From The Log of Christopher Columbus:


At sunrise the Admiral sent the boats to land to the houses which were there and they found that all the people had fled: and after some time a man appeared and the Admiral ordered that they should be left to become re-assured and the boats returned, and after having eaten he again sent to land one of the Indians he was carrying, who from a distance called to them saying that they must not be afraid because the Spaniards were good people and did no harm to any one; neither were they from the Great Khan, rather had they given of their possessions in many islands where they had been. And the Indian started to swim and went to land, and two of the Indians there took him by the arms and conducted him to a house where they questioned him. And as they were sure that no harm would be done them, they were re-assured and then there came to the ships more than sixteen rafts or canoes with spun cotton and other little things of theirs, of which the Admiral ordered that nothing should be taken that they might know that the Admiral was seeking nothing except gold which they call nucay: and thus during dl the day they went and came from land to the ships, and the Christians went to land in great security. The Admiral did not see any of them have gold but the Admiral says he saw one of them have a piece of wrought silver fastened to his nose, which be took as an indication that there was silver in the country. They said by signs that before three days there would come many merchants from the country inland to buy the things which the Christians brought there, and they would give news from the King of the country, who, according to what they could understand by the signs they made was four days journey distant from there, because they had sent many people through all the country, to tell them about the Admiral. These people, says the Admiral, are of the same quality and have the same customs as the others which have been found, without any sect that I know, as until the present I have not seen these I am bringing with me make any prayer but instead they say the Salve and the Ave Maria with the hands raised to heaven as they are shown, and they make the sign of the cross. All the language also is one and they are all friends and I believe that all these islands are friendly, and that they are at war with the Great Khan, whom they call Cavila and the province Bafan, and thus they also go naked like the others The Admiral says this. He says that the river is very deep and the ships can approach their sides to the land, in the mouth. The water is not fresh until within a league of the mouth and there it is very fresh. And it is certain says the Admiral that this is the mainland and that I am, he says, before Zayto and Guinsay, 100 leagues a little more or a little less, distant from both, and it is well shown by the sea which comes in a different manner than it has come up to the present, and yesterday as he was going to the north-west he found that it was becoming cold.


The Admiral decided to send two Spaniards, the one named Rodrigo de Jerez who lived in Ayamonte and the other one Luis de Torres, who had lived with the Adelantado of Murcia, and had been a Jew and who he says knew how to speak Hebrew and Chaldean and even some Arabic: and with these men he sent two Indians, one of those he was taking with him from Guanahani and the other from those houses situated on the River. He gave them strings of beads to buy something to eat if it should fail them and six days time in which to return. He gave them specimens of spices to see if they came across any of them. He gave them instructions as to how they must ask for the King of that country and as to what they were to say on the part of the Sovereigns of Castile, how they sent the Admiral that he might give to the King on their part their letters and a present, and in order to learn of his state and gain friendship with him that he might favour them in whatever they might need, etc.: and that they might learn of certain provinces and harbours and rivers of which the Admiral had information and how far distant they were from there, etc.

This night the Admiral took the altitude here with a quadrant and he found that he was 42 degrees distant from the equinoctial line and he says that by his computation he found that he had gone from the island of Hierro 1142 leagues, and he still affirms that that country is the mainland.


In the morning the Admiral entered the boat and as the river forms a great lake at the mouth which makes a very remarkable harbour very deep and free from rocks, a very good beach to run the ships aground in order to clean the hulls, and there is a great deal of wood,--he went up the river until he reached fresh water, which might be about two leagues and ascended a slight elevation to learn something of the country, and he could not see anything because of the large groves which were very fresh and odorous, on account of which he says he has no doubt that there are aromatic herbs. He says that everything he saw was so beautiful that the eyes could not weary of seeing such beauty nor could one weary of the songs of the birds, both large and small. That day many rafts or canoes came to the ships to barter things made of spun cotton and the nets in which they slept, which are hammocks.


