Columbus Day 

The Discovery of America is attributed Christopher Columbus. However, we should also look at other accounts as linked here:

Great American History Fact-Finder - -Discovery of America  The idea that Europeans "discovered" America in 1492 has been a basic assumption of American history, but it would be more accurate to say that Columbus's ... - 17k - Cached

The idea that Europeans "discovered" America in 1492 has been a basic assumption of American history, but it would be more accurate to say that Columbus's voyages led to the "first permanent arrival of Europeans in the Western Hemisphere." Millions of people and dozens of cultures thrived in this half of the globe long before Europeans came. All discoveries of America were accidental. In prehistoric times, the ancestors of American Indians migrated from Asia via a then-existing land bridge across the Bering Strait; they were probably hunters following herds of animals or mariners fishing for sea mammals. Their migrations continued southward down the continents, with various peoples adapting to new environments as necessary. A second group, Norwegian sailors called Vikings, probably reached America about the year 1000. Viking sagas suggest that Leif Ericson or his son was the first European to set foot on the North American continent at a place the Norsemen called Vinland, which may have been south of Newfoundland, though its site is the subject of controversy. Repeated fights with natives, called Skraelings, ended their visits around 1010. Almost five hundred years later in Europe, a new spirit of curiosity was sparked by the Renaissance and trade with the distant Indies and China. Christopher Columbus, a Genoese sailor seeking a new route to the East Indies, sailed west across the Atlantic Ocean, finding land probably at what he called San Salvador on October 12, 1492. News of his voyage opened the door to an age of exploration, with other Europeans following in search of riches. The name "America" was given to the continents in 1507 by the German geographer Martin Waldseemüller, who derived the term from the name of Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512). When writing about his own travels to the New World in 1499, Vespucci claimed to be the first to recognize that the Americas were continents previously unknown by Europeans.

The Norse Discovery of America Index    The Norse Discovery of America, by Reeves, Beamish and Anderson (Norroena Society, 1906), at

This is a collection of texts relating to the voyages of the Norse west to America. A thousand years ago, nearly half a millennium before Columbus, the Norse extended their explorations from Iceland and Greenland to the shores of Northeastern North America, and, possibly, beyond.

1421 - The year China discovered the world - Home Page The official website for the enthralling new history book that reveals the epic and unprecedented voyages of the world’s greatest maritime explorers. - 22k - Cached

1421 The Year China Discovered the World
Gavin Menzies
Published by Bantam Press, London

"...On the 8th of March, 1421, the largest fleet the world had ever seen sailed from its base in China. The ships, huge junks nearly five hundred feet long and built from the finest teak, were under the command of Emperor Zhu Di's loyal eunuch admirals. Their mission was 'to proceed all the way to the end of the earth to collect tribute from the barbarians beyond the seas' and unite the whole world in Confucian harmony. The journey would last over two years and circle the globe.

When they returned Zhu Di lost control and China was beginning its long, self-imposed isolation from the world it had so recently embraced. The great ships rotted at their moorings and the records of their journeys were destroyed. Lost was the knowledge that Chinese ships had reached America seventy years before Columbus and circumnavigated the globe a century before Magellan. They had also discovered Antarctica, reached Australia three hundred and fifty years before Cook and solved the problem of longitude three hundred years before the Europeans..."


And Back To --- The Discovery of America as attributed Christopher Columbus


Columbus Portrait

Sebastiano del Piombo painted this portrait thirteen years after Columbus's death.

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One of the most significant dates during the reign of the Catholic Monarchs was 12th October 1492: the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus. 

The fact that Christopher Columbus (who was not originally Spanish) appealed to a foreign court to offer his services proved that the discovery of America was not incidental.

Portugal and Castilla (Spain) were well-advanced in the exploration of overseas mercantile routes and Sevilla, a wealthy and populous Spanish city, was by then an important commercial centre. We know that the African routes were closed to Castilla in favour of Portugal, In 1479, under the Treaty of Alcacoba, Alfonso V of Portugal renounced his claims to Castilla and recognized the rights of Castilla over the Canary Islands, while Castilla recognized the rights of Portugal over the Azores, Cape Verde and Madeira.

The Canary Islands were an excellent bridgehead for alternate routes. This is what Christopher Columbus offered and he offered it to a State that needed them, but which was also accustomed to and prepared for this type of venture. Unified Spain possessed in 1492 a powerful war machine, a solid economy, an exterior projection, naval experience including the exploration of trade routes and notable scientific-technical potential mathematicians, geographers, astronomers and shipbuilders who had been formed in a melting-pot of three cultures (Jews, Muslims and Christians). Its only rival was its neighbour, Portugal, which, as we know, had put a stop to Spanish expansion in Africa.

Columbus' offer was rapidly accepted in spite of his acknowledged errors. But during his journey to Asia his caravels unexpectedly came across the American continent.

The Spanish were especially well prepared by history to conquer, occupy, populate and exploit new lands and assimilate new people. America thus became the new frontier-land for those people used to its ways and with the military, diplomats and administrative arms at their disposal to face the challenge. By the middle of the 16th century, they had settled in the two most important viceroyalties, Mexico on the Atlantic, and Peru on the Pacific.



An excellent link to further information about Christopher Columbus and other explorers



columbus leaving palos Perhaps the most famous explorer was Christopher Columbus. Born in Genoa, Italy, in 1451 to a weaver, young Columbus first went to sea at the age of fourteen. As a young man, he settled in Portugal and married a woman of noble background. After his wife's death in 1485, Columbus and his young son, Diego moved to Spain. Like all learned men of his time, Columbus knew the world was round. Hecolumbus arriving in india theorized that since the earth was a sphere, a ship could eventually reach the Far East from the opposite direction. He thought to establish trade routes to Asia in this manner. The fifteenth-century Europeans were not aware of the South and North American continents during this timeframe. Mapmakers did not show an accurate picture and no one knew there was a Pacific Ocean. For a decade, Columbus approached the Portuguese king and the Spanish monarchs to obtain a grant to explore possible trade routes to the west. After initially turning him down, King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella reconsidered once the Moors had been successfully expelled from Spain in 1492. Columbus promised to bring back gold, spices, and silks from the Far East, to spread Christianity, and to lead an expedition to China. In return, Columbus asked for and got the hereditary title "admiral of the ocean seas" and became governor of all discovered lands.

Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal


an Exhibit of the Library of Congress, Washington, DC


Pre-Columbian Discovery of America

Of all the alleged discoveries of America before the time of Columbus, only the bold voyages of exploration of the fearless Vikings to Greenland and the American mainland can be considered historically certain. Although there is an inherent probability for the fact of other pre-Columbian discoveries of America, all accounts of such discoveries (Phoenician, Irish, Welsh, Chinese) rest on testimony too vague or too unreliable to justify a serious defense of them. For the oldest written evidence of the discovery of Greenland and America by the Northmen, we are indebted to Adam, a canon of the Church of Bremen, who about 1067 went to Bremen, where he devoted himself very earnestly to the study of Norse history. Owing to the vigorous missionary activity of the Archbishop Adelbert of Bremen (1043-1072), this "Rome of the North" offered "the best field for such work, being the much frequented centre of the great northern missions, which were spread over Norway and Sweden, Iceland and Greenland". Moreover Adam found a most trustworthy source of information in the Danish King, Sven Estrithson, who preserved in his memory, as though engraved, the entire history of the barbarians (the northern peoples). Of the lands discovered by the Northmen in America, Adam mentioned only Greenland and Vineland. The former he describes as an island in the northern ocean about as far from Norway as Iceland (five to seven days) and he expressly states that envoys from Greenland and Iceland had come to Bremen to ask for preachers of the gospel. The Archbishop granted their request, even giving the Greenlanders assurances of a speedy visit in person. Adam's information concerning Vinland was no less trustworthy than his knowledge of Greenland. According to him the land took its name from the excellent wild grapes that abounded there. Grain also flourished there without cultivation, as King Sven and his subjects expressly assured him. Adam's testimony is of the highest importance to us, not only as being the oldest written account of Norse discoveries in America, but also because it is entirely independent of Icelandic writings, and rests entirely on Norse traditions, which were at the time still recent. The second witness is Ari Thorgilsson (d. 1148), the oldest and most trustworthy of all the historians of Iceland. Like Adam, Ari is conscientious in citing the sources of his information. His authority was his uncle, Thorkel Gelisson, who in turn was indebted for the details of the discovery and settlement of Greenland to a companion of the discoverer himself. From his uncle, Ari learned the name of the discoverer, the origin of the name of the country, the date of the settlement, and other welcome details as to the degree of civilization among the people inhabiting Greenland before the advent of the Northmen. The discoverer was Eric the Red, who named the icy coasts Greenland, to induce his Icelandic countrymen to colonize the land, As to the date, Ari learned that it was the fourteenth or fifteenth winter before the formal introduction of Christianity into Iceland (1000), i. e., 985 or 986. Ari's information with respect to the civilization of the former population of Greenland is of peculiar importance, giving as it does a glimpse of conditions in Vinland. Besides traces of human habitation, Eric and his companions found in Greenland the remains of leather canoes and stone implements. "From this", concludes Ari, "it may be inferred that this was once the dwelling place of the same people who inhabited Vinland, and were called by the Greenlanders Skraelings". Ari, in his "Book of Settlements (Landnámabók), as well as in his "Book of Icelanders", goes into detail concerning the discovery and colonization of Greenland, but mentions the discovery of Vinland only incidentally in connection with the genealogy of the famous Icelandic merchant Thorfinn Karlsefni, who "found Vinland the Good". In the Kristni saga, and Snorri's Kings' saga (c. 1150), the discovery of Vinland is attributed in almost identical words to Leif, son of Eric the Red. On his journey home from Norway, near Greenland, where he had been commissioned by King Olaf of Norway to preach the Catholic Faith, he found Vinland the Good. As Leif on the same voyage rescued some shipwrecked mariners from certain death, he was surnamed "the Lucky". It is quite significant that Vinland the Good is everywhere spoken of as a country universally known and needing no further explanation.

