Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

and the augmentation of the power of the Castilian monarchs over the infidels; and in truth this bigoted reliance on the immediate protection of heaven seems to have been in a great rneasure the cause of the extravagant daring of the Spaniards in their expeditions in those days, whether against Moors or Indians.

Seeing his representations of no effect, Chiapes volunteered to take part in this perilous cruise, lest he should appear wanting in courage, or in good-will to his guest. Accompanied by the cacique, therefore, Vasco Nuñez embarked on the 17th of October with sixty of his men in nine canoes, managed by Indians, leaving the residue of his followers to recruit their health and strength in the village of Chiapes.

Scarcely, however, had they put forth on the broad bosom of the gulf when the wisdom of the cacique's advice was made apparent. The wind began to blow freshly, raising a heavy and tumultuous sea, which broke in roaring and foaming surges on the rocks and reefs, and among the numerous islets with which the gulf was studded. The light canoes were deeply laden with men unskilled in their management. It was frightful to those in one canoe to behold their companions, one instant tossed on high on the breaking crest of a wave, the next plunging out of sight, as if swallowed in a watery abyss. The Indians themselves, though almost amphibious in their habits, showed signs of consternation; for amidst these rocks and breakers even the skill of the expert swimmer would be of little avail. At length the Indians succeeded in tying the canoes in pairs, side by side, to prevent their being overturned, and in this way they kept afloat, until towards evening they were enabled to reach a small island. Here they landed, and fastening the canoes to the rocks, or to small trees that grew upon the shore, they sought an elevated dry place, and stretched themselves to take repose. They had but escaped from one danger to encounter another. Having been for a long time accustomed to the sea on the northern side of the isthmus, where there is little, if any, rise or fall of the tide, they had neglected to take any precaution against such in occurrence. In a little while they were awakened from their sleep by the rapid rising of the water. They shifted their situation to a higher ground, but the waters continued to gain upon them, the breakers rushing and roaring and foaming upon the beach like so many monsters of the deep seeking for their prey. Nothing, it is said, can be more dismal and ap

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