Then at dawn the Admiral entered the boat and went to land to hunt some birds which he had seen the day before. After his return, Martin Alonzo Pinzon came to him with two pieces of cinnamon and said that a Portuguese he had on his ship had seen an Indian who was carrying two very large handfuls of it, but that he had not dared to trade with him for it on account of the prohibition of the Admiral that no one should do any trading. He said further that the Indian had some bright reddish things like nuts. The Boatswain of the Pinta said that he had found trees of cinnamon. The Admiral then went there and found that it was not cinnamon. The Admiral showed cinnamon and pepper to some Indians in that place--it appears that it was from that which they were carrying from Castile as a specimen--and he says that they recognised it and they said by signs that near there, there was a great deal of it toward the south-east. He showed them gold and pearls and certain old men replied that in a place they called Bohio there was an infinite quantity of gold, and that they wore it at the neck and in the ears and on the arms and on the legs, and also pearls. He understood further that they said there were large ships and merchandise and all this was to the south-east. He understood also that a long distance from there, there were men with one eye and others with dogs' snouts who ate men and that on taking a man they beheaded him and drank his blood and cut off his genital parts. The Admiral determined to return to the ship and await the two men he had sent in order to decide to start and search for those lands, unless, these men brought some good news of what he desired. The Admiral says further--"These people are very meek and very fearful, naked as I have said, without arms and without government. These lands are very fertile. They are full of 'mames' which are like carrots and taste like chestnuts and they have 'faxones' and beans very different from ours, and a great deal of cotton, which they do not sow and which grows in the mountains, large trees of it: and I believe they have it ready to gather all the time because I saw the pods opened and others which were opening and flowers all on one tree and a thousand other kinds of fruits of which it is not possible for me to write and it must all be a profitable thing." The Admiral says all this.


At dawn he ordered the small ship beached in order to clean the hull and the other ships also, but not all together: but that two should remain all the time in the place where they were for security, although he says that those people were very safe and they could have beached all the ships together without fear. Being in this condition, the Boatswain of the Nina came to beg a reward from the Admiral because he had found mastic, but he did not bring a specimen because he had lost it. The Admiral promised him the reward and sent Rodrigo Sanchez and Master Diego to the trees, and they brought a little of it which he kept to carry to the Sovereigns and also some of the tree and he says that he knew that it was mastic. Although it must be gathered at the right time: and that there was enough in that vicinity to procure 1000 quintals each year. He says that he found near there a great deal of that wood which is called aloe. He says further that the Puerto de Mares is one of the best harbours in the world and has the best climate and the quietest people and as it has a point formed by a high rocky hillock a fortress can be made, so that if rich and great things should come out of this country, the merchants would be secure there from any other nations whatever. And he says,--"May Our Lord, in whose hands are all the victories, dispose all that which is for His service." He says that an Indian said by signs that the mastic was good for pains in the stomach.