These historical data were happily completed in the middle of the twelfth century by a geographer, probably Nicholas, Abbot of Thingeyre (d. 1159). According to him, south of Greenland lies Helluland, next lies Markland, and from there it is not a great distance to Vinland the Good. Leif the Lucky first discovered Vinland, and then, coming upon merchants in peril of death, he rescued them by the grace of God. He introduced Christianity into Greenland, and it made such progress that a diocese was erected in Gardar. It may be remarked in passing that this took place about 1125. We also learn from the well-informed geographer that Thorfinn Karlsefni, setting out later to seek Vinland the Good, came to a country "where this land was supposed to be". but was unable to explore and colonize Vinland as he had wished. It should be expressly noted that the geographer speaks of only two voyages to Vinland, the accidental discovery of Leif, and Thorfinn's voyage of exploration; also that in addition to Vinland he mentions two other lands lying south of Greenland which he calls respectively Helluland and Markland. The accounts just cited constitute the oldest historical record of the Norse discoveries in Greenland and America, and have for the greater part been overlooked by earlier scholars, even Winsor. They were first given prominence, and justly so, by Storm and Reeves. Although containing but brief allusions to Greenland, they still bear witness to a consistent unanimous tradition throughout the North, reaching back to the eleventh century and giving proof positive that Eric the Red in 985 or 986 discovered and colonized Greenland, that his son Leif, returning from Norway to Greenland where he was to introduce Christianity, discovered Vinland the Good (1000), that Thorfin Karlsefni later attempted the colonization of Vinland, but after an unsuccessful engagement with the natives was obliged to desist; that these daring voyages brought to light two other countries lying south of Greenland, Markland and Helluland. In addition to these earliest records, three sagas come up for consideration, inasmuch as they give detailed accounts of the important discoveries made by the old Vikings. If we consider the age of the manuscripts through which it has come down to us (or that now represent for us the originals), the most important of these sagas is the Karlsefni saga in "Hauk's Book" (1305-35); next King Olaf's saga in the Flatey-book (c. 1387); the third is the saga of Eric the Red in a manuscript dating from the fifteenth century. A comparison of these three sagas shows that the Thorfin Karlsefni saga agrees with the saga of Eric the Red in all important points, but differs from the King Olaf saga found in the Flatey-book. According to the first two sagas, Vinland was discovered by Leif, a son of Eric the Red, while on his homeward voyage from Norway to fulfill the commission of King Olaf to preach Christianity in Greenland. According to the Olaf saga, the glory of having discovered America belongs to Bjarni, son of Herjulf, who was believed to have discovered Vinland, markland, and Helluland as early as 985 or 986 on a voyage from Iceland to Greenland. As already observed, the Olaf saga is directly opposed by both the account of the twelfth-century geographer, who distinctly states that Leif discovered Greenland, and to the Kristni and Snorri sagas containing the same statement, with the additional information that it was during a voyage from Norway to Greenland wither he had been sent by King Olaf to preach Christianity. Unfortunately, the Olaf saga, preserved in manuscript only in the Flatey-book, was first used to narrate the discovery of America by the Northmen. This saga represents the Old Northmen sailing the Atlantic with a confidence to be envied by the most experienced captains of today, the leaders of seven different expeditions finding, apparently without difficulty, the buoir (huts) of Leif. This uncritical narrative, to which reference is constantly made, has long helped discredit the discovery of America by the Northmen. What a contrast is offered in the sober and direct account in the sagas of Thorfinn Karlsefni and of Eric, the former of which is preserved in twenty-eight manuscripts. The first attempts to find Vinland after its accidental discovery by Leif failed utterly. The second and last resulted after many difficulties of a land which from its products might be the Vinland of Leif, but no mention is made of Leif's buoir. The rules of historical criticism have, accordingly, given precedence to the Thorfinn and Eric sagas, but it must not be overlooked that the Olaf saga mentions in addition three lands discovered to the southwest of Greenland, of which the first was stony, the second wooded, and the third rich in wine. Taking as a basis the more detailed and historically trustworthy account given in the sagas of Thorfinn Karlsefni and of Eric the Red, the voyages to Vinland may be thus briefly summarized. In the year 999, Leif, son of Eric the Red, set out from Greenland to Norway. His course, although too far to the south, at last brought Leif to his destination, and he entered the service of Olaf Tryggvason, King of Norway. Having been converted to Catholicism while at court, the daring mariner was sent back to Greenland by Olaf in the year 1000 in order to co-operate with the priests of the expedition in propagating the faith. On his return journey, Leif was cast on the shores of a hitherto unknown land where he found the vine and wheat in a natural state, besides masur wood suitable for building purposes. The sailors took with them samples of all these products. Sailing northeast, they at last reached Greenland. In the winter of 1000-1, Christianity was introduced into Greenland. At the same time, measures were taken to find the newly-discovered Vinland. Thorstein, Leif's elder brother, took charge of the undertaking, and was joined by twenty companions. They did not reach their goal, and weary and exhausted returned to Greenland after roaming over the sea for months. In 1003, Thorstein's widow Gudrid, with her second husband, the rich Iceland merchant Thorfinn Karlsefni, undertook a new expedition to find and colonize Vinland, which seemed so promising a country. The starting place, which lay within the limits of the present Godthaab, was the manor of Gudrid, whose praises are sung in the saga. About one hundred and fifty took part in the expedition, among them two children of Eric the Red -- Thorwald and the virago Freydi, who was accompanied by her husband Thorward. The voyage began propitiously. The first land encountered was remarkable for long flat stones and was consequently called Helluland, i. e., stone land. After two days, another land was sited, unusually rich in timber, and was named accordingly Markland, i. e., Woodland. After a long voyage in a southerly direction, they reached a third country, where they landed. Here, two "swift runners" whom Leif had received as a gift from Olaf, after a long search, found grape-clusters and wheat growing wild. To reach the desired spot, Karlsefni steered south. As the vine land seemed well-adapted for purposes of settlement, huts were forthwith erected. Thereupon the natives came to trade with the new-comers. The Vikings took special note of the fact that they used boats made of skins. Unfortunately, friendly relations were soon broken off. A bellowing steer bursting from the woods struck such terror into the Skraelings that they took to their boats and hastily departed. In place of peaceful trading, the Skraelings now thronged about in great numbers and they engaged in a bloody combat in which the Icelander Thorbrand fell. Only after heavy losses did the Skraelings retreat. Karlsefni, fearing fresh misfortunes, abandoned his first settlement and attempted to found a new colony more to the north. The colonists were free from hostile attacks, but internal dissensions broke out and the undertaking was given up entirely in the summer of 1006. On his return trip to Greenland, Karlsefni again visited Markland. Of five Skraelings whom he encountered there, three escaped, a man and two women, but two children were captured, carried away, and taught to speak Icelandic. Karlsefni, with his wife Gudrid, who later made a pilgrimage to Rome, and his three year old son Snorri, the first child born of European parents on the mainland, was successful in reaching Greenland. His companion Bjarni and his crew were driven by storms from their course, their worm-eaten vessel sank, and only half the crew escaped to Ireland, where they related the heroic act of Bjarni, who sacrificed his life for a younger comrade. The ancient Icelandic historical sources say nothing of further attempts at colonization.

The last historical notice of Vinland relates to the year 1121. "Bishop Eric set out from Greenland to find Vinland" and "Bishop Eric was searching for Vinland"; such are the meager statements found in the Iceland annals. Lyschander, in his Greenland chronicle, is the first to give a poetic expansion of this story (1609). He represents Bishop Eric as bringing "both emigrants and the faith to Vinland. As Torfaeus (Torfeson) in his "Historia Vinlandiae antiquae" (1705) and Rafn in various works presented similar views, it is not a matter of surprise that men finally came to speak of a bishopric of Vinland and of the fruitful works of Bishop Eric as facts established beyond doubt. In reply to such statements, emphasis must be laid on the fact that the sources say merely that Eric set out in search of Vinland, but that they are silent as to his success, not even reporting that he found Vinland again. Nevertheless, those who uphold the theory of a permanent colonization of Vinland urge numerous arguments in support of their position, many of which were long considered incontrovertible, as for instance the Norman tower near Newport, Rhode Island, This, as a matter of fact, is merely the ruin of a windmill built by Governor Arnold (c. 1670). The runic inscription on Dighton rock, so often misinterpreted, proves no more. The inscription is merely Indian picture writing, such as is frequently found far to the south. In answer to arguments based on Mexican manuscripts, sculptures, and other remnants to prove the pre-Columbian existence of Christianity, careful critical research reveals the fact that all the evidence is unreliable. The worship of the cross practised in Mexico and Central America does not prove the Christianization of pre-Columbian America, either by St. Thomas the Apostle, or by Irish monks, or by the Northmen. This is clearly proved by the fact that the cross is found as a religious symbol among pre-Christian peoples. When opponents of this view point to the martyrdom of Bishop John of Ireland, the answer is that Bishop John (d. 1066) met his death not in Vinland the Good but in the land of the Wends as I have elsewhere proved from original historical sources. There is a twofold error in the statement that a valuable cup of Vinland masur wood is mentioned among the tithes of the diocese of Gardar dating from 1327. First, this (ciphus de nuce ultramarina) was not a part of the titles of the Vinland diocese of Gardar, but of Skara, a Swedish diocese; second this goblet was not of masur but of cocoanut. Nor are the arguments drawn from the amount and the character of the tithes levied in the diocese of Gardar for the Crusades more convincing. They are partly based on a faulty computation which estimates the tithes at triple the amounts, and partly on a mistaken conception of conditions in Greenland. As the sources testify, and modern excavations have shown, the Northmen of Greenland, as well as their Icelandic cousins, were active cattle breeders, and raised horses, cattle, sheep, and goats, so that they might easily pay their tithes in calf-skins. And lastly, the story related by Zeno the Younger of a fisherman having seen Latin books in the library of the King of Estotiland can no more be considered historical than the rest of Zeno's romance. It is a fiction, like the island Estotiland itself and Plato's Atlantis. The history of Vinland ends with the year 1121, but trustworthy accounts of Markland extend to a later date. The Iceland annals of 1347 have the following record: "There came a Greenland ship to Straumsfjord; the sail was set for Markland, but it was driven hither (Iceland) over the sea. There was a crew of eighteen men". The object of the voyage was not mentioned, but the most probable conjecture is that the ship was bound for the forest land to obtain wood, in which Greenland was entirely deficient. But whatever the unfortunate sailors sought on the shores of Markland, it is an undoubted fact that in the middle of the fourteenth century Markland had not been forgotten by the people of Iceland, who spoke and wrote of it as a country generally known. History is silent as to later voyages to Helluland, but the role played by the Land of Stone is all the more important in legend and song, in which its situation changes at will. The Helluland of history lay to the south of western Greenland, but the poetic Helluland was located in northeast Greenland. The reconcile both views, Bjorn of Skardza devised his theory of two Hellulands, the greater in northeastern Greenland, and the smaller to the southwest of Greenland. Rafn arbitrarily located greater Helluland in Labrador, and the lesser island in Newfoundland. His authority caused this arbitrary decision to find a wide acceptance, and in this way, the site of Vinland was laid unduly far to the south.

