'iHE 'TRIINIDAD HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
Publication No. 127.
The Discovery of Trinidad by Christopher Columbus. 1498.
Source : -The History of the life and actions of Admiral Christopher
Columbus and of his discovery of the lVest Indies called the New
World now in possession of His Catholic Majesty. Written by
his own son D. Ferdinand Columbus. From Churchill's
"Collection of V.v.i.: and Travels." Vol. II, 1704
Chapter LXVIII. How the Admiral discovered the Island of
the Trinity and saw the Continent.
On Tuesday, the last day of July 1498, the Admiral
having sailed many days west insomuch that in his judgement
the Carribe Islands were north of him, he resolved not to
hold that course any longer but to make for Hispaniola not
only because he was in great want of water but also because
all his provisions perished and he was afraid lest during his
absence some munity or disorder had happened among
the people lie left there, as in effect there had, as we shall
Thereupon altering his course from the west, he stood
north, thinking to light on some of the Caribbe Islands, there
to refresh his men and take in wood and water of which he
had great want.
As lie was then sailing one day about noon, Alonzo
Perez Nirando, a sailor of the Town of Gullva, going up to
the round top saw land to the westward at about 15 leagues
distance and there appeared three mountains all at the same
time but not long after they perceived the land stretched
out towards the north east as far as lie eye could reach and
that did not seem to be the end.
Having given thanks to God and said the Salve Regina
and other prayers the seamen use in time of distress and joy,
the Admiral called that land the Island of the Trinity as well
because he had before thoughts of giving that name to the
first land he found as in return because it had pleased God
to show him three mountains all together as has been said.
He sailed due west to make a cape that appeared to south
of him and making for the south side of the Island till he
came to anchor five leagues beyond a point which he called
de la Galera or of the Galley because of a rock that lay near
the point and at a distance looked like a galley under sail.
Having now but one cask of water for all his ship's crew
and the other ships being in same condition, there being
no convenience here to take in any, on Wednesday following
in the morning he continued his course still west and cast
anchor at another point which he called de la Playa or of
the Strand where the people landed and took water in a
delicate brook without seeing any town or people there
though along the coast they left behind, they had seen many
houses and towns.
True it is they found the tokens of fishermen who had fled
leaving behind them some of the fishing tackle. They also
saw the prints of the feet of beasts which seemed to be ol
goats and saw the bones of one but the head being without
horns they thought it might be some catamountain or monkey
as they afterwards found it to be, seeing abundance of those
cats in Paria.
The same day being the first of August, sailing between
Cape Galera and that of la Playa, they discovered to the
southwards the Continent about 25 leagues distance as they
guessed but they, thinking it to be another island, called it
the Isla Santa or Holy Island. The land they saw of the
Trinity between the two points was thirty leagues in length,
cast and west, without any harbour but all the country very
pleasant with trees down to the sea and abundance of towns.
This space they ran in very short time because the current
of the sea set so very violent westward that it looked like a
rapid river both day and night and at all hours notwithstanding
the tide flowed and ebbed along the shore about 40 paces
as happens at St. Lucar de Barrameda when there are floods
for though the water rise and fall never so much yet it never
ceases running towards the sea.
CHAPTER LXIX.- How the Admiral sailed to the Cape called
Punta del Arenal and a canoe came out 0o talk to him.
Perceiving that they could have no account of the people
at this Cape and there was no convenience for taking water
without excessive labour and that there was no convenience
for careening the ships and getting provisions, the next day
being the 2nd August, the Admiral went on to another point
of land which seemed to be the most westerly in that Island
and called it del Arenal where he came to anchor thinking
that the easterly winds which reign there would not be so
troublesome to the boats in going backwards and forwards.
On the way before they came to the point, a canoe began
to follow them with 25 men in it and stopped at a cannon
shot distance calling out and talking very loud. Nothing
could be understood though it was supposed they enquired
who our men were and whence they came as other Indians
used to do at first.
There being no possibility of persuading them with any
words to come aboard, they began to show them several
things that they might covet to have, such as little brass
basons, looking glasses and other things the rest of the Indians
used to make great account of. But though this drew them
a little, yet they soon stopped again and therefore the more
to allure them, the Admiral ordered one to get upon the poop
with a tabor and pipe and some young fellows to dance.
