Group Title: The Trinidad Historical Society publication.
Title: Publication
Full Citation
Permanent Link:
 Material Information
Title: Publication
Physical Description: no. : ; 26 cm.
Language: English
Creator: Historical Society of Trinidad and Tobago
Publisher: s.n.
Place of Publication: Port-of-Spain
Publication Date: 1932?-52?
Frequency: irregular
completely irregular
Subject: History -- Periodicals -- Trinidad   ( lcsh )
Genre: periodical   ( marcgt )
Spatial Coverage: Trinidad and Tobago -- Trinidad
Dates or Sequential Designation: no. 1-1042.
Numbering Peculiarities: Ceased publication.
Issuing Body: Issued 1932-35 by the society under its earlier name: Trinidad Historical Society.
General Note: Reprints of documents relating to the history of Trinidad.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00080962
Volume ID: VID00079
Source Institution: University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: oclc - 45882505

Full Text




Publication No. 91.

The Discovery of Trinidad by Columbus 1498.

Source :-Select letters of Christopher Columbus by R. H. Major.
1870. Hakluyt Society. Published by the conrtsey of the
President and Council of the Hakluyt Society.

Narrative of the voyage which Don Christopher Columbus
made the third time that he came to the Indies, when he
discovered terra firma, as he sent it to their Majesties from
the Island of Hispaniola.

Summary.-He left San Lucar on Wednesday 3oth May 1498
and sailed to Madeira by a circuitous route to avoid the French
fleet which was on the lookout for him off Cape St. Vincent.
Then he went to the Canaries. From there he sent three ships
direct to Espanola while with one ship and two caravels
he went south to the equator and then westwards. At
480 miles to the southwest he found intense heat for eight
days after which favourable winds took him steadily to the west,

Verbatim.-I resolved therefore to keep on the direct
westward course, in a line from Sierra Leone, and not to change
it until I reached a point where I had thought I should find
land where I could repair the vessels and renew, if possible
our stock of provisions and take in what water we wanted.
At the end of seventeen days, during which Our Lord gave
me a propitious wind, we saw land at noon of Tuesday the
31st July. This I had expected on the Monday before and
held that route up to this point ; but as the sun's strength
increased and our supply of water was falling, I resolved
to make for the Caribee Islands and set sail in that direction ;
when by the mercy of God which he has always extended to
me, one of the sailors went up to the main-top and
saw to the westward a range of three mountains. Upon this
we repeated the "Salve Regina" and other prayers and all of
us gave thanks to Our Lord.

I then gave up our northward course and put in for the
land ; at the hour of complines we reached a cape which
I called Cape Galera, having already given to the Island
the name of Trinidad, and here we found a harbour which
would have been excellent but there was no good anchorage.
We saw houses and people on the spot and the country round
was very beautiful and as fresh and green as the gardens of
Valencia in the moi th of March.

I was"disappointed at not being able to put into the
harbour and ran along the coast to the westward. After
sailing five leagues 1 found good bottom and anchored. The
next day I set sail in the same direction in search of a harbour
where I might repair the vessels and take in water, as well
as improve the stock of provisions which I had brought out
with me. When we had taken in a pipe of water, we proceeded
onwards till we reached a cape and there finding good
anchorage and protection from the east wind, I ordered the
anchors to be dropped, the water cask to be repaired, a supply
of water and wood to be taken in and the people to rest
themselves from the fatie ies which they had endured fer so
long a time. I gave to this point the name of Sand) Point
(Punta del Arenal).

All the ground in the neighbourhood was filled with
foot-marks of animals, like the impression of the foot of a goat ;
but although it would have appeared from this circumstance
that they were very numerous, only one was seen and that
was dead.

On the following day a large canoe came from the eastward
containing twenty-four men, all in the prime of life and well
provided with arms such as bows, arrows and wooden shields ;
they were all as I have said young, well proportioned and not
dark black but whiter than any other Indians that I have
seen, of very graceful gesture and handsome forms wearing their
hair long arid straight and cut in the Spanish style. Their
heads were bound round with cotton scarfs elaborately worked
in colours, which resembled the Moorish head-dresses. Some
of these scarfs were worn round the body and used as a covering
in lieu of trousers.

The natives spoke to us from the canoe while it was yet
at a considerable distance, but none of us could understand
them; I made signs to them, however, to come nearer to
us and more than two hours were spent in this manner, but
if by any chance they moved a little nearer, they soon pushed
off again. I caused basins and other shining objects to be

shown to them to tempt them to come nearer and after a
long time they came somewhat nearer than they had
hitherto done -upon which as I was very anxious to speak
with them andl had nothing else to induce them to approach,
I ordered a drum to be played upon the quarter deck and
some of our young men to dance believing the Indians would
come to see the amusement.

No sooner however, did they perceive the beating of the
drum and the dancing, than they all left their oars and strung
their bows and each man laying hold of his shield, they
commenced discharging their arrows at us ; upon this the
music and dancing soon ceased and I ordered a charge to
be made from some of our cross bows ; they then left us
and went rapidly to the other caravel and placed themselves
under the poop.