For the approximate determination of the geographical position of Helluland, Markland and Greenland, we find many clues in the original historical sources. "To the south of Greenland lies Helluland; then comes Markland, from which the distance is not great to Vinland the Good which some believe to be an extension of Africa. If this be true, then an arm of the sea must separate Vinland and Markland". If we except the rash conjecture on Vinland's connection with Africa, this view of the old twelfth-century Icelandic geographer corresponds to the details of the historical sagas concerning the situation of these lands with respect to Greenland and one another. The sagas, however, contain other clues. A detail in the Olaf saga with regard to the position of the sun at the time of the winter solstice formerly led many to believe that the position of Vinland could be definitely determined. As a matter of fact, the statement that "on the shortest day of winter the sun was between eyktarstaor and dagmalastaor" is too vague to permit an exact determination of the position. Only this may be deduced with certainty, that Vinland lay south of 49° north lat., a position that might easily be identified with the situation of central Newfoundland or the corresponding section of Canada. To determine the accuracy the position of Vinland it must be recalled that the members of Thorfinn's great expedition were looking for the region where Leif had found the vine growing wild. With this purpose in view, they set sail along the coast of America and discovered first a land which impressed them on account of its long flat stones. They called it Helluland. Taking into consideration the starting point of the voyage, its length and direction, one may well agree with Storm that the present Labrador is the Helluland of the saga, without, however, absolutely denying the claims of the northern peninsula of Newfoundland. Setting out from Helluland, after two runs of twelve hours each, the daring mariners came to a land remarkable for its wealth of timber which they reached "with the help of the north wind". The direction and length of the voyage, as well as the name "Markland" (Woodland), point to Newfoundland, which is distinguished by its dense forests. The third land after sailing for a long time in a southerly direction did not reveal at first the desired grape clusters. But further exploration of the land lying to the south had on the second or third day the wished-for result. Vinland the Good should therefore be located in the northern part of the vine belt, or almost 45° north lat. Nova Scotia, inclusive of Cape Breton Island, seems to satisfy best the requirements of the saga. Wild grapes and Indian rice (zizania aquatica), which is probably meant by the wild wheat of the Northmen, all growing in a natural state, are repeatedly mentioned by eyewitnesses as characteristic of Nova Scotia and the region about the Bay of St. Lawrence, e.g., by Jacques Cartier (1534) and Nicholas Denys (c. 1650). Thorfinn was prevented from settling Vinland by the onslaught of the Skraelings. The sagas give a vivid picture of the first encounter with these wild dark-skinned men, remarkable for their uncomely hair, large eyes, and high cheekbones. Opinions differ widely as to the ethnographic classification of these Skraelings, some maintaining that they were Eskimo while others unhesitatingly class them as Indians, The express mention of skin boats, coupled with the circumstance that the Markland Skraelings were most probably Eskimo, seem to support the theory that there were Eskimo in Vinland (Nova Scotia) at that period. They may have allied themselves with neighboring Indians against the Norse invaders. A definitive determination of the position of Vinland, Markland, and Helluland depends of the discovery of Norse ruins, runic stones, or other ancient remains from the time of the Vikings. Unfortunately, in spite of the efforts of Horsford and other champions of the Northmen such remains have not yet been found, and it is not unreasonable that those who deny a permanent Norse colonization should lay stress on the absence of Norse remains for proof that the Northmen did not succeed in establishing a permanent colony in the American mainland. The case in quite different in Greenland, where for some centuries there existed flourishing Norse colonies. Numerous ruins of churches, monasteries, and farm buildings, together with miscellaneous remains, enable us to recognize clearly, even today, the position and character of the colonies of Greenland.

First as to the location of the colonies, ancient documents are unanimous in speaking of an eastern and western colony, of which the first was by far the most important. The "east settlement" as the names seems to suggest, was formerly sought on the east coast of Greenland. Even after the researches of Graah (1828-31) and Holm (1880-85), Nordenskiold held fast to this view. It is true that even he during his most successful journey (1883) did not find the ruins expected to be on the east side of Greenland, but this in no way shook his conviction. He simply declared that the old Norse settlements had disappeared, leaving no trace. As to the ruins, so plentiful on the western coast, which he himself had visited, he held that they did not date back to the ancient Northmen, but were of later origin. This dogmatic assertion shook the foundation of the view, just then gaining ground, namely that both eastern and western settlements were situated on the west coast of Greenland. What proof was there that the many ruins of Greenland, so various in construction, owed their origin to the ancient Northmen? Was it right to ascribe such remarkably well-preserved stone buildings to the Viking period, or did only the confused heaps of stones belong to that time? The preliminary data for solving this question are furnished by Gudmundsson in his careful researchers in to the "Private Dwellings in Iceland during the Saga Period". With the help of the original authorities, the Danish scholar Bruun and his learned collaborators were enabled to produce proof (1894) that the numerous ruins of Greenland in the neighbourhood of Julianehaab really dated from Norse times, and that in consequence the eastern settlement of the saga was in reality located on the western coast of Greenland. Starting from these investigations, as thorough as they were interesting, Finnur Jonsson, a Dane, with the aid of the original sources, was able conclusively to reconstruct in all essential particulars the ancient topography of Greenland, and represent it by means of a map. This chart of Jonsson's shows, in the vicinity of Julianehaab the ruins of 117 churches and manors, large and small. The most remarkable are the episcopal See of Gadar and the manor of Eric the Red, renowned in the saga as the Brattahlid. The western settlements were situated with the limits of the present Godthaab, and is, as a matter of fact, much further west. Godthaab lies in 51° 30' west of Greenwich, while Julianehaab is approximately 46°. The less numerous ruins of the western district have not been thoroughly explored as yet but almost all their fjords have been determined, and the results obtained by archeological research up to the present time are in full accord with the original sources, especially with the circumstantial account of Ivar Bardsson (c. 1350), who for many years administered the Church of Greenland as the representative of the Bishop of Gadar.

Archeological investigations, taken in conjunction with ancient Norse legends, give evidence not only of the location of the settlements, but the number of churches, monasteries, and manors, the approximate numbers of the Norse population, their pursuits and mode of life. As to the churches, which average in length from fifty to sixty-five feet, and in breadth, twenty-six, and are built of large, carefully selected stones, the Gripla, an old northern chorography, fragments of which have come down to us, records twelve in the eastern settlement, and four in the western. In a list dating from the year 1300 the number of the former remains unchanged, but the number of churches in the western colony, which had been previously overrun by the Eskimos, was reduced to three, and in Ivar's list (c. 1370) is given as one, that of Steinesness, for a time the seat of "a cathedral and an episcopal residence". This statement of Ivar has given rise to the inference that there were two diocese in Greenland, Gardar and Steinesness. According to the conjecture of Torfaeus, only Eric, the missionary bishop, who in 1121 set out for Vinland, had a cathedral in Steinesness. Greenland had but one bishopric, that of Gardar, and it had this [as is expressly stated in the "King's Mirror", one of the principal sources (c. 1250)] only because it was so far removed from other diocese. Had it been nearer to other countries, it would have been "the third part of a diocese". There were but two monasteries in Greenland, one of the Canons Regular of the Order of St. Augustine, dedicated to Sts. Olaf and Augustine, and a convent of Benedictine nuns. The Dominican monastery fantastically described by Zeno the Younger (1558) never existed in Greenland. During the most flourishing period, the number of manors in Greenland amounted to 280, 190 in the eastern, and 90 in the western settlement. Assuming that each manor had an average of ten to fifteen inhabitants, we have a sum total of 2800-4200 souls, which is probably near the truth. Dwelling house, shed and stable were single storey buildings. Generally the buildings for horses, cows, sheep and goats were not adjoining. The chief occupations of the inhabitants were cattle breeding and the chase. The Kjokkenmoddings which are often found to be a height of over three feet in front of dwellings, prove that the ancient Northmen were fearless in the pursuit of large game. In these heaps of bones and ashes, the greater part of the remains are those of seals. There are traces of the following domestic animals: a species of small horned cattle (bos taurus), goats (capra hircus), sheep (ovis aries), small horses (equus caballus), and well-developed dogs (canis familiaris). Of the other animals native to Greenland, the bone piles show traces of the polar bear (ursus maritimus), the walrus (trichechus rosmarus), three species of seal (erignathus barbatus, phoca vitulina, and phoca faetida) and especially the hooded seal (cystophora cristida). It is not surprising that the crusade tax leveled on the inhabitants of Greenland, who had no currency, consisted of cattle hides, seal skins, and the teeth of whales. Gronlandiae decima this was termed in a letter to Pope Martin IV to the archbishop of Trondhjem (4 March, 1282): "Non percipitur nisi in bovinis et phocarum corii ac debtibus et funibus balenarum." In perfect accord with this is Ivar Bardsson's emphatic mention, not only of the white bears and white falcons found everywhere in great abundance, but more particularly of the herds of cows, sheep, and goats, which were, next to the fisheries, the Greenlanders' principal source of income.

Cattle raising and the chase caused the inhabitants to explore their icy country on all sides. To quote from the "Kings Mirror", the people have often attempted in various places to scale the highest rocks to obtain an extensive view, and see whether they could find a place free from ice and suitable for habitation. Such a region, however, could not be discovered, except those parts already built up which stretched a long distance along the coast. They found both mountain ridges and valleys coated with ice". The daring Greenlanders not confining their attention to the interior showed a remarkable acquaintance with the ice-bound ocean and the peculiarities of the coast. According to the "King's Mirror" the ice of the sea is eight to ten feet thick, and is as flat as if it were frozen in that very place. As the ice extends a journey of four or five days from land, and farther toward the east and northeast than south or southwest, anyone wishing to reach land must sail toward the west and southwest, until he has passed all places where there is a possibility of finding ice, and then set sail landward. From the smooth ice rise icebergs "like a high cliff from the sea", not joined to the rest of the ice, but separate. All well-to-do peasants in Greenland had large and small boats for fishing. Nororseta, probably in the vicinity of the present Upernivik, was accounted especially favorable for seal fishing. Here too collected "all of the driftwood that floated across from the inlets of Markland". How far to the northwest the hardy fishers pushed their voyages we learn from a runic stone venerable for its age, which was discovered in 1824 and taken to the National Museum of Copenhagen. It was set up by three Northmen, 25 April, 1135, on the island of Kingittorsuaq (72° 55' north lat.). In the summer of 1266, a point even farther north was reached by the polar expedition of which Haldur, a Greenland priest, gives an account to Arnold, his former colleague, then court chaplain to Magnus, King of Norway. On their northern voyage, these men found traces of Skraelings only in the Kroksfdjaroarheioi, and the opinion therefore prevailed "that it must be the shortest way for them (the Skraelings) to go, no matter where they came from. Thereupon the priest sent a ship towards the north in order to have investigations made with regard to the conditions north of the most distant region which they had yet visited". Driven by a southern gale, the ship sailed northward from Kroksfdjaroarheioi, "right into the bay (hafsbotnin, bay of the sea, seems to correspond with Melville Bay) and then they lost sight of the whole land, both the southern stretch of the coast, and the glaciers". On the return voyage, a three days' sail brought them to a place where they found traces of Skraelings who had visited islands south of Snaefjall. "After that, they sailed south to Kroksfdjaroarheioi, a good day's rowing, St. James's day". They there took an observation which even today can serve as an approximate indication of the latitude. "It froze", they say, "there, then at nights but the sun shone both night and day, and it was no higher when it was in the south that that when a man laid himself cross-wise in a six-oared boat, stretched out against the railing, then the shadow of the railing which was nearest to the sun fell on his face; but at midnight it was as high as it is at home, in the colony, when it is in the northwest. Then they traveled home to Gardar". These statements formerly led to the belief that Kroksfdjaroarheioi should be sought for about 75° north lat., on the other side of Bafin Bay. Latterly, Thalbitzer has expressed the opinion that the "heioe" was situated on the western coast of Greenland. At all events, the Vikings clearly penetrated much farther than Upernivik (73° n. lat.).

