The conduct and appearance of the natives were such as to show that the Spaniards had no reason to fear their hostility or treachery. Simple, harmless, naked, and unarmed, they seemed rather to be at the mercy of their visitors. Equally timid and curious, they were at first shy; but being encouraged to approach the strangers, they at length became entirely familiar with them, and received presents with expressions of the highest delight. The new comers to their shores were thought to have dropped from the skies, and the articles bestowed were received as celestial presents. All was a scene of wonder and amazement indeed to both parties.
They pursued their course until two in the morning, when from the Pinta, which generally sailed ahead, the thundering signal was heard, the order being that a gun should be fired as soon as land hove in sight. It was indeed land at this time. It lay before them, now dimly seen, about two leagues distant. The joy which Columbus and his crew felt at the sight, surpasses the power of description. It is difficult, even for the imagination, to conceive the emotions of such a man, in whose temperament a wonderful enthusiasm and unbounded aspiration prevailed, at the moment of so sublime a discovery. Utterance was given to his intense feelings by tears, and prayers, and thanksgivings.
The fleet consisted of three vessels, one furnished by himself, through the assistance of his friends, and was to sail from the little port of Palos in Andalusia. Two of the vessels were caravels—that is, light vessels without decks—the other was of a larger burden, though not amounting even to an hundred tons. How such craft could survive the waves and storms of the Atlantic, is one of the marvelous circumstances of the undertaking. The number of men received on board amounted to one hundred and twenty. The preparations having been finished, the undaunted navigator set sail on the morning of the 3d of August, 1492, having first with his whole crew partaken of the sacrament.
Pictures of Columbus, Cabot
With the explorations of Columbus on his first and his three later voyages (in 1496, 1498, and 1502) we are less concerned than with the first voyage itself as an illustration of the problems and dangers faced by the navigator of the time, and with the effect of the discovery of the new world upon Spain's rise as a sea power. The three caravels in which he sailed were typical craft of the period. The Santa Maria, the largest, was like the other two, a single-decked, lateen-rigged, three-masted vessel, with a length of about 90 feet, beam of about 20 feet, and a maximum speed of perhaps 6-1/2 knots. She was of 100 tons burden and carried 52 men. The Pinta was somewhat smaller. The Niña (Baby) was a tiny, half-decked vessel of 40 tons. Heavily timbered and seaworthy enough, the three caravels were short provisioned and manned in part from the rakings of the Palos jail.
Section of Frobisher's map of the world, 1576.
Copied from Hakluyt.
It shows what the English explorer thought America was.
De Soto's Expedition 1539-1542
The outlines and names of states are given for convenience in tracing De Soto's course.
Map of 1515, showing what some geographers then supposed North America to be. This is one of the earliest maps on which the name America occurs. It will be notices that at that time it was confined to South America.
Columbus watching for land
The World as known shortly before the sailing of Columbus
The year 1768 opened for the adventurers in Fortescue Bay, below which is Port Galant, the plan of which had been taken with great exactitude by M. de Gennes. Detestable weather, of which the worst winter in Paris can give no idea, detained the French expedition for three weeks. It was visited by a band of Pecheians, the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego, who boarded the ship.
"We made them sing," says the narrative, "dance, listen to instruments, and above all eat. Everything was pleasant to them, bread, salt meat, tallow, they devoured everything that was given them. "
Cook next penetrated Torres Strait, which he called Endeavour Strait, discovered and named the Wallis Islands, situated in the middle of the south-west entrance to Booby Island, and Prince of Wales Island, and steered for the southern coast of New Guinea, which he followed until the 3rd of September without being able to land.
Upon that day Cook landed with about eleven well-armed men, amongst them Solander, Banks, and his servants. They were scarcely a quarter of a mile from their ship, when three Indians emerged from the wood, uttering piercing cries, and rushed at the English.
His choice fell upon James Cook, who was cordially recommended by Sir Hugh Palliser, and to him therefore the command of the Endeavour was given, whilst he was at the same time raised to the `rank` of ship's lieutenant.
