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the court of Spain, and retarded so long the negotiations with Columbus, the sum employed in fitting out this squadron did not exceed seventeen thousand five hundred dollars.
48. The art of ship-building in the fifteenth century was ex. tremely rude, and the bulk and construction of vessels were accommodated to the short and easy voyages along the coast, which they were accustomed to perform. It is a proof of the genius and courage of Columbus, that he ventured, with a fleet so unfit for a distant navigation, to explore unknown seas, where he had no chart to guide him, no knowledge of the tides and currents, and no experience of the dangers to which, in all probability, he would be exposed. His eagerness to accomplish his great design made him overlook every danger and difficulty. He pushed forward the preparations with such ardor, and was so well seconded by Isabella, that every thing was soon in readiness for the voyage.
49. But as Columbus was deeply impressed with a sense of the superintendence of Divine Providence, over the affairs of this life, he would not set out upon the expedition without publicly imploring the protection of heaven. With this view, he marched in solemn procession to the monastery of Rabida, accompanied by all the persons under his command. After confessing their sins, and obtaining absolution, they received the sacrament from the hands of the Prior, who joined his prayers to theirs for the success of an enterprise which he had so zeal. ously patronized.
50. Next morning, being Friday, the third day of August, in the year 1492, the fleet sailed, a little before sunrise. A vast crowd of spectators assembled on the shore, and sent up their supplications to heaven for the prosperous issue of their voyage, which they rather wished than expected.
51. Columbus steered for the Canary Islands, and arrived there without any occurrence worth remarking, or that would have been taken notice of on any other occasion. But in this expedition every thing claimed attention. The rudder of the Pinta broke loose the day after they left the harbor; the crew, •superstitious and unskilful, considered this as a bad omen. In this short run, the ships were found so crazy, as to be very unfit for a navigation which was expected to be long and dangerous.
52. Columbus repaired them to the best of his power ; and, after taking in a supply of fresh provisions, at Gomera, he took his departure on the sixth day of September. He immediately left the usual track of navigation, holding his course
due west, and stretched into unfrequented seas. The calmness of the weather prevented them from making much progress the first day; but on the second he lost sight of land. The sailors, dejected and dismayed at the boldness of the under. taking, beat their breasts, and shed tears, as if they were never again to see the land. Columbus, confident of success, comforted them with assurances of a happy issue of the voyage, and the prospect of vast wealth.
53. This pusillanimous spirit of the crew, taught Columbus that he should have to struggle with other difficulties besides what was natural for him to expect from the nature of the undertaking. Fortunately for himself, and for the country which employed him, to an ardent inventive genius, he joined other virtues that are rarely united with them: he possessed a perfect knowledge of mankind, an insinuating address, a patient per. severance in executing any plan, the perfect government of his own passions, and the art of acquiring the direction of other men's.
54. These qualities, which eminently formed him for command, were accompanied with that experience and knowledge in his profession, which begets confidence in times of difficulty and danger. To Spanish sailors accustomed only to coasting voyages in the Mediterranean, the knowledge of Columbus, the fruit of thirty years' experience, improved by the inventive skill of the Portuguese, appeared immense.
55. When they were at sea, he superintended the execution of every order; and allowing himself only a few hours for rest, he was almost constantly on deck. His course lying through seas not formerly visited, the sounding-line and quadrant were seldom out of his hands. He attended to the motions of the tides and currents, watched the flights of birds, the appearance of fishes, of sea-weeds, and of every thing that floated upon the water, entering every occurrence in his journal.
56. Expecting the length of the voyage would alarm the sailors, Columbus concealed from shem the real progress which they made. He employed the artifice of reckoning short, du- . ring the whole voyage. By the 14th of September, the fleet was above six hundred miles to the west of the Canaries; the greatest distance from land that any Spaniard had been before that time.
57. But now they were struck with an appearance that was astonishing, because it was new. The magnetic needle did not point exactly to the Polar Star, but varied a degree towards the
west; and as they proceeded, this variation increased. Though this is now familiar, it still remains one of the mysteries of nature; the sagacity of man has not been able to penetrate the cause; and it filled the companions of Columbus with terror.
58. They were now far from the usual course of naviga. tion, nature itself seemed altered, and the only guide they had left appeared to fail them. Columbus, with admirable presence of mind, invented a plausible reason for this appearance, which had an effect to dispel their fears, or silence their murmurs. He still steered due west, nearly in the latitude of the Canaries. In this direction he came within the course of the trade winds, which blow from east to west, between the tropics.
59. He advanced before this steady gale with such rapidity, that it was seldom necessary to shift a sail. When about four hundred leagues west of the Canaries, the sea was so covered with weeds that it resembled a meadow of vast extent, and was in some places so thick as to impede the progress of the ves. sels. This was cause of fresh alarm : the seamen imagined this was the utmost boundary of the ocean; and that these floating weeds concealed dangerous rocks, or a large tract of land, which had sunk in that place. Columbus persuaded them that, instead of alarming, it ought rather to encourage them to consider it as a sign of approaching land : at the same time a brisk gale sprung up, and carried them forwards. Several birds were seen hovering about the ship, and directing their flight towards the west. The despairing crew resumed some degree of spirit, and began to entertain new hopes.
