Christopher Columbus - 1st Voyage

Map of Christopher Columbus - 1st Voyage

On the evening of August 3rd 1492, Columbus left Palos with three ships, the Santa Maria, Niña and Pinta. His crew mostly came from surrounding towns such as Lepe and Moguer. He first sailed to the Canary Islands, owned by Castile, where he reprovisioned and made repairs. He was delayed there for four weeks by calm winds. Columbus left the island of Gomera on September 6, 1492, but light winds again left him within sight of the western island of Hierro until September 8. He then started what turned out to be a five-week voyage across the ocean. His method of navigation was mainly by Dead Reckoning, that is plotting course and distance travelled to determine his position.

After 29 days out of sight of land, on 7 October 1492 as recorded in the ship's log the crew spotted shore birds flying west and changed direction to make their landfall. A later comparison of dates and migratory patterns leads to the conclusion that the birds were Eskimo curlews and American golden plover.

Land was sighted at 2 AM on 12 October by a sailor named Rodrigo de Triana (also known as Juan Rodriguez Bermejo) aboard Pinta. Columbus called the island San Salvador, the natives called it Guanahani. The indigenous people he encountered, the Lucayan, Taíno or Arawak, were peaceful and friendly. He wrote with such awe of the friendly innocence and beauty of the natives. "These people have no religious beliefs, nor are they idolaters. They are very gentle and do not know what evil is; nor do they kill others, nor steal; and they are without weapons."

On this first voyage, Columbus also explored the northeast coast of Cuba where he landed on 28 October. Martín Alonso Pinzón, captain of the Pinta, left the other two ships without permission and sailed on his own in search of an island called "Babeque," where he had been told by his native guides that there was much gold. Columbus continued with the Santa Maria and Niña eastward, and arrived at Hispaniola on December 5. Here, the Santa Maria ran aground on Christmas morning 1492 and had to be abandoned.

He was received by the native cacique Guacanagari, who gave him permission to leave some of his men behind. The Niña could not hold all of the remaining crew, so Columbus was forced to leave about 40 men at La Navidad to await his return from Spain. Columbus departed from La Navidad on January 2, 1493.

Now down to just one ship, Columbus continued eastward along the coast of Hispaniola, and was surprised when he came upon the Pinta on January 6.

The two ships departed Hispaniola from Samana Bay (in the modern Dominican Republic) on January 16, but were again separated by a fierce storm in the North Atlantic on February 14; Columbus and Pinzón each believed that the other had perished. Columbus sighted the island of Santa Maria in the Azores the next day.

After a run-in with the local governor, he left the island of Santa Maria in the Azores, Columbus headed for Spain, but another storm forced him into Lisbon. He anchored next to the King's harbour patrol ship on 4 March 1493, where he was told a fleet of 100 caravels had been lost in the storm. Not finding the king in Lisbon, Columbus wrote a letter to him and waited for the king's reply, which requested that he go to Vale do Paraíso to meet with His Majesty. Some think that his landing in Portugal was intentional. After spending more than one week in Portugal, he set sail for Spain. Word of his finding new lands rapidly spread throughout Europe. He did not reach Spain until 15 March.

Meanwhile, Pinzón and the Pinta had missed the Azores and arrived at the port of Bayona in northern Spain. After a stop to repair the damaged ship, the Pinta limped into Palos just hours after the Niña. Pinzón had expected to be proclaimed a hero, but the honor had already been given to Columbus. Pinzón died a few days later.

Columbus was received as a hero in Spain. He displayed several kidnapped natives and what gold he had found to the court, as well as the previously unknown tobacco plant, the pineapple fruit, the turkey and the hammock. He did not bring any of the East Indies spices, such as the expensive black pepper, ginger or cloves.

He was received with due distinction at court and he displayed the proofs of his discovery. The best evidence of the high appreciation of the King and Queen of Spain is the fact, that the prerogatives granted to him were confirmed, and everything possible was done to enable him to continue his explorations. The fact that Columbus had found a country that appeared to be rich in precious metals was e important to Spain.

Translated Original Log of Voyage 1


Christopher Columbus 1492 till his death