The Northmen of Greenland explored also the eastern coast of the country during the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. On one of these voyages of exploration in 1194, they reached Svalbaror or Svalbaroi. According to Storm's investigations, this island is thought to be Jan Mayen or Spitzbergen. Almost a hundred years later (1285), two priests, sons of Helge, named Aldalbrand and Thorvald, discovered, over against Iceland, a new country (the Dunen Islands). These voyages are rightly called the precursors of Nordenskiold, in as much as, like him, they set out from Denmark, and reached the eastern coast of Greenland (not Newfoundland). These and similar discoveries of skilled Norse from the eleventh to the fifteenth centuries made it possible, long before Columbus, to draw so perfect a map of that part of America known as Greenland, but a cartographer to whom Nordenskiold showed such a chart declared emphatically that it must be a forgery of the nineteenth century. The first scholar who inserted the daring Norse discoveries into Ptolemy's map of the world was Claudius Clavus Niger (Swart), a Dane, who left two maps, and two geographical descriptions of the northern countries of Europe in Greenland appears as a peninsula of the continent. The first chart with subjoined description is preserved in the precious Ptolemy manuscript of Cardinal Filiaster of 1427, now in the city library if Nancy in France. In this manuscript, the learned cardinal expressly says of the eighth chart of Europe, "Ptolemy makes no mention of these lands (Norway, Sweden, and Greenland) and he seems to have had no knowledge of them. hence a certain Claudius Cymbricus has described these northern parts, and represented them in charts". this precious cartographic treasure has been preserved only in the Ptolemy codex of Nancy. Both chart and description have long been known and often reproduced. The second description and the second map have come down in various manuscripts, but separated from each other. The chart with its strikingly correct representation of Greenland was a riddle to cartographers from the time of its discovery, inasmuch as it contains many names of rivers and promontories which in no wise corresp[ond to the statemnets found in ancient Norse sources. Only recently have the Danish scholar Bjornbo and Petersen succeeded in solving this riddle. IOn two mathematical manuscripts of the Hofbibliothek at Vienna they found the long lost description of the secoind chart of Claudius Clavus, from which it appears that Clavus (b. 1388) was once in Greenland, and that the fantastic names on this chart are merely the words of an old Danish folk song, of which the following is a literal translation:

There lives a man on Greenland's stream
And Spiledebodh doth he be named;
More has he of white herrings
Than he has of pork that is fat.
From the north drives the sand anew.
As Claudius Clavus used the names of the runes to designate places in Iceland, and the ordinal numerals, fursta (the first), etc., on the map of Eastern Europe, so for Greenland he made use of the words of the stanza quoted above, i. e. Thar (there) boer (lives) eeynh (a) manh (man) etc., to designate the succession of promentories and rivers which seemed to him most worthy of note. From Claudious Clavus the strange names were adopted by cartographers Nicolas Germnaus and Henricus Martellus. While Nicolas Germanus in his first copies retained the correct location of Greenland (wets of Iceland and the Scandanavian peninsula), in his later works he transferred Greenland to the Scandanavian peninsula and eats of Iceland. On his small charts of the world he completed Ptolemy's map by first giving to Greenland its correct position but afterwards he placed in in northern Europe and located north of Greenland the insula glacialis or insula glaciei (Iceland). both representations of Greenland were used by Martin Waldseemüller. The erroneous map of Nicholas germanus he borrowed from the Ulm edition of Ptolemy, which is based on the Wolfegg parchment manuscript of Ptolemy, and presented it in his great wall chart of the world (1507). "America's certificate of baptism". The corrcet map appeared in conjunction with the marine map of Canerio on the first lareg amrine map ever printed, the "Carta Marina" of 1516. In consequence of the wide circulation of the world chart of 1507, (1000 copies, the only one of which now extabnt was discovered by myself in Schloss Wolfegg) the faulkty representation is found in countless later charts. henricus Martellus, whose fine manuscript of Ptolemy was executyed in florence some thirty years after Nicholas Germanus, has given us the correct represnetation of Claudius Clavus in his charts of the northern countries. The cotrrect map, howvere, first obtained a wide circulation thourhg the oft-overestimated Zeno map of 1558. In spite of its manifest inaacuracies -- for example, the younger Zeno represents the floating icebergs on the great northern map of Olaf Magnus (1539) as islands, to which he even assigns names -- the Zeno map has been defended even in recent times as an original map from Zeni, dating from the end of the fourteenth century. Since the successful clearing up of the mysterious greenland names, and the discovery of Waldseemüller's chart (carta Marina, 1516), lost for three centuries, which likewise shows the confioguration of parts of the eastern coast of North America, the last champions of Zeno must admit that the long celebrated Zeno chart is merely a compilation of the younger Zeno (1558).

While Claudius Clavus was the first to visit Norse Greenland in person and was the first to make a strikingly correct map (c. 1420), he himself was never in Helluland, Markland, and Vinland, and consequently did not introduce them into his fifteenth-century Ptolemy map of the northern countries. As a result these countries were not represented in the editions of Ptolemy's map of the world published in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. On a Catalonian marine map (portulana) dating from the fifteenth century, however, we find a large rectangular island named Illa verde, and to the south of it a smaller island almost circular, named Brazil which have been rightly conjectured to be Greenland and Markland (the wooded land) respectively. On a sea chart discovered by me in the Bibliotheque Nationale of Paris there is likewise to the northwest an island termed "Insula veridis, de qua fit mentio in geographia", and south of it the above-mentioned circular island. It is interesting to note that on his great map of the world (1507) Waldseemüller sets down a viridis insula northwest of Ireland. On the corresponding section of the "carta Marina" of 1516 there is no trace of the viridis insula but the round island Brazil appears. These divergences in cartographic representations arise from differences in conception of the territories discovered. The discoverers took the bodies of land they discovered for islands, a view which is also reflected on the sea charts of the fifteenth century. When the attempt was made to apportion these islands to the three then-known continents, Europe, Asia, and Africa, the fact that Svalbaror, i.e. Jan Mayen or Spitzbergen had been discovered in the twelfth century became of decisive importance, for by this discovery the theory that Greenland was in some way connected with the European mainland was apparently confirmed. This opinion was based on the fact that reindeer, arctic foxes, and other mammals which were found in Greenland, are not met with on islands, unless they were brought in. Since this was not the case in Greenland, it was inferred that these animals must have migrated there from some continent. This conclusion received support from the ice fields which covered the mare congelatum. So men arrived at the conviction that there existed a land connection between Greenland and Bjarmeland or northwestern Russia. Being uninhabited, this was called Ubygdear or the "uninhabited land". Accordingly, Bjarmeland is described as follows in the above mentioned geographical description of the twelfth century: "Uninhabited lands extend as far north as Greenland". A similar statement occurs in a thirteenth-century account: To the north of Norway is Finmarken whence the land extends northeast and east as far as Bjarmeland which is tributary to the Russian king. From Bjarmeland, the land stretches northward through unknown regions up to the borders of Greenland. Finally the author of the "Historia Norwegiae" (thirteenth century) sums up what is known of Greenland in the following noteworthy sentences: Some sailors wishing to return from Iceland to Norway were driven by adverse winds into the icebound regions. At last they landed between Greenland and Bjarmeland in a country which, according to their report has men of remarkable size, and in the land of the virgins who conceived by drinking water. Greenland is separated from them by rocks covered with ice; it was discovered, colonized, and converted to the Catholic faith by Icelanders; it is the western extremity of Europe and extends almost to the African islands. These words and others of similar import account for both the correct representation of Claudius Clavus who himself visited Greenland, as well as the faulty map of Nicholaus Germanus who pursued his geographical and cartographical studies in Florence about 1470. The recollection of Greenland was kept alive by charts and geographical descriptions even at the time when all communication with the Norse colonies had broken off. The eighteen sailors who were driven in 1347 from Markland to Iceland proceeded, according to Icelandic records, across Norway to Greenland. There seems to have been at that time no longer any direct communication between Iceland and Greenland. Intercourse was still kept up between Bergen and Greenland by the royal merchantman, the "Knorr", but only at irregular intervals. In the year 1346, according to Icelandic annals, the "Knorr" was in good condition, and "laden with a rich cargo", returned to Bergen from Greenland which from 1261 had been like Iceland under Norwegian rule. Not until 1355 did the vessel undertake its next voyage to Greenland. For this journey, extraordinary provisions were made, and a formal expedition fitted out. The purpose of the undertaking is said to have been the "preservation of Christianity" in Greenland, which could only be attained by means of a conflict with the Skraelings (Eskimo). It cannot be exactly ascertained when the "Knorr" returned, but it was probably about 1363 or 1364, as about this time Ivar Bardsson, who for many years administered the diocese of Gardar, makes his appearance in Norway.

