1484-1492

The war for Granada ended, Santangel and others of his converts at court secured Columbus an interview with Isabella, but his demands seeming to her arrogant, he was dismissed. Nothing daunted, the hero had started for France, there to plead as he had pleaded in Portugal and Spain already, when to his joy a messenger overtook him with orders to come once more before the queen.

Fuller thought and argument had convinced this eminent woman that the experiment urged by Columbus ought to be tried and a contract was son concluded, by which, on condition that he should bear one-eighth the expense of the expedition, the public chest of Castile was to furnish the remainder. The story of the crown jewels having been pledged for this purpose is now discredited. If such pledging occurred, it was earlier, in prosecuting the war with the Moors. The whole sum needed for the voyage was about fifty thousand dollars. Columbus was made admiral, also viceroy of whatever lands should be discovered, and he was to have ten per cent of all the revenues from such lands. For his contribution to the outfit he was indebted to the Pinzons.

This arrangement was made in April or May, 1492, and on the third of the next August, after the utmost difficulty in shipping crews for this sail into the sea of darkness, Columbus put out from Palos with one hundred and twenty men, on three ships. These were the Santa Maria, the Nina, and the Pinta. The largest, the Santa Maria, was of not over one hundred tons, having a deck-length of sixty-three feet, a keel of fifty-one feet, a draft of ten feet six inches, and her mast-head sixty feet above sea-level. She probably had four anchors, with hemp cables.

From Palos they first bore southward to the Canary Islands, into the track of the prevalent east winds, then headed west, for Cipango, as Columbus supposed, but really toward the northern part of Florida. When a little beyond what he regarded the longitude of Cipango, noticing the flight of birds to the southwest, he was induced to follow these, which accident made his landfall occur at Guanahani (San Salvador), in the Bahamas, instead of the Florida coast.

Near midnight, between October 11th and 12th, Columbus, being on the watch, descried a light ahead. About two o'clock on the morning of the 12th the lookout on the Pinta distinctly saw land through the moonlight.
When it was day they went on shore. The 12th of October, 1492, therefore, was the date on which for the first time, so far as history attests with assurance, a European foot pressed the soil of this continent. Adding nine days to this to translate it into New Style, we have October 21st as the day answering to that on which Columbus first became sure that his long toil and watching had not been in vain.

See also: Enterprise of the Indies

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