As soon as the Indians saw this, they put themselves into a
posture of defence laying hold of their targets and shooting
their arrows at those who danced who, by the Admiral's
command that these people might not go unpunished or
continue the Christians leaving this dance, began to shoot
with their crossbows so that they were glad to draw off and
made to another caravel clapping close to its side without
any apprehension. The pilot of this ship went over into
the canoe and gave them some things they were well pleased
with and said if they had been ashore they would have brought
him bread from their houses and so they went towards land
nor would they in the ship, stop ere a one for fear of displeasing
The account they gave of them was that they were well
shaped people and whiter than those of the other islands
and that they wore their hair long like women bound with
small strings and covered their privities with little clouts.
CHAPTER LXX. Of the danger the ships were in entering the
mouth of the channel they called Boca del Drago or the Dragon's
Mouth and how Paria was discovered being the first discovery of
As soon as the ships had anchored at Punta del Arenal,
the Admiral sent the boats ashore for water and to get some
information of the Indians but they could do neither that
country being very low and unpeopled. He therefore ordered
them to dig trenches on the Island and by good luck they
found them ready made and full of excellent water and it
was thought the fishermen had made them. Having taken
what they wanted, the Admiral resolved to proceed on to
another mouth or channel which appeared towards the
northwest which he afterwards called Boca del Drago or the
Dragon's Mouth to distinguish it from that where he wa,
to which he had given the name of Boca de la Sierpe or the
These two mouths or channels like the Dardenelles were
made by the two westernmost points of the Trinity Island
and two others of the Continent and lay almost north and
south of one another. In lie midst of that where the Admiral
anchored was a rock which he called El Gallo, that is the Cock.
Through the mouth he called Boca del Sierpe, the water
continually ran so furiously northwards as if it had been the
mouth of some great river which was the reason for giving
it that name because of the fright it put themi into. For as
they lay very securely at anchor tlhre came a stronger stream
of water than usual with a hideous noise running through
that mouth northward. And another current running out
of the Gulf now called Paria opposite to that before mentioned,
they met with hideous roaring and caused the sea to swell
up like a high mountain or ridge of hills along that channel
which mountain soon came towards the ships to the great
terror of all the men fearing they would be overset. But it
pleased God, it passed under or rather lifted them up without
doing them any harm though it drcx\ the anchor of one
of them carrying the vessel away but by help of their sails
they escaped tile danger not without moi tal [car of being lost.
That filrious current being past, t.ii Admiral, considering
the danger lie was in there, stood for the Dragon's Mouth
which was betxwcen the north point of the Trinity Island
and the cast point of Paria yet \wnt not through it at that
time but sailed along the south coast of Paria westward
believing it to be an island and hoping to find a wav out
northwards to Hispaniola. And though there were many
ports along the coast of Paria, lie would put into none. all
the sea being i harbour locked iin with the Continent.
CHAPTE'rR LXXI. -- iHow there was sonm gol ld ad pearls found in
Paria and a people of good disposition.
The Admiral being at anchor on the 5th of August, it
being his particular devotion never to weigh on a Sunday.
he sent the boats ashore where they found an abundance of
fruit of the same sort they had seen in the other Islands,
great numbers of trees and signs of lpople who had fled for
fear of the (Cli .ii- But being unwilling to lose time lie
sailed down the coast 15 leagues further without goinginto any
harbour for fear he should mis> the Nwilnd to bring him out.
Being at anm ior on the coast at tlhc (nd of these i5 leagues,
there came out a canoe to the Caravel called El Coirco,
with three men in it ; the pilot knowing how much the
Admiral coveted to receive some information from tie people
lie pretended to talk to them and let himself fall into the
canoe and the Spaniarid in the boat took these three men
and carried them to the Admiral who made very much o
them and sent them ashore with many gifts where tlhre
appeared an abundance of Indtians.
These, hearing the good account the three gave t:( mn,
came all in their canoes to barter for such things as they lad
which were much the s;:mc as had been seen in the islh:ids
before discovered only that Ihre they had no target nor
poisoned arrows which these people do not use but (onl
the cannibals. There drink w as a sort of liquor as white as
milk and another somewhat blackish, tasting like green vine
made of grapes not quite ripe, but they could not learn %what
fruit it was made of. They wore cotton cloths well wove of
several colours about the bigness of a handkerchief, ( me
.. i and some less ; wlat they most alued of our things
was brass and especially bclls.