We can gather from original sources how the Norsemen had gradually to retire before the advancing Eskimo. The first collision took place, according to the "Historia Norwegiae" (thirteenth century) in North Greenland. The passage (according to Thalbitzer) reads as follows in literal translation: Beyond the Greenlanders toward the north, the hunters came across a kind of people called the Skraelings; when they were wounded alive, their wounds became white, without any issue of blood, but the blood scarcely ceases to stream out of them when they are dead. They have no iron whatever, and use whale teeth for missle weapons, and sharp stones for knives. In the chart of Claudius Clavus (1427), accordingly we find the Careli, in the extreme north of Greenland, and the accompanying description is as follows: Tenent autem septentrionalis eius (Gronlandiae) Careli infideles, quorum regio extenditur sub polo septentrionali versus Seres orientales, quare polis [polar circle] nobis septentrionalis est eis meridionalis [in] gradibus 66. (The north of Greenland is occupied by the pagan Careli whose country extends from the North Pole to the eastern Seres; therefore the northern polar circle is to us north, to them south in the 66th degree of latitude.) It is interesting to know that in this very part of Greenland near the Umanak fjord there now exists a tradition among the Eskimo of a battle on the ice between Eskimo and Northmen. The Northmen were the attacking party, but the Eskimo were victorious. Thalbitzer gives the tradition according to the Rink (Eskimoiske Eventyr og Saga, Copenhagen, 1866): The Norsemen had pursued some little girls who had been out to fetch water. The girls came running home and shouted. "they are attacking us". The Greenlanders fled and hid themselves between the heaps of stones, yet the Norsemen managed to get hold of some of them and maltreated them. The Greenlanders, however, by means of artifice, lured their enemies out on the slippery fjord ice, where they could not stand firmly, and thus the Skraelings succeeded in overcoming them one at a time and killed them all. In the course of the fourteenth century, the Eskimo of Greenland advanced farther southward. About 1360 the western colony fell into their hands. Ivar Bardsson, an eyewitness, related how, under commission of the royal governor, he had taken part in an expedition to drive the Eskimo from the Western settlement. But no human being either Christian or heathen was found. Cattle and sheep ran wild. Having put them on shipboard they returned home (Gardar). In 1397 the Icelandic annals report a new attack: The Skraelings assailed the Greenlanders, killing eighteen men, capturing and enslaving two boys. Undoubtedly the many shipwrecks which took place at this time hastened the catastrophe. The government ship went down north of Bergen. Moreover in 1392 "a great plague" visited the whole of Norway. In 1393 Bergen was conquered and pillaged by the Germans who took with them all ships and anchors. After this we hear of no more voyages of the "Knorr" to Greenland. The last record in the Icelandic annals of the landing of a foreign vessel in Greenland is found under the date 1406. It was not until four years later that the ship which had been driven by storms to Greenland reached Norway. To the same period belongs a marriage certificate given, 19 April, 1409, by a priest in Gardar. Soon afterwards the final catastrophe must have befallen the eastern settlements. According to the letter of Pope Nicholas V (c. 1448) to the bishops of Iceland, the Christians of Greenland were attacked by the heathens of the neighbouring coasts, and the country was laid waste with fire and sword, but all persons who were fit to become slaves were made captives. The approximate date of the invasion is obtained by the mention of "thirty years ago" (1418). The efforts of Nicholas V were unfortunately without success, as appears from the letter of Alexander VI dated in the first year of his pontificate (1492-93). The inhabitants were deprived of religious ministration; there was no longer either bishop or priest and a great part of the population returned to paganism. Those who remained true to the faith possessed as a memorial of Catholic times only the corporal on which a hundred years before the Lord's Body had been consecrated by the last priest. Once a year this corporal was exposed for veneration. The date "a hundred years ago", is not entirely accurate, even if we agree with Storm in taking the last priest to mean the last resident bishop. The statement that "for eighty years no [European] ship had landed on the coast of Greenland" is not positively made. Bjornbo and Petersen inform us of a journey to Greenland hitherto unknown. In the text intended to accompany his second map of Greenland Clavus expressly states:

Grolandie insule chersonesus dependent a terra inaccessibili a parte septentrionis vel ignota propter glaciem. Veniunt tamen kareli infideles, ut vidi, in Grolandiam cum copioso exercitu quottidie, et hoc absque dubio ex altera parte poli septentrionalis.

(The peninsula of the island of Greenland projects from a land inaccessible from the north or unknown on account of the ice. However, the pagan Careli, as I have witnessed, invade Greenland every day with a numerous army and no doubt come from the other side of the polar circle.)

Clavus, therefore, seems to have been one eyewitness of the last hostile attacks which finally resulted in the destruction of the eastern settlement, which was the last Norse colony in America. It is true that many attempts were still made to convey assistance to the hard-pressed Norse settlers, particularly by the last Catholic Archbishop of Trondhjem, Eric Walkendorf (d. 1522), but all came to nought. So the last descendents of the old Vikings were left to their own resources and were gradually absorbed by native Eskimo population.

This information is located at:   CATHOLIC ENCYCLOPEDIA: Pre-Columbian Discovery of America



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Medieval Sourcebook:
Christopher Columbus: Extracts from Journal


This document is the from the journal of Columbus in his voyage of 1492. The meaning of this voyage is highly contested. On the one hand, it is witness to the tremendous vitality and verve of late medieval and early modern Europe - which was on the verge of acquiring a world hegemony. On the other hand, the direct result of this and later voyages was the virtual extermination, by ill-treatment and disease, of the vast majority of the Native inhabitants, and the enormous growth of the transatlantic slave trade. It might not be fair to lay the blame at Columbus' feet, but since all sides treat him as a symbol, such questions cannot be avoided.



Whereas, Most Christian, High, Excellent, and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of Spain and of the Islands of the Sea, our Sovereigns, this present year 1492, after your Highnesses had terminated the war with the Moors reigning in Europe, the same having been brought to an end in the great city of Granada, where on the second day of January, this present year, I saw the royal banners of your Highnesses planted by force of arms upon the towers of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of that city, and saw the Moorish king come out at the gate of the city and kiss the hands of your Highnesses, and of the Prince my Sovereign; and in the present month, in consequence of the information which I had given your Highnesses respecting the countries of India and of a Prince, called Great Can, which in our language signifies King of Kings, how, at many times he, and his predecessors had sent to Rome soliciting instructors who might teach him our holy faith, and the holy Father had never granted his request, whereby great numbers of people were lost, believing in idolatry and doctrines of perdition. Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians, and princes who love and promote the holy Christian faith, and are enemies of the doctrine of Mahomet, and of all idolatry and heresy, determined to send me, Christopher Columbus, to the above-mentioned countries of India, to see the said princes, people, and territories, and to learn their disposition and the proper method of converting them to our holy faith; and furthermore directed that I should not proceed by land to the East, as is customary, but by a Westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidence that any one has gone. So after having expelled the Jews from your dominions, your Highnesses, in the same month of January, ordered me to proceed with a sufficient armament to the said regions of India, and for that purpose granted me great favors, and ennobled me that thenceforth I might call myself Don, and be High Admiral of the Sea, and perpetual Viceroy and Governor in all the islands and continents which I might discover and acquire, or which may hereafter he discovered and acquired in the ocean; and that this dignity should be inherited by my eldest son, and thus descend from degree to degree forever. Hereupon I left the city of Granada, on Saturday, the twelfth day of May, 1492, and proceeded to Palos, a seaport, where I armed three vessels, very fit for such an enterprise, and having provided myself with abundance of stores and seamen, I set sail from the port, on Friday, the third of August, half an hour before sunrise, and steered for the Canary Islands of your Highnesses which are in the said ocean, thence to take my departure and proceed till I arrived at the Indies, and perform the embassy of your Highnesses to the Princes there, and discharge the orders given me. For this purpose I determined to keep an account of the voyage, and to write down punctually every thing we performed or saw from day to day, as will hereafter appear. Moreover, Sovereign Princes, besides describing every night the occurrences of the day, and every day those of the preceding night, I intend to draw up a nautical chart, which shall contain the several parts of the ocean and land in their proper situations; and also to compose a book to represent the whole by picture with latitudes and longitudes, on all which accounts it behooves me to abstain from my sleep, and make many trials in navigation, which things will demand much labor.

Friday, 3 August 1492. Set sail from the bar of Saltes at 8 o'clock, and proceeded with a strong breeze till sunset, sixty miles or fifteen leagues south, afterwards southwest and south by west, which is the direction of the Canaries.

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Monday, 6 August. The rudder of the caravel Pinta became loose, being broken or unshipped. It was believed that this happened by the contrivance of Gomez Rascon and Christopher Quintero, who were on board the caravel, because they disliked the voyage. The Admiral says he had found them in an unfavorable disposition before setting out. He was in much anxiety at not being able to afford any assistance in this case, but says that it somewhat quieted his apprehensions to know that Martin Alonzo Pinzon, Captain of the Pinta, was a man of courage and capacity. Made a progress, day and night, of twenty-nine leagues.

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Thursday, 9 August. The Admiral did not succeed in reaching the island of Gomera till Sunday night. Martin Alonzo remained at Grand Canary by command of the Admiral, he being unable to keep the other vessels company. The Admiral afterwards returned to Grand Canary, and there with much labor repaired the Pinta, being assisted by Martin Alonzo and the others; finally they sailed to Gomera. They saw a great eruption of names from the Peak of Teneriffe, a lofty mountain. The Pinta, which before had carried latine sails, they altered and made her square-rigged. Returned to Gomera, Sunday, 2 September, with the Pinta repaired.

The Admiral says that he was assured by many respectable Spaniards, inhabitants of the island of Ferro, who were at Gomera with Dona Inez Peraza, mother of Guillen Peraza, afterwards first Count of Gomera, that every year they saw land to the west of the Canaries; and others of Gomera affirmed the same with the like assurances. The Admiral here says that he remembers, while he was in Portugal, in 1484, there came a person to the King from the island of Madeira, soliciting for a vessel to go in quest of land, which he affirmed he saw every year, and always of the same appearance. He also says that he remembers the same was said by the inhabitants of the Azores and described as in a similar direction, and of the same shape and size. Having taken in food, water, meat and other provisions, which had been provided by the men which he left ashore on departing for Grand Canary to repair the Pinta, the Admiral took his final departure from Gomera with the three vessels on Thursday, 6 September.

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Sunday, 9 September. Sailed this day nineteen leagues, and determined to count less than the true number, that the crew might not be dismayed if the voyage should prove long. In the night sailed one hundred and twenty miles, at the rate of ten miles an hour, which make thirty leagues. The sailors steered badly, causing the vessels to fall to leeward toward the northeast, for which the Admiral reprimanded them repeatedly.

Monday, 10 September. This day and night sailed sixty leagues, at the rate of ten miles an hour, which are two leagues and a half. Reckoned only forty-eight leagues, that the men might not be terrified if they should be long upon the voyage.

Tuesday, 11 September. Steered their course west and sailed above twenty leagues; saw a large fragment of the mast of a vessel, apparently of a hundred and twenty tons, but could not pick it up. In the night sailed about twenty leagues, and reckoned only sixteen, for the cause above stated.

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Friday, 14 September. Steered this day and night west twenty leagues; reckoned somewhat less. The crew of the Nina stated that they had seen a grajao, and a tropic bird, or water-wagtail, which birds never go farther than twenty-five leagues from the land.

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Sunday, 16 September. Sailed day and night, west thirty-nine leagues, and reckoned only thirty-six. Some clouds arose and it drizzled. The Admiral here says that from this time they experienced very pleasant weather, and that the mornings were most delightful, wanting nothing but the melody of the nightingales. He compares the weather to that of Andalusia in April. Here they began to meet with large patches of weeds very green, and which appeared to have been recently washed away from the land; on which account they all judged themselves to be near some island, though not a continent, according to the opinion of the Admiral, who says, "the continent we shall find further ahead."

Monday, 17 September. Steered west and sailed, day and night, above fifty leagues; wrote down only forty-seven; the current favored them. They saw a great deal of weed which proved to be rockweed, it came from the west and they met with it very frequently. They were of opinion that land was near. The pilots took the sun's amplitude, and found that the needles varied to the northwest a whole point of the compass; the seamen were terrified, and dismayed without saying why. The Admiral discovered the cause, and ordered them to take the amplitude again the next morning, when they found that the needles were true; the cause was that the star moved from its place, while the needles remained stationary. At dawn they saw many more weeds, apparently river weeds, and among them a live crab, which the Admiral kept, and says that these are sure signs of land, being never found eighty leagues out at sea. They found the sea-water less salt since they left the Canaries, and the air more mild. They were all very cheerful, and strove which vessel should outsail the others, and be the first to discover land; they saw many tunnies, and the crew of the Nina killed one. The Admiral here says that these signs were from the west, "where I hope that high God in whose hand is all victory will speedily direct us to land." This morning he says he saw a white bird called a water- wagtail, or tropic bird, which does not sleep at sea.

