From The Log of Christopher Columbus.


To-day he went with the boats from the ships to see that harbour: which he saw to be such that he affirms none yet seen is equal to it: and he excuses himself saying that he has praised those he has passed so much that he does not know how to rate this one highly enough: and he fears that he may be considered as magnifying the truth of things to an excessive degree. He guards against this, saying: that he is taking old sailors with him and these say, and will say the same, and so also every one of those who go on the sea: that is to say, that all his praises of the harbours he has passed are true and it is also the truth that this harbour is much better than all the others. He further says, as follows: "I have been twenty-three years upon the sea without quitting it for any time long enough to be counted, and I saw all the East and West as it is called in going to the north, which is England, and l have travelled through Guinea, but in all these regions the perfection of harbours will not he found...{lacuna of a line and a half} found always the {lacuna} better than the other. I considered what I had written very carefully and I say again that I assert I have written well and that now this harbour surpasses all the others, and all the ships in the would could be contained in it, and it is so sheltered that the oldest cable on a ship would hold it fast."

It is five leagues from the entrance to the innermost point. He saw very well cultivated lands, although they are all like that, and he ordered two men to get out of the boats and go to an elevation to see if there was a village, because none could be seen from the sea: although that night about ten o'clock certain Indians came to the ships in a canoe to see the Admiral and the Christians, as being something wonderful, and the Admiral gave them some of the articles of barter with which they were greatly pleased. The two Christians returned and told where they had seen a large village a little distance from the sea. The Admiral ordered them to row toward the place where the village was until they arrived near the land, and he saw some Indians who came to the sea-shore and it appeared that they came with fear, on which account he ordered the boats stopped and told the Indians he was carrying in the ships, to speak to them and tell them that no injury would be done to them. They then drew nearer to the sea and the Admiral drew nearer to the land, and after they became entirely free from fear, so many came that they covered the land, offering a thousand thanks, the men as well as the women and children. Some ran here and others there to bring us bread which they bake from niames, which they call "ajes," which is very white and good and they brought us water in gourds and in clay pitchers shaped like those of Castile, and they brought us all they had in the world and knew the Admiral wished for, and all so generously and joyfully that it was wonderful "and it cannot be said that because what they gave us was of little value that on this account they gave it freely (says the Admiral) because those who gave pieces of gold did it in the same way and as liberally as those who gave a gourd of water: and it is an easy thing to recognise (says the Admiral) when a thing is given very willingly and eagerly." These are his words. "These people have no pikes or spears or any other arms, neither have the other inhabitants of all this island, which I believe to be very large: they are naked as their mothers gave them birth, men as well as women; but in the other countries of Juana and those of the other islands the women wore in front, pieces of cotton something like men's breeches, with which they covered their genital parts, and especially after they had passed the age of twelve years, but here neither young nor old wore it. And in the other places all the men made the women hide from the Christians through jealousy, but here they do not, and there are some very pretty women, and they are the first who came to give thanks to Heaven and bring whatever they had, especially things to eat, bread made from 'ajes,' gonza avellanada and five or six kinds of fruits." The Admiral ordered some of the fruit cured in order to take it to the Sovereigns. The women in the other places he says did the same before they were concealed, and the Admiral ordered everywhere that all his people should he on guard not to annoy any of them in any manner, and that no one should take anything from them against their will, and so the Christians paid them for everything they received from them. Finally (says the Admiral) it cannot be believed that men have seen a people with such good hearts and so liberal in giving and so fearful that they strip themselves of everything to give all they have to the Christians, and on the arrival of the Christians, they then run to bring everything to them. Then the Admiral sent six Christians to the