The pilot of that vessel received them courteously and
gave to the man who appeared to be their chief, a coat and
hat ; and it was then arranged between them that lie should
go to speak with him on shore. Upon this the Indians
immediately went thither and waited for him ; but as he
would not go without my permission he came to my ship
in a boat whereupon the Indians got into their canoe again
and went away and I never saw any more of them or of any
of the other inhabitants of the island.

When I reached the point of Arenal, I found that the
island of Trinidad formed with the land of Gracia (Coast
of Paria) a strait of two leagues' width from west to east
and as we had to pass through it to go to the north, we found
some strong currents which crossed the strait and which
made a great roaring so that I concluded that there must
be a Aef of sand or rocks which would preclude our entrance ;
and behind this current was another and another, all making
a roaring noise like the sound of breakers against the rocks.

I anchored there under the said point of Arenal, outside
of the strait, and found the water rush from east to west
with as much impetuosity as that of the Guadalquivir at
its conflux with the sea ; and this continued constantly
day and night so that it appeared impossible to move backwards
for the current or forwards for the shoals. In the dead of
night while I was on deck, I heard an awful roaring that
came from the south towards the ship ; I stopped to observe
what it might be and I saw the sea rolling from west to east
like a mountain as high as the ship and approaching little by
little ; on the top of this rolling sea came a mighty wave

roaring with a frightful noise and the same terrific uproar
as the other currents producing as I have already said, a sound
as of breakers upon the rocks. To this day I have a vivid
recollection of the dread I then felt, lest the ship might founder
under the force of that tremendous sea; but it passed by
and reached the mouth of the before-mentioned passage
where the uproar lasted for a considerable time.

On the following day I sent out boats to take soundings
and found in the strait at the deepest part of the embouchure
there were six or seven fathoms of water and that there were
constant contrary currents, one running inwards and the
other outwards. It pleased the Lord however, to give us a
favourable wind and I passed inwards through that strait
and soon came to still water. In fact some water which
was drawn up from the sea proved to be fresh.

I then sailed northwards till I came to a very high mountain
at about twenty-six leagues from the Punta del Arenal;
here two lofty headlands appeared, one towards the east
and forming part of the island of Trinidad, and the other
on the west being part of the land which I have already called
Gracia. We found here a channel still narrower than that of
Arenal with similar currents and a tremendous roaring of
water ; the water here was also fresh.

Hitherto I had held no communication with any of the
people of this country although I very earnestly desired it;
I therefore sailed along the coast westwards and the further
I advanced, the fresher and more wholesome I found the water ;
and when I had proceeded a considerable distance I reached
a spot where the land appeared to be cultivated. There
I anchored and sent the boats ashore and the men who
went in them found that the natives had recently left the
place; they also observed that the mountain was covered
with monkeys. They came back and as the coast at that
part presented nothing but a chain of mountains, I concluded
that further west we should find the land flatter and
consequently in all probability inhabited.

Actuated by this thought I weighed anchor and ran along
the coast until we came to the end of the cordillera ; I then
anchored at the mouth of a river and we were soon visited
by a great number of inhabitants who informed us that the
country was called Paria and that further westward it was
more fully peopled.

I took four of these natives and proceeded on my westward
voyage ; and when I had gone eight leagues further I found
on the other side of a point which I called Punta de la Aguja
one of the most lovely countries in the world and very
thickly populated ; it was three o'clock in the morning when
I reached it and seeing its verdure and beauty I resolved
to anchor there and communicate with the inhabitants.
Some of the natives soon came out to the ship in canoes
to beg me in the name of their King to go on shore ; and
when they saw that I paid no attention to them, they came
to the ship in countless numbers, many of tlwhn wearing
pieces of gold on their breasts, and some with bracelets on
their arms ; on seeing which I was much delighted and made
many enquiries with a view of learning where they found
them. They informed me that they were to be procured in
their own neighbourhood and also northward of that
I would have remained here but the provisions of corn
and wine and meats which i had brought out with so much
care for the people whom I had left behind, were nearly
wasted su that all my anxiety was to get them to a place
of safety and not stop for anything. I wished however
to get some of the pearls I had seen and with that view sent
the boats on shore.
'he natives are very numerous and all handsome in
person and of the same colour as the Indians we had already
seen ; they are moreover very affable and received our men
who went on shore most courteously seeming very well
disposed towards us. These men relate that when the boats
reached the shore, two of the chiefs whom they took to be
father and son, came forward in advance of th(e mass of the
people and conducted them to a very large house with facades
and not round and tent-shaped as other houses were ; in this
house were many seats on which they made our men sit down,
they themselves sitting with them. They then caused bread
to be brought with many kinds of fruit and various sorts of
wine, both white and red, not made of grapes but apparently
produced from different fruits. The most reasonable inference
is that they use maize which is a plant that hears an ear like
that of wheat, some of which I took with me to Spain where
it grows abundantly ; the best of this, they seemed to regard
as most excellent and set a great value upon it.