Cook was now forty years of age. This was his first appointment in the Royal Navy. The mission entrusted to him called for varied qualifications, rarely to be met with in a sailor. For, although the observation of the transit of Venus was the principal object of the voyage, it was by no means the only one. Cook was also to make a voyage of discovery in the Pacific Ocean. But the humbly born Yorkshire lad was destined to prove himself equal to his task.
There is no doubt whatever that Vespucci made a voyage in 1499-1500, along with Alonzo de Ojeda and the great pilot Juan[Pg 109] de la Cosa, but whether this may be styled his first or his second must be left to the intelligence of the reader, for the historians are at odds themselves, and it might seem presumptuous in the biographer to assume to decide.
In a pamphlet accompanying "the earliest known globe of Johann Schöner," made in 1515, the new region is described as the "fourth part of the globe named after its discoverer, Americus Vespucius, who found it in 1497." Vespucci did not find it, and he never made the claim that he discovered more than is given in his letters; but this misstatement by another caused him to be accused of falsifying the dates of his voyages in order to rob Columbus of his desserts.
Marco Polo, Vespucci's Countryman
Marco Polo, the Venetian, exercised a strong and lasting influence upon the minds of Toscanelli, Columbus, Vespucci, and, through them, upon others, although he died in the first quarter of the century in which the first-named of this distinguished triad was born. All these had this birthright in common: they were Italians; and, moreover, it was in Genoa, the reputed birthplace of Columbus, that Marco Polo's adventures were first shaped into coherent narrative and given to the world.
Amerigo Vespucci was born in Florence, March 9, 1451, just one hundred and fifty years after Dante was banished from the city in which both first saw the light. The Vespucci family had then resided in that city more than two hundred years, having come from Peretola, a little town adjacent, where the name was highly regarded, as attached to the most respected of the Italian nobility. Following the custom of that nobility, during the period of unrest in Italy, the Vespuccis established themselves in a stately mansion near one of the city gates, which is known as the Porta del Prato. Thus they were within touch of the gay society of Florence, and could enjoy its advantages, while at the same time in a position, in the event of an uprising, to flee to their estates and stronghold in the country.
Routes of the discoverers
Oldest known image of Columbus
Columbus ship. A letter written by Columbus of America in 1493
While Cortez and Pizarro had been conquering Mexico and Peru, other Spaniards had been seeking their fortune in Florida. Thus far these men had brought back no gold and silver, but their faith in the mines of the interior was so great that De Soto wished to conquer and explore the country. Having already won great influence by his achievements, he secured the favor of the king, who made him governor of the island of Cuba, and appointed him leader of an expedition to conquer and occupy Florida. He was to take men enough with him to build forts and plant a colony, so as to hold the country for Spain.
The successful voyager lost no time in reaching Barcelona, where he was received by the king and queen with triumphal honors. Everybody was ready to praise the man who had become so famous. There was a great procession in his honor in the streets of Barcelona. Leading this street parade were six Indians whom Columbus had brought back with him. These were smeared with paint, decked with feathers of tropical birds, and ornamented with bits of gold. Following them came men carrying stuffed and live birds of brilliant plumage, and the skins of different animals, all products of the New Land. Columbus rode on horseback, attended by many of Spain's great men, mounted on horses.
On Christmas morning (December 25, 1492), while it was still dark, as he was cruising along the shores of[Pg 16] Hayti (or Hispaniola), the Santa Maria went aground on a sand-bar, where the waves soon knocked her to pieces. As the Pinta had already deserted, there now remained but one ship, the Niña. This little vessel was too small to accommodate all the men, and forty of the number, wishing to stay where they were, decided to build a fort out of the timbers of the wrecked vessel and put her guns in the fort for their defence. These men had provisions for a year, and constituted the first Spanish colony in the New World.
The three caravels that were at length got ready for the perilous expedition westward in search of the Indies were not larger than many of the fishing-boats of to-day. The largest of the three—the flagship of Columbus—was called the Santa Maria. The other two were the Pinta and the Niña ("Baby"). The Santa Maria alone had a deck covering the entire hold of the vessel.