village to see what it was, and the people showed them all the honour they knew how and were able to show, and gave them whatever they had because they were no longer in any doubt but believed that the Admiral and all his people had come from Heaven: the Indians whom the Admiral had brought from the other islands also believed this, although what they ought to believe in respect to this matter had already been told them. After the six Christians had gone, certain canoes came bringing people to pray the Admiral on the part of a certain chief, to go to his village when he left this place. Canoa is a boat in which they navigate and some of them are large and some small. And having seen that the village of that chief was on the way, situated on a point of land, and that he was waiting for the Admiral with many people, he went there, but before he started, so many people, men and women and children, came to the shore that it was frightful and they were all crying loudly that he must not go away but must remain with them. The messengers of the other chief who had come to invite him were waiting with their canoes that he might not go away without going to see the Chief: and so he went to see him. When the Admiral arrived where that Chief was waiting for him with a great many things to eat, the Chief ordered all his people to be seated, telling them then to take whatever they had to eat to the boats where the Admiral was, near to the shores of the sea. And having seen that the Admiral had received what they had taken to him, all or the greater part of the Indians commenced running to the village, which must have been near, in order to bring him more eatables and parrots and other things which they had, with such generosity that it was wonderful. The Admiral gave them glass beads and brass rings and hawks' bells, not because they asked for anything but because it appeared to him that it was right, and above all (says the Admiral) because he already considers them as Christians and as belonging to the Sovereigns of Castile more than the people of Castile: and he says that nothing else is lacking save to know the language and to give them orders because all that they are ordered to do, they will do without any contradiction. The Admiral left that place for the ships, and the Indians, men, women, and children, cried out for the Christians not to go away but to remain with them. After the Christians left, canoes filled with the Indians followed them to the ships, and the Admiral treated them with great honour and gave them things to eat and other things they had with them. Another chief had also come previously from the west and many people even came swimming, though the ship was more than a long half league from the land. The Chief of whom I spoke, having returned, the Admiral sent certain persons to see him and question him about these islands: and he received them very well and took them with him to his village to give them certain large pieces of gold; and they arrived at a large river which the Indians swam across but the Christians were not able to do so and so they returned. In all this region there are very high mountains which appear to reach Heaven, so that the mountains of the island of Tenerife appear nothing in comparison with them in height and in beauty and they are all green and covered with forests which is a wonderful thing. In their midst are very delightful plains and at the foot of this harbour to the south there is such a great plain without an obstructing mountain, that the eyes cannot see to the end of it, and it appears that it must he fifteen or twenty leagues long: and a river flows through it and it is all populated and cultivated and is as green now as if it were in Castile in the month of May or June, although the nights are fourteen hours in length and the land is so northerly. Therefore this harbour is very good whatever winds may blow, sheltered and deep, and all the country is inhabited by a very good and mild people, and they have no arms either good or had. And any ship whatever may be free from fear in this harbour that other ships might come by night to assault it, because, although the mouth is more than two leagues wide, it is very contracted by reason of two rocky reefs which are hardly seen above the water: and there is a very narrow entrance in this reef which appears as if it could only have been made by hand, which left an opening wide enough for ships to enter. In the mouth it is seven fathoms in depth to the foot of a small level island which has a beach and trees at the foot of it: the entrance is to the west, and a ship can approach near enough to touch the rock without fear. There are three islands to the north-west and a large river a league from the head of the harbour. It is the best harbour in the world and he named it the Puerto de la Mar de Santo Tomas because this day was the day of St. Thomas. He called it a sea on account of its size.