60. Upon the first day of October they were advanced two thousand two hundred and ten miles west of the Canaries; but he persuaded his men that he had only procoeded seventeen hundred and fifty-two miles; and fortunately for Columbus, neither his own pilot, nor those of the other ships, could discover the deceit.
61. Three weeks had now elapsed, and no land appeared : all their prognostics had proved fallacious, and their prospects of success were now as distant as ever. These reflections made strong impressions, at first, on the timid and ignorant, and extended, by degrees, to those who were better informed, or more resolute. The contagion spread, at length, from ship to ship. From secret whispers and murmurings, they proceeded to open cabals and loud complaints.
62. They charged their sovereign with foolish credulity, in relying on the vain promises and rash conjectures of an indigent foreigner. They affirmed that they had fully performed
their duty, by venturing in a hopeless cause, and that they would be justifiable in refusing any longer to follow such a desperate adventurer to certain destruction. They contended that it was high time to think of returning to Spain, while their crazy vessels were still in a condition to keep the sea, but they feared their attempt would be impracticable, as the wind, which had hitherto been favorable to their course, would render it im. possible to sail in an opposite direction.
63. They all agreed that Columbus should be compelled by force to adopt a measure, on which their safety depended. Some were for throwing him overboard, and getting rid of his re. monstrances, being persuaded that, upon their return to Spain, his death would excite little concern, and be inquired into with no curiosity. Columbus was not ignorant of his perilous situation; he saw that the disaffection of his crew was ready to burst forth into open mutiny. He affected to seem ignorant of all their designs, and appeared with a cheerful countenance, like a man fully satisfied with the progress he had made, and 1 confident of success.
64. Sometimes he endeavored to work upon their ambition and avarice, by magnificent descriptions of the fame and wealth which they would in all probability acquire. On other occasions he assumed a tone of authority, and threatened them with vengeance from their sovereign, if, by their cowardly behavior, they should defeat this noble effort to promote the glory of God, and to exalt the Spanish name above that of every other nation.
65. The words of a man they were accustomed to obey and reverence, were weighty and persuasive; and not only restrained them from violent excesses, but prevailed with them to accompany their admiral some time longer. As they advanced in their course, signs of approaching land were frequent. Birds appeared in flocks, and directed their flight towards the southwest.
66. In imitation of the Portuguese, who in their several discoveries were guided by the motion of birds, Columbus altered his course from due west, to that quarter whither they pursued their flight. Holding on in this direction for several days, but with no better success than formerly, and having seen no land for thirty days, their hopes subsided quicker than they had arisen; their fears revived with additional force; impatience, rage, and despair, were visible in every countenance. All subordination was lost; the officers had hitherto concurred in opinion with Columbus, but now took part with the men; they
assembled and mixed threats with expostulations, and required him instantly to tack about, and return to Spain.
67. Columbus perceived it would be in vain to practise his former arts, or endeavor to rekindle any zeal for the enter. prise in men, in whose breasts fear had extinguished every noble sentiment. It was therefore necessary, to soothe pas. sions, which it was impoesible to command, and give way to a torrent too impetuous to be checked. Therefore he solemnly promised them, that if they would continue to obey his com. mands, and accompany him three days longer, and during that time, land were not discovered, he would then abandon the enterprise, and direct his course towards Spain.
68. This proposition did not appear to them unreasonable : enraged as they were, they yielded to the proposition. Colum7 bus saw the presages of approaching land so numerous and
certain, that he did not hazard much in confining himself to so short a term. For some days the sounding-line reached the bottom, and the soil which it brought up was a strong indication that the land was at no great distance. The land-birds which made their appearance, confirmed their hopes.
69. The crew of the Pinta observed a cane floating, which seemed to be newly cut, and likewise a piece of timber artifi. cially carved. The sailors on board the Nigna, took up the branch of a tree with red berries, perfectly fresh. The air was more mild and warm, and the clouds around the setting sun assumed a new appearance.
70. Columbus was now so confident of being near land, that on the evening of the eleventh of October, after public prayers for success, he ordered the ships to lie to, and a strict watch kept, lest they should be driven on shore in the night. During this interval of suspense, and anxious expectation, no man closed his eyes; but all kept on deck looking intently towards that part from whence they supposed land would appear, which. had been so long the object of their most anxious wishes.
71. About two hours before midnight, Columbus, standing on the forecastle, observed a light at a distance, and privately pointed it out to Pedro Guttierez, a page of the queen's ward. robe. Guttierez perceived it, and called to Salcedo, comptroller of the fleet: all three saw it move, as from place to place. A little after midnight, the joyful sound of Land! Land! was heard from the Pinta, which always kept ahead of the other ships. Deceived so often, by fallacious appearances, they were slow of belief, and waited in anxious suspense for the return