10 de febrero de 2009


The admiral having failed to note its latitude and longitude, it is not known which of the Bahamas was the San Salvador of Columbus, whether Grand Turk Island, Cat (the present San Salvador), Watling, Mariguana, Acklin, or Samana, though the last named well corresponds with his description. Mr. Justin Winsor, however, and with him a majority of the latest critics, believes that Watling's Island was the place. Before returning to Spain, Columbus discovered Cuba, and also Hayti or Espagnola (Hispaniola), on the latter of which islands he built a fort.

In a second voyage, from Cadiz, 1493-1496, the great explorer discovered the Lesser Antilles and Jamaica. In a third, 1498-1500, he came upon Trinidad and the mainland of South America, at the mouth of the Orinoco.
This was later by thirteen months and a week than the Cabots' landfall at Labrador or Nova Scotia, though a year before Amerigo Vespucci saw the coast of Brazil. It was during this third absence that Columbus, hated as an Italian and for his undeniable greed, was superseded by Bobadilla, who sent him and his brother home in chains. Soon free again, he sets off in 1502 upon a fourth cruise, in which he reaches the coast of Honduras.

To the day of his death, however, the discoverer of America never suspected that he had brought to light a new continent. Even during this his last expedition he maintained that the coast he had touched was that of Mangi, contiguous to Cathay, and that nineteen days of travel overland would have taken him to the Ganges. He arrived in Spain on September 12, 1504, and died at Segovia on May 20th of the next year.
His bones are believed to rest in the cathedral at Santo Domingo, transported thither in 1541, the Columbus-remains till recently at Havana being those of his son Diego. The latter, under the belief that they were the father's, were transferred to Genoa in 1887, and deposited there on July 2d of that year with the utmost ecclesiastical pomp.
See also: 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


Reflecting on these things, studying Perestrello's and Correo's charts and accounts of their voyages, corresponding with Toscanelli and other savans, himself an adept in drawing maps and sea-charts, for a time his occupation in Lisbon, cruising here and there, once far northward to Iceland, and talking with navigators from every Atlantic port, Columbus became acquainted with the best geographical science of his time.

This had convinced him that India could be reached by sailing westward.
The theoretical possibility of so doing was of course admitted by all who held the earth to be a sphere, but most regarded it practically impossible, in the then condition of navigation, to sail the necessary distance. Columbus considered the earth far smaller than was usually thought, a belief which we find hinted at so early as 1447, upon the famous mappe-Monde of the Pitti Palace in Florence, whereon Europe appears projected far round to the northwest. Columbus seems to have viewed this extension as a sort of yoke joining India to Scandinavia by the north. He judged that Asia, or at least Cipango, stretched two-thirds of the way to Europe, India being twice as near westward as eastward. Thirty or forty days he deemed sufficient for making it. Toscanelli and Behem as well as he held this belief; he dared boldly to act upon it.
But to do so required resources. There are indications that Columbus at some time, perhaps more than once, urged his scheme upon Genoa and Venice. If so it was in vain. Nor can we tell whether such an attempt, if made, was earlier or later than his plea before the court of Portugal, for this cannot be dated. The latter was probably in 1484.
King John II. Was impressed, and referred Columbus's scheme to a council of his wisest advisers, who denounced it as visionary. Hence in 1485 or 1486 Columbus proceeded to Spain to lay his project before Ferdinand and Isabella.

On the way he stopped at a Franciscan convent near Palos, begging bread for himself and son. The Superior, Marchena, became interested in him, and so did one of the Pinzons--famous navigators of Palos. The king and queen were at the time holding court at Cordova, and thither Columbus went, fortified with a recommendation from Marchena. The monarchs were engrossed in the final conquest of Granada, and Columbus had to wait through six weary and heart-sickening years before royal attention was turned to his cause. It must have been during this delay that he despatched his brother Bartholomew to England with an appeal to Henry VII. Christopher had brought Alexander Geraldinus, the scholar, and also the Archbishop of Toledo, to espouse his mission, and finally, at the latter's instance, Ferdinand, as John of Portugal had done, went so far as to convene, at Salamanca, a council of reputed scholars to pass judgment upon Columbus and his proposition. By these, as by the Portuguese, he was declared a misguided enthusiast. They were too much behind the age even to admit the spherical figure of the earth.
According to Scripture, they said, the earth is flat, adding that it was contrary to reason for men to walk heads downward, or snow and rain to ascend, or trees to grow with their roots upward.

See also: 1470-1484


From 1470 to 1484 we find him in Portugal, the country most interested and engaged then in ocean-going and discovery. Here he must have known Martin Behem, author of the famous globe, finished in 1492, whereon Asia is exhibited as reaching far into the same hemisphere with Europe.
Prince Henry of Portugal earnestly patronized all schemes for exploration and discovery, and the daughter, Philippa, of one of his captains, Perestrello, Columbus married. With her he lived at Porto
Santo in the Madeiras, where he became familiar with Correo, her sister's husband, also a distinguished navigator. The islanders fully believed in the existence of lands in the western Atlantic. West winds had brought to them strange woods curiously carved, huge cane-brakes like those of India described by Ptolemy, peculiarly fashioned canoes, and corpses with skin of a hue unknown to Europe or Africa.
See also: Enterprise of the Indies