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19 September. Continued on, and sailed, day and night, twenty- five leagues, experiencing a calm. Wrote down twenty-two. This day at ten o'clock a pelican came on board, and in the evening another; these birds are not accustomed to go twenty leagues from land. It drizzled without wind, which is a sure sign of land. The Admiral was unwilling to remain here, beating about in search of land, but he held it for certain that there were islands to the north and south, which in fact was the case and he was sailing in the midst of them. His wish was to proceed on to the Indies, having such fair weather, for if it please God, as the Admiral says, we shall examine these parts upon our return. Here the pilots found their places upon the chart: the reckoning of the Nina made her four hundred and forty leagues distant from the Canaries, that of the Pinta four hundred and twenty, that of the Admiral four hundred.

Thursday, 20 September. Steered west by north, varying with alternate changes of the wind and calms; made seven or eight leagues' progress. Two pelicans came on board, and afterwards another,--a sign of the neighborhood of land. Saw large quantities of weeds today, though none was observed yesterday. Caught a bird similar to a grajao; it was a river and not a marine bird, with feet like those of a gull. Towards night two or three land birds came to the ship, singing; they disappeared before sunrise. Afterwards saw a pelican coming from west- northwest and flying to the southwest; an evidence of land to the westward, as these birds sleep on shore, and go to sea in the morning in search of food, never proceeding twenty leagues from the land.

Friday, 21 September. Most of the day calm, afterwards a little wind. Steered their course day and night, sailing less than thirteen leagues. In the morning found such abundance of weeds that the ocean seemed to be covered with them; they came from the west. Saw a pelican; the sea smooth as a river, and the finest air in the world. Saw a whale, an indication of land, as they always keep near the coast.

Saturday, 22 September. Steered about west-northwest varying their course, and making thirty leagues' progress. Saw few weeds. Some pardelas were seen, and another bird. The Admiral here says "this headwind was very necessary to me, for my crew had grown much alarmed, dreading that they never should meet in these seas with a fair wind to return to Spain." Part of the day saw no weeds, afterwards great plenty of it.

Sunday, 23 September. Sailed northwest and northwest by north and at times west nearly twenty-two leagues. Saw a turtle dove, a pelican, a river bird, and other white fowl;--weeds in abundance with crabs among them. The sea being smooth and tranquil, the sailors murmured, saying that they had got into smooth water, where it would never blow to carry them back to Spain; but afterwards the sea rose without wind, which astonished them. The Admiral says on this occasion "the rising of the sea was very favorable to me, as it happened formerly to Moses when he led the Jews from Egypt."

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Tuesday, 25 September. Very calm this day; afterwards the wind rose. Continued their course west till night. The Admiral held a conversation with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, captain of the Pinta, respecting a chart which the Admiral had sent him three days before, in which it appears he had marked down certain islands in that sea; Martin Alonzo was of opinion that they were in their neighborhood, and the Admiral replied that he thought the same, but as they had not met with them, it must have been owing to the currents which had carried them to the northeast and that they had not made such progress as the pilots stated. The Admiral directed him to return the chart, when he traced their course upon it in presence of the pilot and sailors.

At sunset Martin Alonzo called out with great joy from his vessel that he saw land, and demanded of the Admiral a reward for his intelligence. The Admiral says, when he heard him declare this, he fell on his knees and returned thanks to God, and Martin Alonzo with his crew repeated Gloria in excelsis Deo, as did the crew of the Admiral. Those on board the Nina ascended the rigging, and all declared they saw land. The Admiral also thought it was land, and about twenty-five leagues distant. They remained all night repeating these affirmations, and the Admiral ordered their course to be shifted from west to southwest where the land appeared to lie. They sailed that day four leagues and a half west and in the night seventeen leagues southwest, in all twenty-one and a half: told the crew thirteen leagues, making it a point to keep them from knowing how far they had sailed; in this manner two reckonings were kept, the shorter one falsified, and the other being the true account. The sea was very smooth and many of the sailors went in it to bathe, saw many dories and other fish.

Wednesday, 26 September. Continued their course west till the afternoon, then southwest and discovered that what they had taken for land was nothing but clouds. Sailed, day and night, thirty- one leagues; reckoned to the crew twenty-four. The sea was like a river, the air soft and mild.

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Sunday, 30 September. Continued their course west and sailed day and night in calms, fourteen leagues; reckoned eleven.--Four tropic birds came to the ship, which is a very clear sign of land, for so many birds of one sort together show that they are not straying about, having lost themselves. Twice, saw two pelicans; many weeds. The constellation called Las Gallardias, which at evening appeared in a westerly direction, was seen in the northeast the next morning, making no more progress in a night of nine hours, this was the case every night, as says the Admiral. At night the needles varied a point towards the northwest, in the morning they were true, by which it appears that the polar star moves, like the others, and the needles are always right.

Monday, 1 October. Continued their course west and sailed twenty-five leagues; reckoned to the crew twenty. Experienced a heavy shower. The pilot of the Admiral began to fear this morning that they were five hundred and seventy-eight leagues west of the island of Ferro. The short reckoning which the Admiral showed his crew gave five hundred and eighty-four, but the true one which he kept to himself was seven hundred and seven leagues.

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Saturday, 6 October. Continued their course west and sailed forty leagues day and night; reckoned to the crew thirty-three. This night Martin Alonzo gave it as his opinion that they had better steer from west to southwest. The Admiral thought from this that Martin Alonzo did not wish to proceed onward to Cipango; but he considered it best to keep on his course, as he should probably reach the land sooner in that direction, preferring to visit the continent first, and then the islands.

Sunday, 7 October. Continued their course west and sailed twelve miles an hour, for two hours, then eight miles an hour. Sailed till an hour after sunrise, twenty-three leagues; reckoned to the crew eighteen. At sunrise the caravel Nina, who kept ahead on account of her swiftness in sailing, while all the vessels were striving to outsail one another, and gain the reward promised by the King and Queen by first discovering land--hoisted a flag at her mast head, and fired a lombarda, as a signal that she had discovered land, for the Admiral had given orders to that effect. He had also ordered that the ships should keep in close company at sunrise and sunset, as the air was more favorable at those times for seeing at a distance. Towards evening seeing nothing of the land which the Nina had made signals for, and observing large flocks of birds coming from the North and making for the southwest, whereby it was rendered probable that they were either going to land to pass the night, or abandoning the countries of the north, on account of the approaching winter, he determined to alter his course, knowing also that the Portuguese had discovered most of the islands they possessed by attending to the flight of birds. The Admiral accordingly shifted his course from west to west-southwest, with a resolution to continue two days ill that direction. This was done about an hour after sunset. Sailed in the night nearly five leagues, and twenty-three in the day. In all twenty-eight.

8 October. Steered west-southwest and sailed day and night eleven or twelve leagues; at times during the night, fifteen miles an hour, if the account can be depended upon. Found the sea like the river at Seville, "thanks to God," says the Admiral. The air soft as that of Seville in April, and so fragrant that it was delicious to breathe it. The weeds appeared very fresh. Many land birds, one of which they took, flying towards the southwest; also grajaos, ducks, and a pelican were seen.

Tuesday, 9 October. Sailed southwest five leagues, when the wind changed, and they stood west by north four leagues. Sailed in the whole day and night, twenty leagues and a half; reckoned to the crew seventeen. All night heard birds passing.

Wednesday, 10 October. Steered west-southwest and sailed at times ten miles an hour, at others twelve, and at others, seven; day and night made fifty-nine leagues' progress; reckoned to the crew but forty-four. Here the men lost all patience, and complained of the length of the voyage, but the Admiral encouraged them in the best manner he could, representing the profits they were about to acquire, and adding that it was to no purpose to complain, having come so far, they had nothing to do but continue on to the Indies, till with the help of our Lord, they should arrive there.

Thursday, 11 October. Steered west-southwest; and encountered a heavier sea than they had met with before in the whole voyage. Saw pardelas and a green rush near the vessel. The crew of the Pinta saw a cane and a log; they also picked up a stick which appeared to have been carved with an iron tool, a piece of cane, a plant which grows on land, and a board. The crew of the Nina saw other signs of land, and a stalk loaded with rose berries. These signs encouraged them, and they all grew cheerful. Sailed this day till sunset, twenty-seven leagues.

After sunset steered their original course west and sailed twelve miles an hour till two hours after midnight, going ninety miles, which are twenty-two leagues and a half; and as the Pinta was the swiftest sailer, and kept ahead of the Admiral, she discovered land and made the signals which had been ordered. The land was first seen by a sailor called Rodrigo de Triana, although the Admiral at ten o'clock that evening standing on the quarter-deck saw a light, but so small a body that he could not affirm it to be land; calling to Pero Gutierrez, groom of the King's wardrobe, he told him he saw a light, and bid him look that way, which he did and saw it; he did the same to Rodrigo Sanchez of Segovia, whom the King and Queen had sent with the squadron as comptroller, but he was unable to see it from his situation. The Admiral again perceived it once or twice, appearing like the light of a wax candle moving up and down, which some thought an indication of land. But the Admiral held it for certain that land was near; for which reason, after they had said the Salve which the seamen are accustomed to repeat and chant after their fashion, the Admiral directed them to keep a strict watch upon the forecastle and look out diligently for land, and to him who should first discover it he promised a silken jacket, besides the reward which the King and Queen had offered, which was an annuity of ten thousand maravedis. At two o'clock in the morning the land was discovered, at two leagues' distance; they took in sail and remained under the square-sail lying to till day, which was Friday, when they found themselves near a small island, one of the Lucayos, called in the Indian language Guanahani. Presently they descried people, naked, and the Admiral landed in the boat, which was armed, along with Martin Alonzo Pinzon, and Vincent Yanez his brother, captain of the Nina. The Admiral bore the royal standard, and the two captains each a banner of the Green Cross, which all the ships had carried; this contained the initials of the names of the King and Queen each side of the cross, and a crown over each letter Arrived on shore, they saw trees very green many streams of water, and diverse sorts of fruits. The Admiral called upon the two Captains, and the rest of the crew who landed, as also to Rodrigo de Escovedo notary of the fleet, and Rodrigo Sanchez, of Segovia, to bear witness that he before all others took possession (as in fact he did) of that island for the King and Queen his sovereigns, making the requisite declarations, which are more at large set down here in writing. Numbers of the people of the island straightway collected together. Here follow the precise words of the Admiral: "As I saw that they were very friendly to us, and perceived that they could be much more easily converted to our holy faith by gentle means than by force, I presented them with some red caps, and strings of beads to wear upon the neck, and many other trifles of small value, wherewith they were much delighted, and became wonderfully attached to us. Afterwards they came swimming to the boats, bringing parrots, balls of cotton thread, javelins, and many other things which they exchanged for articles we gave them, such as glass beads, and hawk's bells; which trade was carried on with the utmost good will. But they seemed on the whole to me, to be a very poor people. They all go completely naked, even the women, though I saw but one girl. All whom I saw were young, not above thirty years of age, well made, with fine shapes and faces; their hair short, and coarse like that of a horse's tail, combed toward the forehead, except a small portion which they suffer to hang down behind, and never cut. Some paint themselves with black, which makes them appear like those of the Canaries, neither black nor white; others with white, others with red, and others with such colors as they can find. Some paint the face, and some the whole body; others only the eyes, and others the nose. Weapons they have none, nor are acquainted with them, for I showed them swords which they grasped by the blades, and cut themselves through ignorance. They have no iron, their javelins being without it, and nothing more than sticks, though some have fish-bones or other things at the ends. They are all of a good size and stature, and handsomely formed. I saw some with scars of wounds upon their bodies, and demanded by signs the of them; they answered me in the same way, that there came people from the other islands in the neighborhood who endeavored to make prisoners of them, and they defended themselves. I thought then, and still believe, that these were from the continent. It appears to me, that the people are ingenious, and would be good servants and I am of opinion that they would very readily become Christians, as they appear to have no religion. They very quickly learn such words as are spoken to them. If it please our Lord, I intend at my return to carry home six of them to your Highnesses, that they may learn our language. I saw no beasts in the island, nor any sort of animals except parrots." These are the words of the Admiral.

