8 de febrero de 2009

1000, United States

There is no end to the accounts of alleged discoveries of America before Columbus. Most of these are fables. It is, indeed, nearly certain that hardy Basque, Breton, and Norman fishermen, adventuring first far north, then west, had sighted Greenland and Labrador and become well acquainted with the rich fishing-grounds about Newfoundland and the Saint Lawrence Gulf. Many early charts of these regions, without dates and hitherto referred to Portuguese navigators of a time so late as 1500, are now thought to be the work of these earlier voyagers. They found the New World, but considered it a part of the Old.

Important, too, is the story of supposed Norse sea-rovers hither, derived from certain Icelandic manuscripts of the fourteenth century. It is a pleasing narrative, that of Lief Ericson's sail in 1000-1001 to Helluland, Markland, and at last to Vineland, and of the subsequent tours by Thorwald Ericson in 1002, Thorfinn Karlsefne, 1007-1009, and of Helge and Finnborge in 1011, to points still farther away. Such voyages probably occurred. As is well known, Helluland has been interpreted to be Newfoundland; Markland, Nova Scotia; and Vineland, the country bordering Mount Hope Bay in Bristol, R. I. These identifications are possibly correct, and even if they are mistaken, Vineland may still have been somewhere upon the coast of what is now the United States.

In the present condition of the evidence, however, we have to doubt this. No scholar longer believes that the writing on Dighton Rock is Norse, or that the celebrated Skeleton in Armor found at Fall River was a Northman's, or that the old Stone Mill at Newport was constructed by men from Iceland. Even if the manuscripts, composed between three and four hundred years after the events which they are alleged to narrate, are genuine, and if the statements contained in them are true, the latter are far too indefinite to let us be sure that they are applicable to United States localities.

The first voyage

The fleet sailed on August 3, 1492. By chance, Christopher Columbus found the best possible Atlantic route to the New World and the weather was good. Still, the voyage took weeks. Finally, on October 11, signs of land bécame apparent—branches with green leaves and flowers floating in the water. Very early on the morning of October 12, the lookout on the Pinta saw land.
The grateful crew landed on a small island in the present-day Bahamas. Columbus named the island San Salvador (Holy Savior).
Columbus stayed on the island for two days, meeting with its inhabitants, members of the peaceful Arawak-speaking Taino tribe. Not knowing where he was, and always assuming that he had reached the Indies, he called these people Indians.
Columbus spent several days exploring the Bahamas, but the Taino told him about another much larger island named Colba (Cuba), and he set off for it, thinking it must be part of China or Japan. He landed on Cuba on October 28, 1492, and for the next month sailed along its north coast. After leaving Cuba on December 5, 1492, Columbus sailed to another large island, which he named Hispaniola because it reminded him of Spain.

See also: Enterprise of the Indies