The people seem to be more civilized and tractable than
those of Hispaniola. T hey cover their nakedness with one
,of the cloths above-mentioned and have another wrapped
around the head. The womenl cover nothing not even tllhir
privitics ; tie same they do in Trinity Island. They saw
nothing of value here except some little plates of gold lhIng
about their necks for which reason and because the Admiral
could not stay to dive into the secrets of the country, he ordered
six of those Indians to be taken and continued his voyage
westwardd believing the land of Paria, which lie called ll(olv
Island, was no continent. Soon afterwards another isl.md
appeared towards the south and another no less than litat
towards the \west, all high land and \well peopled ; the Indiains
had more plates of gold about their necks than the others
and abundance of guanin's which is very low gold. 'IThcy
said it was produced in other western islands, inhabited by
people that eat men.
The women had strings of beads about their arms and
among them very fine large and small pearls in strings some
whereof xecre got in exchange to send their Catholic Majesties
as a sample. Being asked where they found these things
thelc made signs to show that in tie oistcr shells which v (re
taken westward of that land of Paria and beyond it towN a\ids
the north, they xwere found.
Upon this the Admiral stacyd thleie to know more of that
good discovery and sent the boats ashore where all the people
of thle country that had flocked together appeared so tractablle
and friendly that they importuned the Christians to go along
with them to a house not far off where they gave them to
eat and a great deal of wine. Then from that house, which
it is likely was the King's Palace, they carried them to another
which was his son's and showed them the same kindness.
They were all in general whiter than any they had sceei
in the Indies and of better aspect and shape with their hair
cut short b) their cars after the Spanish fashion. From
them they understood that land was called Paria and that
they would be glad to be in parity with the Christians. Then
they departed fiom them and returned to the ships.
CHAPiTR LXXII.-How THE ADMIRAL PASSED THROUGH
THE BOCA DEL DRAGO AND TIlE DANGER HE WAS IN THERE.
The Admiral holding on his voyage westward, they still
found less and less water insomuch that being come through
four or live failhoms, they found but t wo and a half at ebb,
for the tide difilrcd from that at 'riniti Island for at the
Trinity the waler swelled three fatholms and here being 45
leagues to westward, it ran but one and then always whether
ebb or flood, the current ran west and here upon the ebb
they ran cast and upon the flood west ; there the water was
but brackish, here it was like river water.
The Admiral perceiving the dillierence and how little
water he found, dared to proceed no ilrther in his ship which
required three lhthoms of water being of ioo tons and t(hrclfore
came to anchor on that coast which waas \cry saft, being a port
like a horseshoe locked with that land on all sides.
However lie sent the little caravel called El Correo or
the Post, to discover whether there was any pass westward
among the islands. She having gone but a little way returned
the next day, being the IIth August, saying that at the
westernmost point of that sea there was a mouth or opening
two leagues over from north to south and within it a round
bay with four other little bays, one towards each quarter
of heaven ; thai from each flowed a river whose water made
lhat sea so swtcel which wxas yet nmuch sweeter firtlher in,
adding that all that land which seemed to be island, was
on the same continent and that they had eecrywhere four
or fixe lfathoms of water and such abundance of weeds that
they hindered the sailing.
The Admiral therefore, being certain that lie could not
get out westward, that same day stood back to the eastward
designing to pass the straight which ie saw betwe en the land
the Indians call Paria and the Trinity. In this straight there
are foltur little islands next tlhe point ol hle Triniit) with lie
called (ape BIoca because it was blunt, west upon the point
of the contiineni which he called Cape Lapa and in the middle.
The reason why he called this the Dragon's Mouth was
because it is very dangerous by reason of the abundance of
fresh water that struggles to get out there into the sea and
made three boisterous channels extending from east to west
of the strait. And because as he was sailing through, the
wind failed him and lie was in danger of being drove on some
sand or rock, therefore he with reasons gave it a name
answerable to that of the other month where he was in no
less danger as we said above.
But it pleased God that wliat they most dreaded should
be their greatest safety, the strength of the current carrying
them off. Therefore on Monday the I7th August, he began
to sail westward along the coast of Paria in order to stand
over afterwards for Hispaniola giving thanks to God who
delivered him from so many troubles and dangers, still
showing him new countries full of peaceable people and great
wealth especially that which lie certainly concluded to be
continent because of the great extent of that Gulf of Pearls,
of the rivers which ran from it, of the sea which was all
sweet water and by the authority of Esdras in the 8th chapter
of the 4th Book where he says -That dividing the globe
into seven parts, only one of them is covered with water-
for all the Indians of the caribbce Islands had told him
that there was a vast land southward.