The men remained together at one end of the house and
the women at the other. Great vexation was felt by both
parties that they could not understand each other for they
were mutually anxious to make enquiries respecting each

other's country. After our men had been entertained at the
house of tie elder Indian, the younger took them to his house
and gave them an equally cordial reception; after which
they returned to their boats and came on board.
I weighed anchor forthwith for I was hastened by my
anxiety to sace the provisions which were becoming spoiled
and which I had procured and preserved with so much care
and trouble as well as to attend to my own health which
had been affected by long watching ; and although on my
former voyage when I went out to discover terra firma,
I passed thirty-three days without natural rest and was that all
time without seeing it, yet never lwere my eyes so much
affected with bleeding or so painful as at this period.
These people, as I have already said, are very graceful
in form, tall and lithe in their movements and wear their
hair very long and smooth. They also bind their heads
witl handsome worked handkerchiefs which from a distance
look like silk or gauze; others use the same material in a longer
form wound round them so as to cover them like trousers
and this is done by both the men and the women. These
people are of whiter skin than any I have seen in the Indies.
It is the fashion among all classes to wear something at the
breast and on the arms and many wear pieces of gold hanging
low on the bosom.
Their canoes are larger, lighter and of better build than
those of the islands which I have hitlherto seen and in the
middle of each they have a cabin or room which I found
was occupied by tie chiefs and their wixes.
1 called this place Jardines that is the Gardens "
for it corresponded to that appellation. I made many enquiries
as to where they found the gold, in repll to which all of them
directed me to an elevated tract of land at no great distance
on the confines of their country lying to the westward ; but
they all advised me not to go there for fear of being eaten
and at that time I imagined by tleir description they wished
to imply that they were cannibals who dwelt there but I have
since thought it possible that the) meant merely to express
that the country was filled with beasts of prey.
I also enquired of them where they obtained the pearls
and in reply to this question likewise they directed me to the
westward and alsd to the north behind the country they
occupied. I did not put this information to the test on account
of the provisions and the weakness of my eyes and because
the large ship that I had with me was not calculated for such
an undertaking.

The short time that I spent with them was all passed in
putting questions and at the hour of vespers as I have already
said, we returned to the ships, upon which I weighed anchor
and sailed to the westward. I proceeded onwards on the
following day until I found that we were only in three fathoms
water; at this time I was still under the idea that it was but
an island and that I should be able to make my exit by
the north.
With this view I sent a light caravel in advance of us to
see whether there was any exit or whether the passage was
closed. The caravel proceeded a great distance until it
reached a very large gulf in which there appeared to be four
smaller gulfs from one of which there debouched a large river.
They invariably found ground at five fathoms and a great
quantity of very fresh water indeed I never tasted any equal
to it.
I was very disappointed when I found that I could
make no exit, either by the north, south or west but that
I was enclosed on all three sides by land. I therefore weighed
anchor and sailed in a backward direction with the hope of
finding a passage to the north by the strait which I have already
described ; but I could not return along the inhabited part
where I had already been on account of the currents which
drove me entirely out my course. But constantly at every
headland I found the water sweet and clear and we were
carried eastwards very powerfully towards the two straits
already mentioned. I then conjectured that the currents
and the overwhelming mountains of water which rushed
into these straits with such an awful roaring, arose from the
contest between the fresh water and the sea. The fresh
water struggling with the salt to oppose its entrance and
the salt contended against the fresh in its efforts to gain a
passage outwards.
I also formed the conjecture that at one time there was
a continuous neck of land from the island of Trinidad to the
land of Gracia where the two straits now are, as your Highnesses
will see by the drawing which accompanies this letter.
I passed out by this northern strait and found the fresh water
come even there ; and when by the force of the wind I was
enabled to effect a passage, I remarked while on one of the
the watery billows which I have described, that the water
on the inner side of the current was fresh and on the
outside salt.
Summary.--He proceeds to contest the view of Ptolemy
and other philosophers that the earth is round and regards
it as pear shaped. He points out that the people at Arguin
off Africa are black and the land much burnt and those farther
south at Sierra Leone are excessively black.


Verbatim.-But after I had passed the meridian or line
which I have already described, I found the climate become
gradually more temperate ; so that when I reached the
island of Trinidad where the north star rose five degrees as
night came on, there and in the land of Cracia I found the
temperature exceedingly mild ; the fields and foliage likewise
were remarkably fresh and green and as beautiful as the
gardens of Valencia in April. The people there are very
graceful in form less dark than those whom I had before seen
in the Indies and wear their hair long and smooth ; they are
also more shrewd, intelligent and courageous. The sun was
then in the sign of Virgo over their heads and ours ; therefore
all this must proceed from the extreme blandness of the
temperature which arises, as I have said, from this country
being the most elevated in the world and the nearest to the sky.

Summary.-He passed the Dragon's Mouth (which he
so named) on the Feast of the Assumption and sailed westward
for Espanola.

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