Yesterday in the night, says the Admiral, the two men whom he had sent inland to see the country came back and told him how they bad gone twelve leagues as far as a village of fifty houses, where he says there were a thousand inhabitants, as a great many live in one house. These houses are like very large pavilions. The Spaniards said that the Indians received them with great solemnity according to their custom and all the men as well as the women came to see them and lodged them in the best houses. The Indians touched them and kissed their hands and feet wondering, and believing that they came from heaven, and thus they gave them to understand. They gave them to eat from what they had. They said that on arriving, the most honourable persons of the village conducted them by the arms to the principal house and gave them two chairs in which they sat down and they all seated themselves on the floor around them. The Indian who went with them told them how the Christians lived and how they were good people. Afterwards the men went out and the women entered and seated themselves in the same manner around them, kissing their hands and feet, trying them to see if they were of flesh and of bone like themselves. They begged them to remain there with them at least five days. They showed the Indians the cinnamon and pepper and other spices which the Admiral had given them and these told them by signs that there was a great deal of it near there to the south-east: but that they did not know if they had it in that place. Having seen that there were no rich cities they returned and it they had desired to make a place for those who wished to come with them, that more than 500 men and women would have come with them, because they thought they were returning to heaven. There came with them however one of the principal men of the village and his son and one of his men. The Admiral talked with them, paid them great honour and he this Indian indicated to him many lands and islands there were in those parts and he thought to bring them to the Sovereigns: and he says he did not know what the Indian desired of him, hut it appears that because of fear and in the darkness of night he desired to land, and the Admiral says that as he had the ship dry on land, and not wishing to irritate him, he let him go, saying that at dawn be would return, but he never returned. The two Christians found on the way many people who were crossing to their villages, men and women with a half burned wood in their hands and herbs to smoke, which they are in the habit of doing. They did not find on the way a village of more than five houses, and all gave them the same welcome. They saw many kinds of trees and grasses and sweetsmelling flowers. They saw many kinds of birds different from those in Spain, excellent partridge and nightingales, which sang, and geese, and of these there is a very great number there. They saw no four-footed beasts except dogs which did not bark. The land is very fertile and very well cultivated with those "mames" and "fexoes" and beans very different from ours, that same panic-grass and a great quantity of cotton gathered and spun and worked, and they said that in one house alone they had seen more than five hundred arrobas and that there could be had there each year, four thousand quintals. The Admiral says that it appeared to him they did not sow it and that it bears fruit all the year: it is very fine, and has a very large pod. All that these people had, he says, they gave for a very miserable price and that they gave one great basket of cotton for the end of a leather strap or any other thing that was given them. They are a people, says the Admiral, very free from evil or from war. All the men and women are naked as their mothers gave them birth. It is true that the women wear a cotton thing only large enough to cover their genital parts and no more and they are of very good presence, neither very black but less so than the inhabitants of the Canaries. "I have to say Most Serene Princes (says the Admiral) that by means of devout religious persons knowing their language well, all would soon become Christians: and thus I hope in our Lord that your Highnesses will appoint such persons with great diligence in order to turn to the Church such great peoples, and that they will convert them, even as they have destroyed those who would not confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit: and after their days as we are all mortal, they will leave their realms in a very tranquil condition and freed from heresy and wickedness, and will be well received before the Eternal Creator, Whom may it please to give them a long life and a great increase of larger realms and dominions, and the will and disposition to spread the holy Christian religion, as they have done up to the present time, Amen.--To-day I will launch the ship and make haste to start Thursday in the name of God to go to the south-east and seek gold and spices and discover land." These are the words of the Admiral, who thought to start on Thursday. But as the wind was contrary, he could not start until Nov. 12.