Saturday, 13 October. "At daybreak great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes, very handsome; their hair not curled but straight and coarse like horse-hair, and all with foreheads and heads much broader than any people I had hitherto seen; their eyes were large and very beautiful; they were not black, but the color of the inhabitants of the Canaries, which is a very natural circumstance, they being in the same latitude with the island of Ferro in the Canaries. They were straight-limbed without exception, and not with prominent bellies but handsomely shaped. They came to the ship in canoes, made of a single trunk of a tree, wrought in a wonderful manner considering the country; some of them large enough to contain forty or forty-five men, others of different sizes down to those fitted to hold but a single person. They rowed with an oar like a baker's peel, and wonderfully swift. If they happen to upset, they all jump into the sea, and swim till they have righted their canoe and emptied it with the calabashes they carry with them. They came loaded with balls of cotton, parrots, javelins, and other things too numerous to mention; these they exchanged for whatever we chose to give them. I was very attentive to them, and strove to learn if they had any gold. Seeing some of them with little bits of this metal hanging at their noses, I gathered from them by signs that by going southward or steering round the island in that direction, there would be found a king who possessed large vessels of gold, and in great quantities. I endeavored to procure them to lead the way thither, but found they were unacquainted with the route. I determined to stay here till the evening of the next day, and then sail for the southwest; for according to what I could learn from them, there was land at the south as well as at the southwest and northwest and those from the northwest came many times and fought with them and proceeded on to the southwest in search of gold and precious stones. This is a large and level island, with trees extremely flourishing, and streams of water; there is a large lake in the middle of the island, but no mountains: the whole is completely covered with verdure and delightful to behold. The natives are an inoffensive people, and so desirous to possess any thing they saw with us, that they kept swimming off to the ships with whatever they could find, and readily bartered for any article we saw fit to give them in return, even such as broken platters and fragments of glass. I saw in this manner sixteen balls of cotton thread which weighed above twenty-five pounds, given for three Portuguese ceutis. This traffic I forbade, and suffered no one to take their cotton from them, unless I should order it to be procured for your Highnesses, if proper quantities could be met with. It grows in this island, but from my short stay here I could not satisfy myself fully concerning it; the gold, also, which they wear in their noses, is found here, but not to lose time, I am determined to proceed onward and ascertain whether I can reach Cipango. At night they all went on shore with their canoes.

Sunday, 14 October. In the morning, I ordered the boats to be got ready, and coasted along the island toward the north- northeast to examine that part of it, we having landed first at the eastern part. Presently we discovered two or three villages, and the people all came down to the shore, calling out to us, and giving thanks to God. Some brought us water, and others victuals: others seeing that I was not disposed to land, plunged into the sea and swam out to us, and we perceived that they interrogated us if we had come from heaven. An old man came on board my boat; the others, both men and women cried with loud voices--"Come and see the men who have come from heavens. Bring them victuals and drink." There came many of both sexes, every one bringing something, giving thanks to God, prostrating themselves on the earth, and lifting up their hands to heaven. They called out to us loudly to come to land, but I was apprehensive on account of a reef of rocks, which surrounds the whole island, although within there is depth of water and room sufficient for all the ships of Christendom, with a very narrow entrance. There are some shoals withinside, but the water is as smooth as a pond. It was to view these parts that I set out in the morning, for I wished to give a complete relation to your Highnesses, as also to find where a fort might be built. I discovered a tongue of land which appeared like an island though it was not, but might be cut through and made so in two days; it contained six houses. I do not, however, see the necessity of fortifying the place, as the people here are simple in war-like matters, as your Highnesses will see by those seven which I have ordered to be taken and carried to Spain in order to learn our language and return, unless your Highnesses should choose to have them all transported to Castile, or held captive in the island. I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men, and govern them as I pleased. Near the islet I have mentioned were groves of trees, the most beautiful I have ever seen, with their foliage as verdant as we see in Castile in April and May. There were also many streams. After having taken a survey of these parts, I returned to the ship, and setting sail, discovered such a number of islands that I knew not which first to visit; the natives whom I had taken on board informed me by signs that there were so many of them that they could not be numbered; they repeated the names of more than a hundred. I determined to steer for the largest, which is about five leagues from San Salvador; the others were some at a greater, and some at a less distance from that island. They are all very level, without mountains, exceedingly fertile and populous, the inhabitants living at war with one another, although a simple race, and with delicate bodies.

15 October. Stood off and on during the night, determining not to come to anchor till morning, fearing to meet with shoals; continued our course in the morning; and as the island was found to be six or seven leagues distant, and the tide was against us, it was noon when we arrived there. I found that part of it towards San Salvador extending from north to south five leagues, and the other side which we coasted along, ran from east to west more than ten leagues. From this island espying a still larger one to the west, I set sail in that direction and kept on till night without reaching the western extremity of the island, where I gave it the name of Santa Maria de la Concepcion. About sunset we anchored near the cape which terminates the island towards the west to enquire for gold, for the natives we had taken from San Salvador told me that the people here wore golden bracelets upon their arms and legs. I believed pretty confidently that they had invented this story in order to find means to escape from us, still I determined to pass none of these islands without taking possession, because being once taken, it would answer for all times. We anchored and remained till Tuesday, when at daybreak I went ashore with the boats armed. The people we found naked like those of San Salvador, and of the same disposition. They suffered us to traverse the island, and gave us what we asked of them. As the wind blew southeast upon the shore where the vessels lay, I determined not to remain, and set out for the ship. A large canoe being near the caravel Nina, one of the San Salvador natives leaped overboard and swam to her; (another had made his escape the night before,) the canoe being reached by the fugitive, the natives rowed for the land too swiftly to be overtaken; having landed, some of my men went ashore in pursuit of them, when they abandoned the canoe and fled with precipitation; the canoe which they had left was brought on board the Nina, where from another quarter had arrived a small canoe with a single man, who came to barter some cotton; some of the sailors finding him unwilling to go on board the vessel, jumped into the sea and took him. I was upon the quarter deck of my ship, and seeing the whole, sent for him, and gave him a red cap, put some glass beads upon his arms, and two hawk's bells upon his ears. I then ordered his canoe to be returned to him, and despatched him back to land.

I now set sail for the other large island to the west and gave orders for the canoe which the Nina had in tow to be set adrift. I had refused to receive the cotton from the native whom I sent on shore, although he pressed it upon me. I looked out after him and saw upon his landing that the others all ran to meet him with much wonder. It appeared to them that we were honest people, and that the man who had escaped from us had done us some injury, for which we kept him in custody. It was in order to favor this notion that I ordered the canoe to be set adrift, and gave the man the presents above mentioned, that when your Highnesses send another expedition to these parts it may meet with a friendly reception. All I gave the man was not worth four maravedis. We set sail about ten o'clock, with the wind southeast and stood southerly for the island I mentioned above, which is a very large one, and where according to the account of the natives on board, there is much gold, the inhabitants wearing it in bracelets upon their arms, legs, and necks, as well as in their ears and at their noses. This island is nine leagues distant from Santa Maria in a westerly direction. This part of it extends from northwest, to southeast and appears to be twenty-eight leagues long, very level, without any mountains, like San Salvador and Santa Maria, having a good shore and not rocky, except a few ledges under water, which renders it necessary to anchor at some distance, although the water is very clear, and the bottom may be seen. Two shots of a lombarda from the land, the water is so deep that it cannot be sounded; this is the case in all these islands. They are all extremely verdant and fertile, with the air agreeable, and probably contain many things of which I am ignorant, not inclining to stay here, but visit other islands in search of gold. And considering the indications of it among the natives who wear it upon their arms and legs, and having ascertained that it is the true metal by showing them some pieces of it which I have with me, I cannot fail, with the help of our Lord, to find the place which produces it.

Being at sea, about midway between Santa Maria and the large island, which I name Fernandina, we met a man in a canoe going from Santa Maria to Fernandina; he had with him a piece of the bread which the natives make, as big as one's fist, a calabash of water, a quantity of reddish earth, pulverized and afterwards kneaded up, and some dried leaves which are in high value among them, for a quantity of it was brought to me at San Salvador; he had besides a little basket made after their fashion, containing some glass beads, and two blancas by all which I knew he had come from San Salvador, and had passed from thence to Santa Maria. He came to the ship and I caused him to be taken on board, as he requested it; we took his canoe also on board and took care of his things. I ordered him to be presented with bread and honey, and drink, and shall carry him to Fernandina and give him his property, that he may carry a good report of us, so that if it please our Lord when your Highnesses shall send again to these regions, those who arrive here may receive honor, and procure what the natives may be found to possess.