At dawn he set sail in order to go on his course in search of the islands which the Indians said contained a great deal of gold, and that some contained more gold than land. But the weather was not favourable and he had to anchor again and sent the boat to fish with nets. The Chief of that country who had a place near there sent him a large canoe full of people, and in it one of his principal servants, to entreat the Admiral to go with the ships to his country and he would give him whatever he had. He sent the Admiral by this servant a belt which in place of a purse had a mask attached with two large ears and a tongue and nose of beaten gold. And this people are so generous that whatever is asked of them they give with the best will in the world, and it appears to them that in asking them for something a great favour is shown them. The Admiral says this. The Indians in the canoe met the boat from the ship and gave the belt to a boy and came with their canoe on board the ship to perform their errand. Before they could understand each other some part of the day passed, neither could the Indians whom the Admiral had with him understand them well, because there is some difference in the names of things: finally he finished by understanding the invitation of these Indians, by means of signs. The Admiral determined to start for that place on Sunday although he was not in the habit of leaving port on Sunday, solely on account of his devotion and not from any superstition whatever. But because he hopes, he says, that the people of those villages will he Christianised on account of their good-will, and that this will be accomplished by the Sovereigns of Spain, and because he already considers them as belonging to the Sovereigns, and that they may serve the Sovereigns lovingly he is agreeable to them and strives to please them. Before he started to-day he sent six men to a very large village three leagues from there to the west, because the Chief of that village came to the Admiral the day before and told him that he had certain pieces of gold. On the arrival of the Christians at that place the Chief took the Escribano of the Admiral who was with the Christians by the hand. The Admiral sent the Escribano to prevent the other Spaniards from doing anything unjust to the Indians because the Indians were so generous and the Spaniards so avaricious and unreasonable that they were not satisfied to have the Indians give them whatever they desired for the end of a leather strap and even for a piece of glass and earthen ware and for other things of no value; but even without giving them anything they desired to have everything and take everything, which the Admiral always prohibited, although the things they gave to the Christians with the exception of the gold were always of small value. But the Admiral, considering the generous hearts of the Indians, who would give, and in fact did give, a piece, of gold for six cheap little glass beads, on that account ordered that nothing should be received from them for which something was not given in payment. So that the Chief took the Escribano by the hand and conducted him to his house with all the people, a very great number, who accompanied him and made them give the Spaniards something to eat, and all the Indians brought them many things made of cotton and little balls of the same. Afterward in the afternoon the Chief gave them three very fat geese and some small pieces of gold. And a great number of Indians came with them carrying for them all the things for which they had traded and contending among themselves as to carrying them on their shoulders and they actually did carry them across some rivers and muddy places. The Admiral ordered that some things should be given to the Chief and he and all his people were greatly pleased, believing that the Christians had really come from heaven and they considered themselves fortunate in seeing them. More than one hundred and twenty canoes came to the ships on this day all loaded with people and all bringing something, especially their bread and fish, and water in small earthen jars and seeds of many good kinds of spices. They throw a grain of these seeds in a porringer of water and drink it and the Indians that the Admiral had with him say that it was a very healthful thing.


He could not start for the country of that Chief who had sent to entreat and invite him to come, as there was no wind: but he sent some people and the Escribano in the boats with the three messengers who were waiting there. In the meantime while they were gone, he sent two of the Indians he had with him to the villages which were near the place where the ships were, and these Indians returned with a chief to the ships, with the news that in that land of Espanola there was a great quantity of gold and that people from other places came there to buy it, and they told him that he would find as much as he desired there. Others came who confirmed there being much gold on the island and they showed him their manner of obtaining it. The Admiral understood all that with difficulty: but yet he felt certain that in those regions there was a very great quantity of gold and that in finding the place from which it is obtained he would get it very cheaply and as he imagined, even for nothing. And he repeats that he believes there must be a great deal of it, because in the three days which he remained in that harbour he had received good pieces of gold and he can not believe that it is brought there from another country. May our Lord, Who has all things in His hands assist me and give me whatever may be for His service. These are the words of the Admiral. He says that at that time he believes more than a thousand persons came to the vessel and they all brought something from what they possessed: and before they reached the ship, at a distance of half a cross-bow shot, they arose to their feet in their canoes and took what they were bringing in their hands, saying: "Take, Take." Also he says he believes that more than five hundred came swimming to the ships on account of not having canoes, and he was anchored about a league from land. He judged that five princes, sons of chiefs, with all their household, women and children, had come to see the Christians. The Admiral ordered something given to every one, because he says, it was all well employed, and he says: May our Lord in His mercy direct me until I find this gold, I say this Mine, because I have many people here who say that they know it: these are his words. The boats arrived in the night and they said that they had come from a long distance, and that at the mountain of Caribatan they found many canoes with a great many people who were coming from the place whither the Christians were going, to see the Admiral and the Christians. And he considered it certain that if he could be in that harbour for the feast of the Nativity that all the people would come from that island, which he already estimated to be larger than England, to see the Christians. The canoes returned with the Christians to the village, which, he says, they affirm to be larger and with better arranged streets than any others passed and discovered up to that time. This village, he says, is almost three leagues to the south-east of the Punta Santa. And as the canoes go rapidly with oars they went ahead to make known to the Cacique that the Christians were coming. Up to that time the Admiral had not been able to understand whether by Cacique they meant King or Governor. They also have another word for a great personage, that is to say Nitayno, and he did not know whether it meant a Hidalgo, Governor or Judge. Finally the Cacique came to them, and all the people of the village consisting of more than two thousand men, united in the plaza, which was very clean. This King paid great honours to the people from the ships and each one of the people brought them something to eat and to drink. Then the King gave to each one of them some cotton cloths such as the women wear, and parrots for the Admiral, and certain pieces of gold: the people also gave the sailors some of the same cloths and other things from their houses for the little things which they gave them, which from the manner in which they received them, it appeared they esteemed as reliques. In the afternoon when they wished to take leave the King begged them to wait until another day and all the people did the same; but having seen that they had determined to come away, many of the Indians came with them carrying on their shoulders the things which the Cacique and the others had given them as far as the boats, which remained at the entrance of the river.