He started from the harbour and river of Alares at the passing of the quarter of dawn to go to an island which the Indians he was taking positively affirmed was called Babeque, where, as they said by signs, the people on it gather gold with candles at night in the sand and afterwards with a hammer he says they make bars of it, and in order to go to this island it was necessary to turn the prow to the east, quarter south-east. After having gone eight leagues forward along the coast he found a river and then having gone another four, he found another river which appeared very rich and larger than any of the others he had found. He did not wish to stop or enter any of them on two accounts, the principal one that the weather and wind were good to go in search of the said island of Babeque, the other because if there should be any populous or famous city upon it, it would appear near the sea, and in order to go up the river small vessels were necessary, which those they had were not, and thus he would also lose much time, and the similar rivers are a thing to be discovered by one's self. All that coast was principally populated near the river, to which he gave the name of El Rio del Sol. He said that Sunday before, November 11, it had appeared to him that it would be well to take some persons from those dwelling by that river in order to take them to the Sovereigns that they might learn our language so as to know what there is in the country, and that in returning they may speak the language of the Christians and take our customs and the things of the Faith, "Because I see and know (says the Admiral) that this people have no sect whatever nor are they idolaters, but very meek and without knowing evil, or killing others or capturing them and without arms, and so timorous that a hundred of them flee from one of our people, although they may jest with them: and they are credulous and they know that there is a God in heaven, and they firmly believe that we have come from heaven: and they learn very quickly whatever prayer we tell them to say and they make the sign of the cross So that your Highnesses must resolve to make them Christians, as I believe that if they commence, in a short time a multitude of peoples will have been converted to our Holy Faith acquiring great domains and riches and all their villages for Spain: because without doubt there is a very great quantity of gold in this land, as these Indians I am bringing say, not without cause, that there are places in these islands where they dig the gold and wear it at the neck and in the ears and on the arms and on the legs and there are very heavy bracelets and also there are precious stones and pearls and an infinite quantity of spices. And in this river of Alures from whence I started last night, without doubt there is a very great quantity of mastic, and there may be more if it is desired that there should be more, because in planting the trees they grow easily and there are a great quantity and very large ones, and the leaf is like the mastic-tree and the fruit, except that the trees as well as the leaves are larger, as Pliny says, and as I have seen on the island of Scio in the Archipelago. And I ordered many of these trees tapped to see if resin would flow out in order to bring some, and as it has rained all the time I have been in the said river I have not been able to get any of it, except a very small quantity which I am bringing to your Highnesses, and also it may be that it is not the time to tap them; as for this purpose I believe that the end of the winter when the trees are about to bloom is suitable: and here they already have the fruit almost ripe it the present time. And also there will be a great quantity of cotton here, and I believe that it would he sold very well here without taking it to Spain, but to the great cities of the Great Khan which will without doubt be discovered, and to many other cities belonging to other Lords which will come to serve your Highnesses, and where other things from Spain and the lands of the east will be taken, since these are to the west of us. And here there is also an infinite quantity of aloes, although it is not a thing which will produce great riches but from the mastic much is to be expected, because there is none except in the said island of Scio, and I believe that they derive from it fifty thousand ducats, if I do not remember wrongly. And there is here in the mouth of the river the best harbour that I have seen until the present time, clear and wide and deep and a good situation and strong place to construct a village; and any ships whatever can approach their sides to the banks and the land is very temperate and high and the waters are very good. Yesterday there came to the side of the ship a canoe with six youths upon it and five of them entered the ship: these I ordered kept and I am bringing them with me. And afterwards I sent to a house which is west of the river and they brought seven women, small and large, and three children. I did this that the men might conduct themselves better in Spain by having women from their country than they would without them: as it had already happened many other times in taking the men from Guinea that they might learn the language in Portugal--that after they returned and it was thought that they might be made use of in their country on account of the good company they had had and the presents which had been given them, that they never appeared after arriving there. Others did not act in this manner. So that having their wives they will be willing to undertake what is desired of them, and also these women will teach our people their language, which is all one in all these islands of India and all understand each other and all go with their canoes, which is not the case in Guinea where there are a thousand kinds of languages so that one does not understand the other. This night there came to the side of the vessel the husband of one of these women and the father of the three children who were a male and two females and asked that I might let him come with them and it pleased me greatly, and they are now all consoled so they must all be relatives, and he is a man of already forty-five years." All these are the exact words of the Admiral. He also says above that it was somewhat cold and on this account it would not be good judgment to navigate to the north in winter in order to make discoveries. He sailed this Monday until sunset eighteen leagues to the east quarter south-east as far as a cape, which he named the Cabo de Cuba.


All this night he was "a la corda," as the sailors say, which is to beat about and not make any headway, in order to see a gap in the mountains, which is an opening as between one mountain range and another, which he began to see at sunset, where two very large mountains appeared, and it seemed that the country of Cuba was divided from that of Bohio, and the Indians he was taking with him said so by signs. Daylight having arrived, he made sail for land, and passed a point which at night appeared about two leagues distant, and entered a large gulf, five leagues to the south-south-west: and there remained another five leagues to arrive at the cape, where between two large mountains there was a cut into which he could not determine whether the sea had an entrance or not. And as he desired to go to the island which they called Babeque where he bad information, according to what he understood, that there was a great deal of gold, which island projected to the east of him and as he saw no large villages where he could place himself in shelter from the wind which increased more than ever up to that time, he decided to make for the sea, and go to the east with the wind, which was north, and he went eight miles each hour: and from ten o'clock in the day when he took that course, until sunset he went fifty-six miles from the Cabo de Cuba to the east, which are fourteen leagues. And of the other country of Bohio which remained to the leeward, commencing from the head of the aforesaid gulf he discovered, in his opinion, eighty miles, which are twenty leagues, and dl that coast extends east-south-east and west-north-west.


