I saw that a drapery that I had upon my bed pleased him. I gave it to him and some very good amber beads which I wore around my neck and some red shoes and a flask of orange flower water, with which he was so pleased it was wonderful; and he and his governor and counsellors were very sorry that they did not understand me, nor I, them. Nevertheless I understood that he told me that if anything from here would satisfy me that all the island was at my command. I sent for some beads of mine where as a sign I have an 'excelente' of gold upon which the images of your Highnesses are engraved and showed it to him, and again told him the same as yesterday that your Highnesses command and rule over all the best part of the world and that there are no other such great Princes: and I showed him the royal banners and the others with the cross, which he held in great estimation: and he said to his counsellors that your Highnesses must be great Lords, since you had sent me here from so far without fear: and many other things happened which I did not understand, except that I very well saw he considered everything as very wonderful." Then as it was already late and he wished to go away, the Admiral sent him in the boat with great honours and caused many lombards to be fired; and having reached land he got into his litter and went away with his two hundred men and more, and his son was carried behind him on the shoulders of an Indian, a very honourable man. Wherever he encountered the sailors and people from the ships, he ordered that something to eat should be given them and they should be paid a great deal of honour. A sailor said that he had met him on the way and had seen that all the things which the Admiral had given him were each one carried before the King by a man, who appeared to be one of the most important men. His son was following behind the King at some distance with as large a number of people as he had, and likewise a brother of the King, except that the brother was on foot and two of the principal men were leading him by the arms. This brother came to the ship, after the King came, and the Admiral gave him some things from the said articles of barter and then the Admiral learned that the King was called in his language Cacique. On this day he says he traded for only a small quantity of gold: but the Admiral learned from an old man that there were many islands in that vicinity at a distance of a hundred leagues and more, according to what he could understand, in which a great quantity of gold is found and in the others there is so much that he told him there was an island which was all gold, and there is such a quantity in the others that they gather it and sift it as with sieves and melt it and make "bars" and work it in a thousand ways: they show the manner in which this is done, by signs. This old man indicated to the Admiral the course to these islands and the place where they lay: the Admiral determined to go there and said that if the said old man had not been one of the principal persons belonging to the King that he would have detained him and taken him with him, or if he had known the language that he would have begged him to accompany him and be believed as he was on such good terms with him and with the Christians, that he would have gone with him of his own will. But as he already considered those people as belonging to the Sovereigns of Castile and it was not right to offend them, he decided to leave him. He placed a very large cross in the centre of the plaza of that village in which the Indians assisted greatly: and they said prayers, he said, and adored it, and from their actions the Admiral hopes in the Lord that all those islands are to be Christianised.


This night he made sail to get out of that gulf which the isla Espanola and Tortigo make there, and when day arrived the wind changed to the east, on which account during all that day he could not get out from between those two islands, and at night he was not able to reach a harbour I which appeared there. He saw four points of land near there and a large bay and river and from that place he saw a very large promontory, and there was a village and back of it a valley between many very high mountains, covered with trees which he judged to be pines; and upon the Dos Hermanos there is a very high and large mountain which extends from north-east to south-west and to the east-south-east of the Cabo de Torres there is a small island which he named Santo Tomas as the next day was his vigil. All around that island there are capes and wonderful harbours, according to what he could judge from the sea. In the forepart of the island on the western part there is a cape partly high and partly low which projects far out into the sea and on that account he named it Cabo Alto y Bajo. At a distance from Torres of sixty miles in the direction of the east, quarter south-east, there is a higher mountain than the other which projects into the sea and appears at a distance to be an island by itself on account of a cut which it has on the land side. He named it Monte Caribata because that province is called Caribata. It is very beautiful and covered with trees of a bright green without snow and without mists and the weather there in respect to the breezes and temperateness was the same as it is in Castile in the month of March and in respect to the trees and grasses it was like the month of May in Castile. The nights, he says, were of fourteen hours duration.


To-day at sunset he entered a harbour which was between the island of Santo Tomas and the Cabo de Caribata, and anchored. This harbour is very beautiful and all the ships there are in Christendom could be contained therein. Its entrance appears impossible from the sea to those who have not entered it, on account of some obstructing rocks which extend from the mountain almost as far as the island and which are not placed in order, but there is one here and another there, some in the sea and some by the land. On this account it is necessary to be watchful, in order to enter it by some entrances it has which are very wide and suitable to enter without fear, and the water is all seven fathoms deep and having passed the rocks it is twelve fathoms deep inside. The ship can be fastened with any cord whatever against any winds there may be. At the entrance of this harbour he says there is a channel {canal} which lies to the west of a small sandy island and there are many trees upon this island, and up to the foot of it there are seven fathoms of water: but there are many shoals in this vicinity and it is necessary to keep the eyes open until the harbour is entered: then there is no fear of all the tempests in the world. From that harbour a very large valley appeared, all cultivated, which descends to the harbour from the south-east: it is all surrounded with very high mountains which appear to reach heaven and are very beautiful and covered with green trees; and without doubt there are mountains there which are higher than the island of Tenerife in Canaria, which is held to be the highest that can be found. A league from this part of the Isla de Santo Tomas there is another small island and nearer than that, another; and in all there are wonderful harbours but it is necessary to look out for the shoals. The Admiral saw villages and the smoke which they made.

Columbus's Log: December, 1492 - continued - 2

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