Before sunrise he weighed the anchors, with a land breeze. Among the many Indians who had come to the ship yesterday and had given them indications of there being gold on that island and had named the places where it was found, he saw one, who, it appears was better disposed and more affectionate, or who spoke to him with more pleasure. The Admiral flattered him, begging him to go away with him to show him the mines of gold. This Indian brought with him another, a companion or relative and among the other places which they named where gold was found, they told of Cipango, which they call Civao, and there they say there is a great quantity of gold, and that the Cacique carries banners of hammered gold, but that is a great distance from the east. The Admiral here says these words to the Sovereigns: "Your Highnesses may believe that in all the world there cannot be better or more quiet people. Your Highnesses must be greatly pleased, because they will soon make them Christians and will teach them the good customs of their realms, because there cannot be a better people or country: and the people are so numerous and the country so great that I do not yet know how to write it, because I have spoken in the superlative degree of the people and the country of Juana, which they call Cuba; but there is as much difference between the people of this country and the people of Juana as there is between day and night. Neither do I believe that any other person who saw this, would have done or said less than I have said, and I say that it is true that the things here are marvelous and so also are the great villages of this island of Espanola, as I have named it and which they call Bohio. And all the people behave in a remarkably friendly manner and speak softly, not like the other Indians who appear to threaten when they speak, and the men and women are of good stature and are not black. It is true that they all paint themselves, some black and others in other colours, and mostly red. I have learned that they do it on account of the sun, which then does not injure them as much. And the houses and settlements are very beautiful and they are all governed by a Lord or Judge, and all obey him so that it is a marvel. And all these Lords speak very few words and have very fine manners, and their commands are given usually by a sign of the hand, and then it is understood in a wonderful manner." All these are the words of the Admiral.

Whoever is obliged to enter the sea of Santo Tome must put in a good league above the mouth of the entrance toward a small flat island which the Admiral named La Amiga which is in the middle of it, turning the prow toward it. And after he arrives within the "oto" of a stone from it, must go to the west, and leave the island to the east and must keep near it and not go to the other side, because there is a very large reef to the west, and also in the sea outside of it there are three shoals, and this reef reaches within a lombard shot of La Amiga: and he will pass in the middle and will find at the most shallow place seven fathoms of water with gravel underneath, and inside he will find a harbour for all the ships in the world where they can remain without cables. There is another reef and more shoals which extend from the east toward the said Island of Amiga and they are very large and extend far out into the sea and reach almost within two leagues of the cape; but it appeared that there was an entrance between them at a distance of two lombard shots from La Amiga, and at the foot of Monte Caribatan on its west side, there is a very good and large harbour.


