Christopher Columbus - 2nd Voyage

Map of Christopher Columbus - 2nd Voyage

Columbus left from Cádiz in Spain for his second voyage (1493-1496) on September 24, 1493, with 17 ships and about 1200 men. His aim was to conquer the Taíno tribe and colonise the region. On October 13, the ships left the Canary Islands, following a more southerly course than on his first voyage. The actual course between Hierro and his landfall point is 252° true. Since the fleet was sailing WSW (258°.8 magnetic), we know that the average magnetic variation during the voyage was about 7° west.

Unlike the low key first voyage, the second voyage was a massive logistic effort. The second voyage brought European livestock (horses, sheep, and cattle) and settlers to America for the first time.

Although Columbus kept a log of his second voyage, only very small fragments survive. Most of what we know comes from indirect references or from accounts of others on the voyage.

Columbus hoped to make landfall at Hispaniola (where he had left 40 men the previous January). He sighted land in the West Indies at dawn on Sunday, November 3. The transatlantic passage of only 21 days was remarkably fast.

He named the island he saw Dominica. On the same day, he landed at Marie-Galante. After sailing past Les Saintes (Todos los Santos), he arrived at Guadaloupe, which he explored between November 4 and November 10, 1493. He then ran north namimg several islands - Montserrat (Santa Maria de Monstserrate), Antigua (Santa Maria la Antigua), Redonda (Santa Maria la Redonda), Nevis (Santa María de las Nieves), Saint Kitts (San Jorge), Sint Eustatius (Santa Anastasia), Saba (San Cristobal), Saint Martin (San Martin), and Saint Croix (Santa Cruz). He also sighted the Virgin Islands, which he named Santa Ursula y las Once Mil Virgines, and the islands of Virgin Gorda, Tortola, and Peter Island (San Pedro).

He landed at Puerto Rico (San Juan Bautista) on November 19, 1493. On November 22, he reached Hispaniola, where he found his colonists had fought with natives and had been killed. He established a new settlement at Isabella, on the north coast of Hispaniola where gold had first been found, but it was a poor location, and the settlement was short-lived. He explored the interior of the island for gold, and established a small fort in the interior. Columbus then set off from Isabela with three ships, in an effort to find the mainland of China, which he was still convinced must be nearby. He reached Cuba on April 30 and sailed along its southern coast. Columbus left Cuba on May 3rd, and anchored at Jamaica two days later. The Indians here were hostile, and since he had still not found the mainland, he left Jamaica on May 13, returning to Cuba the following day. He explored the south coast of Cuba and several nearby islands, including the Isle of Youth (La Evangelista), before returning to Hispaniola on August 20.

But by the end of September, Columbus was seriously ill. His crew abandoned further explorations and returned to the colony at La Isabela. He sent a letter to the monarchs in Spain proposing to enslave some of the native peoples, specifically the Caribs. Although his petition was refused by the Crown, in February 1495 Columbus took 1600 Arawak as slaves. 560 slaves were shipped to Spain; 200 died en route, probably of disease. After legal proceedings, the survivors were released and ordered to be shipped home. Others of the 1600 were kept as slaves for the settlers in the Americas.

Soon after the settlement was made at Isabella the colonists began to complain that the amount of gold had been vastly exaggerated. Further the Spanish suffered from the unhealthiness of the climate. Columbus himself suffered considerably from ill-health. Isabella with its fifteen hundred Spanish immigrants was the most populous settlement. And for the protection of the colonists Columbus built in the interior a little fort called Santo Tomas.

At Isabella there was grumbling against the admiral, in which the Benedictine Father Buil (Boil) and the other priests joined. In the interior there was trouble with the natives. The commander at Santo Tomas, Pedro Margarite, was accused of cruelty to the Indians, but Columbus himself in his Memorial of 30 January, 1494, commends the conduct of that officer. He had to send him reinforcements, which were commanded by Alonzo de Ojeda.

Unable to ascertain the true state of affairs in the Indies, the sovereigns decided to send a special commissioner to investigate and report. They chose Juan de Aguado who had gone with Columbus on his first voyage and with whom he had always been on friendly terms. Aguado arrived at Isabella in October, 1495, while Columbus was absent on a journey of exploration across the island.

As supplies brought from Spain dwindled, Columbus decided to return to Spain to ask for more help in establishing the colony. So he fitted out two ships, one for himself and one for Aguado, placing in them two hundred dissatisfied colonists, a captive Indian chief (who died on the voyage), and thirty Indian prisoners, and set sail for Spain on 10 March, 1496, leaving his brother Bartholomew at Isabella as temporary governor. Columbus reached Cadiz 11 June, 1496.

Translated original Log of Voyage 2


Christopher Columbus 1492 till his death