Tuesday, 16 October. Set sail from Santa Maria about noon, for Fernandina which appeared very large in the west; sailed all the day with calms, and could not arrive soon enough to view the shore and select a good anchorage, for great care must be taken in this particular, lest the anchors be lost. Beat up and down all night, and in the morning arrived at a village and anchored. This was the place to which the man whom we had picked up at sea had gone, when we set him on shore. He had given such a favorable account of us, that all night there were great numbers of canoes coming off to us, who brought us water and other things. I ordered each man to be presented with something, as strings of ten or a dozen glass beads apiece, and thongs of leather, all which they estimated highly; those which came on board I directed should be fed with molasses. At three o'clock, I sent the boat on shore for water; the natives with great good will directed the men where to find it, assisted them in carrying the casks full of it to the boat, and seemed to take great pleasure in serving us. This is a very large island, and I have resolved to coast it about, for as I understand, in, or near the island, there is a mine of gold. It is eight leagues west of Santa Maria, and the cape where we have arrived, and all this coast extends from north-northwest to south-southeast. I have seen twenty leagues of it, but not the end. Now, writing this, I set sail with a southerly wind to circumnavigate the island, and search till we can find Samoet, which is the island or city where the gold is, according to the account of those who come on board the ship, to which the relation of those of San Salvador and Santa Maria corresponds. These people are similar to those of the islands just mentioned, and have the same language and customs; with the exception that they appear somewhat more civilized, showing themselves more subtle in their dealings with us, bartering their cotton and other articles with more profit than the others had experienced. Here we saw cotton cloth, and perceived the people more decent, the women wearing a slight covering of cotton over the nudities. The island is verdant, level and fertile to a high degree; and I doubt not that grain is sowed and reaped the whole year round, as well as all other productions of the place. I saw many trees, very dissimilar to those of our country, and many of them had branches of different sorts upon the same trunk; and such a diversity was among them that it was the greatest wonder in the world to behold. Thus, for instance, one branch of a tree bore leaves like those of a cane, another branch of the same tree, leaves similar to those of the lentisk. In this manner a single tree bears five or six different kinds. Nor is this done by grafting, for that is a work of art, whereas these trees grow wild, and the natives take no care about them. They have no religion, and I believe that they would very readily become Christians, as they have a good understanding. Here the fish are so dissimilar to ours that it is wonderful. Some are shaped like dories, of the finest hues in the world, blue, yellow, red, and every other color, some variegated with a thousand different tints, so beautiful that no one on beholding them could fail to express the highest wonder and admiration. Here are also whales. Beasts, we saw none, nor any creatures on land save parrots and lizards, but a boy told me he saw a large snake. No sheep nor goats were seen, and although our stay here has been short, it being now noon, yet were there any, I could hardly have failed of seeing them. The circumnavigation of the island I shall describe afterward.

Wednesday, 17 October. At noon set sail from the village where we had anchored and watered. Kept on our course to sail round the island; the wind southwest and south. My intention was to follow the coast of the island to the southeast as it runs in that direction, being informed by the Indians I have on board, besides another whom I met with here, that in such a course I should meet with the island which they call Samoet, where gold is found. I was further informed by Martin Alonzo Pinzon, captain of the Pinta, on board of which I had sent three of the Indians, that he had been assured by one of them I might sail round the island much sooner by the northwest. Seeing that the wind would not enable me to proceed in the direction I first contemplated, and finding it favorable for the one thus recommended me, I steered to the northwest and arriving at the extremity of the island at two leagues' distance, I discovered a remarkable haven with two entrances, formed by an island at its mouth, both very narrow, the inside capacious enough for a hundred ships, were there sufficient depth of water. I thought it advisable to examine it, and therefore anchored outside, and went with the boats to sound it, but found the water shallow. As I had first imagined it to be the mouth of a river, I had directed the casks to be carried ashore for water, which being done we discovered eight or ten men who straightway came up to us, and directed us to a village in the neighborhood; I accordingly dispatched the crews thither in quest of water, part of them armed, and the rest with the casks, and the place being at some distance it detained me here a couple of hours. In the meantime I strayed about among the groves, which present the most enchanting sight ever witnessed, a degree of verdure prevailing like that of May in Andalusia, the trees as different from those of our country as day is from night, and the same may be said of the fruit, the weeds, the stones and everything else. A few of the trees, however, seemed to be of a species similar to some that are to be found in Castile, though still with a great dissimilarity, but the others so unlike, that it is impossible to find any resemblance in them to those of our land. The natives we found like those already described, as to personal appearance and manners, and naked like the rest. Whatever they possessed, they bartered for what we chose to give them. I saw a boy of the crew purchasing javelins of them with bits of platters and broken glass. Those who went for water informed me that they had entered their houses and found them very clean and neat, with beds and coverings of cotton nets. Their houses are all built in the shape of tents, with very high chimneys. None of the villages which I saw contained more than twelve or fifteen of them. Here it was remarked that the married women wore cotton breeches, but the younger females were without them, except a few who were as old as eighteen years. Dogs were seen of a large and small size, and one of the men had hanging at his nose a piece of gold half as big as a castellailo, with letters upon it. I endeavored to purchase it of them in order to ascertain what sort of money it was but they refused to part with it. Having taken our water on board, I set sail and proceeded northwest till I had surveyed the coast to the point where it begins to run from east to west. Here the Indians gave me to understand that this island was smaller than that of Samoet, and that I had better return in order to reach it the sooner. The wind died away, and then sprang up from the west-northwest which was contrary to the course we were pursuing, we therefore hove about and steered various courses through the night from east to south standing off from the land, the weather being cloudy and thick. It rained violently from midnight till near day, and the sky still remains clouded; we remain off the southeast part of the island, where I expect to anchor and stay till the weather grows clear, when I shall steer for the other islands I am in quest of. Every day that I have been in these Indies it has rained more or less. I assure your Highnesses that these lands are the most fertile, temperate, level and beautiful countries in the world.

Thursday, 18 October. As soon as the sky grew clear, we set sail and went as far round the island as we could, anchoring when we found it inconvenient to proceed. I did not, however, land. In the morning set sail again.

Friday, 19 October. In the morning we got under weigh, and I ordered the Pinta to steer east and southeast and the Nina south- southeast; proceeding myself to the southeast the other vessels I directed to keep on the courses prescribed till noon, and then to rejoin me. Within three hours we descried an island to the east toward which we directed our course, and arrived all three, before noon, at the northern extremity, where a rocky islet and reef extend toward the North, with another between them and the main island. The Indians on board the ships called this island Saomete. I named it Isabela. It lies westerly from the island of Fernandina, and the coast extends from the islet twelve leagues, west, to a cape which I called Cabo Hermoso, it being a beautiful, round headland with a bold shore free from shoals. Part of the shore is rocky, but the rest of it, like most of the coast here, a sandy beach. Here we anchored till morning. This island is the most beautiful that I have yet seen, the trees in great number, flourishing and lofty; the land is higher than the other islands, and exhibits an eminence, which though it cannot be called a mountain, yet adds a beauty to its appearance, and gives an indication of streams of water in the interior. From this part toward the northeast is an extensive bay with many large and thick groves. I wished to anchor there, and land, that I might examine those delightful regions, but found the coast shoal, without a possibility of casting anchor except at a distance from the shore. The wind being favorable, I came to the Cape, which I named Hermoso, where I anchored today. This is so beautiful a place, as well as the neighboring regions, that I know not in which course to proceed first; my eyes are never tired with viewing such delightful verdure, and of a species so new and dissimilar to that of our country, and I have no doubt there are trees and herbs here which would be of great value in Spain, as dyeing materials, medicine, spicery, etc., but I am mortified that I have no acquaintance with them. Upon our arrival here we experienced the most sweet and delightful odor from the flowers or trees of the island. Tomorrow morning before we depart, I intend to land and see what can be found in the neighborhood. Here is no village, but farther within the island is one, where our Indians inform us we shall find the king, and that he has much gold. I shall penetrate so far as to reach the village and see or speak with the king, who, as they tell us, governs all these islands, and goes dressed, with a great deal of gold about him. I do not, however, give much credit to these accounts, as I understand the natives but imperfectly, and perceive them to be so poor that a trifling quantity of gold appears to them a great amount. This island appears to me to be a separate one from that of Saomete, and I even think there may be others between them. I am not solicitous to examine particularly everything here, which indeed could not be done in fifty years, because my desire is to make all possible discoveries, and return to your Highnesses, if it please our Lord, in April. But in truth, should I meet with gold or spices in great quantity, I shall remain till I collect as much as possible, and for this purpose I am proceeding solely in quest of them.

Saturday, 20 October. At sunrise we weighed anchor, and stood to the northeast and east along the south side of this island, which I named Isabela, and the cape where we anchored, Cabo de la Laguna; in this direction I expected from the account of our Indians to find the capital and king of the island. I found the coast very shallow, and offering every obstacle to our navigation, and perceiving that our course this way must be very circuitous, I determined to return to the westward. The wind failed us, and we were unable to get near the shore before night; and as it is very dangerous anchoring here in the dark, when it is impossible to discern among so many shoals and reefs whether the ground be suitable, I stood off and on all night. The other vessels came to anchor, having reached the shore in season. As was customary among us, they made signals to me to stand in and anchor, but I determined to remain at sea.

Sunday, 21 October. At 10 o'clock, we arrived at a cape of the island, and anchored, the other vessels in company. After having dispatched a meal, I went ashore, and found no habitation save a single house, and that without an occupant; we had no doubt that the people had fled in terror at our approach, as the house was completely furnished. I suffered nothing to be touched, and went with my captains and some of the crew to view the country. This island even exceeds the others in beauty and fertility. Groves of lofty and flourishing trees are abundant, as also large lakes, surrounded and overhung by the foliage, in a most enchanting manner. Everything looked as green as in April in Andalusia. The melody of the birds was so exquisite that one was never willing to part from the spot, and the flocks of parrots obscured the heavens. The diversity in the appearance of the feathered tribe from those of our country is extremely curious. A thousand different sorts of trees, with their fruit were to be met with, and of a wonderfully delicious odor. It was a great affliction to me to be ignorant of their natures, for I am very certain they are all valuable; specimens of them and of the plants I have preserved. Going round one of these lakes, I saw a snake, which we killed, and I have kept the skin for your Highnesses; upon being discovered he took to the water, whither we followed him, as it was not deep, and dispatched him with our lances; he was seven spans in length; I think there are many more such about here. I discovered also the aloe tree, and am determined to take on board the ship tomorrow, ten quintals of it, as I am told it is valuable. While we were in search of some good water, we came upon a village of the natives about half a league from the place where the ships lay; the inhabitants on discovering us abandoned their houses, and took to flight, carrying of their goods to the mountain. I ordered that nothing which they had left should be taken, not even the value of a pin. Presently we saw several of the natives advancing towards our party, and one of them came up to us, to whom we gave some hawk's bells and glass beads, with which he was delighted. We asked him in return, for water, and after I had gone on board the ship, the natives came down to the shore with their calabashes full, and showed great pleasure in presenting us with it. I ordered more glass beads to be given them, and they promised to return the next day. It is my wish to fill all the water casks of the ships at this place, which being executed, I shall depart immediately, if the weather serve, and sail round the island, till I succeed in meeting with the king, in order to see if I can acquire any of the gold, which I hear he possesses. Afterwards I shall set sail for another very large island which I believe to be Cipango, according to the indications I receive from the Indians on board. They call the Island Colba, and say there are many large ships, and sailors there. This other island they name Bosio, and inform me that it is very large; the others which lie in our course, I shall examine on the passage, and according as I find gold or spices in abundance, I shall determine what to do; at all events I am determined to proceed on to the continent, and visit the city of Guisay, where I shall deliver the letters of your Highnesses to the Great Can, and demand an answer, with which I shall return.


This text is part of the Internet Medieval Source Book. The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted texts related to medieval and Byzantine history.

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(c)Paul Halsall Mar 1996


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