All the night of yesterday he went cautiously and beating about because he said that it was not reasonable to navigate among those islands at night until he had discovered them as the Indians he was carrying told him yesterday (Tuesday) that it was about three days' journey from the river of Mares to the island of Babeque, which must he understood as days' journeys for their canoes, which can go seven leagues, and the wind also became light: and having to go to the east he could not (steer in that direction), except to the quarter of the south-east, and on account of other inconveniences which he refers to he had to stop there until morning. At sunrise he determined to go in search of a harbour, because the wind had changed from the north to the north-east, and if he did not find a harbour it would be necessary for him to turn backward to the harbours he had left on the island of Cuba. He reached land, having gone that night twenty-four miles to the east quarter south-east; he went to the south lacuna miles to land, where he saw many inlets and many small islands and harbours, and as the wind was high and the sea greatly changed he did not dare to undertake to enter, but rather he ran along the coast to the north-west, quarter west, searching for a harbour, and he saw that there were many but not very clear. After having gone in this manner sixty-four miles, he found a very deep inlet, a quarter of a mile wide, and a good harbour and river, where he entered and turned his prow to the south-south-west, and afterward to the south until he reached south-east, and all very wide and deep. Here he saw so many islands that he could not count them all, of good size, and very high lands covered with different trees of a thousand kinds and an infinite number of palms. He marvelled greatly to see so many high islands, and he says to the Sovereigns in regard to the mountains which he has seen since the day before yesterday along these coasts and on these islands, that it appears to him there are no higher ones in the world nor any as beautiful and clear, without fog or snow, and at the base the sea is of very great depth: and he says he believes that these islands are those innumerable ones which in the maps of the world are placed at the end of the east: and he said that he believed there were very great riches and precious stones and spices upon them, and that they extend very far to the south and spread out in all directions. He named this place La Mar de Nuestra Senora, and the harbour which is near the entrance to the said islands he named Puerto del Principe, into which he did not enter more than to see it from outside, until another excursion which he made there the coming week, which will appear there. He says so many and such things of the fertility and beauty and height of these islands which he found in this harbour, that he tells the Sovereigns not to wonder that he praises them so much, because he assures them that he does not believe he has told the hundredth part. Some of them appeared to reach heaven and were like points of diamonds: others of great height which have a table on top, and at their base the sea is of very great depth so that a very large carack could approach them: and they are all covered with forests and are without rocks.


He decided to go among these islands with the boats from the ships and he says wonders in regard to them, and that he found mastic and a great quantity of aloes and some of them were covered with the roots from which the Indians make their bread, and he found that a fire had been kindled in some places. He saw no fresh water but there were some people and they fled. Everywhere he went he found a depth of fifteen and sixteen fathoms, and all "basa" which means that the bottom underneath is sand and not rock, which the sailors greatly desire, because the rocks cut the cables of the ships' anchors.


As in all the places, islands and lands where he entered he always left a cross planted, he entered the boat and went to the mouth of those harbours and on a point of the land he found two very large beams, one larger than the other, and the one upon the other made a cross, which he says a carpenter could not have made in better proportion: and having adored that cross, he ordered a very large, high cross made of the same timbers. He found canes along that beach and he says he did not know where they came from but he believed that some river brought them and cast them on the beach, and he was reasonable in thinking so. He went to a creek within the entrance of the harbour to the south-east (a creek is a narrow inlet where the water from the sea enters the land): there the land formed a promontory of stone and rock like a cape, and at the base the sea was very deep, so that the largest carack in the world could lie against the land, and there was a place or corner where six ships could remain without anchors as in a hall. It appeared to him that a fortress could be built there at small cost, if any notable commerce should result in that sea from those islands at any time. On returning to the ship he found the Indians he had with him fishing for very large snails which are found in those seas, and he made the people enter there and search for nacaras which are the oysters where pearls are formed, and they found many but no pearls and he attributed it to the fact that it could not have been the time for them, which he believed was in May and June. The sailors found an animal which appeared to be a "taso" or "taxo." They fished also with nets and found a fish among many others, which appeared like a genuine hog, not like a "tunny" which he says was all shell, very hard, and had nothing soft except the tail and the eyes and an opening underneath to expel its superfluities. He ordered it salted that he might take it for the Sovereigns to see.

Columbus's Log: November, 1492 continued

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