Sailing in a light wind yesterday from the sea of Santo Tome to the Punta Santa, from which be was a league's distance at the passing of the first quarter, which would be at eleven o'clock at night, he decided to lie down to sleep because he had not slept for two days and one night. As there was a calm, the sailor who was steering the ship decided to go away and sleep and left the steering to a young ship's boy, a thing which the Admiral had always expressly prohibited in all the voyage, whether there was a wind or a calm: that is to say that the ships should not be steered by young boys. The Admiral felt secure from banks and rocks because on Sunday when he had sent the boats to that King, they had passed a good three leagues and a half to the east of the said Punta Santa and the sailors had seen all the coast and the shoals which extend from the said Punta Santa a good three leagues to the east-south-east and they saw where they could pass, which he had not done before on all this voyage. Our Lord willed that at twelve o'clock at night, as the crew had seen the Admiral lie down and repose and they also saw that there was a dead calm and the sea was as in a porringer {bowl}, they all lay down to sleep and left the steering in the hands of that boy, and the currents which were flowing carried the ship upon one of the banks. Although it was night they made such a noise that they were seen and heard at a good league's distance, and the ship went upon the bank so quietly that it was hardly felt. The boy who felt the helm catch and heard the noise of the sea, cried out, upon which the Admiral came out and was so quick that no one had yet felt that they were aground. Then the master of the ship who was the guard, came out: and the Admiral told them to launch the small vessel which they were carrying at the stern, and to take an anchor and cast it at the stern: and the master with many others jumped into the small vessel and the Admiral thought that they would do what he had told them: but they thought only of flying to the caravel which was a half league to the windward. The people on the caravel would not receive them, which was right, and on this account they returned to the ship, hut first the boat from the caravel reached it. When the Admiral saw that they were fleeing and they were his people, and that the waters were falling and that the ship was athwart in the sea, not seeing any other remedy, he ordered the mast cut and the ship lightened as much as they were able, to see if they could not float her; but as the waters were yet falling, and as the ship settled more and more to one side in the water, although there was very little or no sea, he could not save her. Then the seams opened but the ship remained whole. The Admiral went to the caravel to place the people from his ship in safety, and as there was a light breeze flowing from the land and also as the night was not yet much advanced, and he did not know how far the banks extended, he beat about, a la corda, until it was day and then went to the ship inside the bank. First he had sent the small vessel to land with Diego de Arana, of Cordova, Alguacil of the fleet, and Pedro Gutierrez, "repostero" of the Royal House, to inform the King who had sent on Saturday to invite and beg him to go with his ships to his harbour. The village of this King was about a league and a half beyond the said bank: and they say that the King wept when he heard of the disaster and sent all his people from the village with many large canoes to unload the ship: and so it was done and everything was unloaded from the decks of the ship in a very brief space of time, such was the great haste and diligence which that King displayed. And he in person with his brothers and relatives showed great assiduity both in the matter of unloading the ship and guarding what was thrown on land that everything might be in security.

From time to time he sent one of his relatives weeping to the Admiral to console him, saying that he must not feel troubled or annoyed, and that he would give him whatever he possessed. The Admiral certifies to the Sovereigns that in no part of Castile could things be placed in such safety without the loss of so much as a leather strap. The King ordered everything placed near the houses while some houses which he wished to give up were vacated, where everything could be stored and guarded. He ordered armed men placed around everything to watch all night. "He with all the people in the village wept a great deal (says the Admiral): they are an affectionate people and free from avarice and agreeable in everything and I certify to your Highnesses that in all the world I do not believe there is a better people or a better country: they love their neighbours as themselves and they have the softest and gentlest speech in the world and are always laughing. They go naked, men and women, as their mothers gave them birth. But your Highnesses may believe that they have very good customs among themselves and the King maintains a most wonderful state, and everything takes place in such an appropriate and well-ordered manner that it is a pleasure to see it all: and they have good memories, and wish to see everything and they ask what it is and for what purpose." The Admiral says all this as above.

Columbus's Log: December, 1492 - continued - 3

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