Spanish Voyages of Discovery

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII. CRUISE OF JUAN PONCE DE LEON IN SEARCH OF THE FOUNTAIN OF YOUTH. -- 1512.

IT was on the third of March, 1512, that Juan Ponce sailed with his three ships from the Port of St. Germain in the island of Porto Rico. He kept for some distance along the coast of Hispaniola, and then, stretching away to the northward, made for the Bahama islands, and soon fell in with the first of the group. He was favoured with propitious weather and tranquil seas, and glided smoothly with wind and current along that verdant archipelago, visiting one island after another, until, on the fourteenth of the month, he arrived at Guanahani, or St. Salvador's, where Christopher Columbus had first put his foot on the shores of the new world. His inquiries for the island of Bimini were all in vain, and as to the fountain of youth, he may have drank of every fountain and river, and lake of the archipelago, even to the salt pools of Turk's island, without being a whit the younger.

Still he was not discouraged; but, having repaired his ships, he again put to sea and shaped his course to the north-west. On Sunday, the 27th of March, he came in sight of what he supposed to be an island, but was prevented from landing by adverse weather. He continued hovering about it for several days, buffeted by the elements, until, in the night of the second of April, he succeeded in coming to anchor under the land in thirty degrees eight minutes of latitude. The whole country was in the fresh bloom of spring; the trees were gay with blossoms, and the fields covered with flowers; from which circumstance, as well as from having discovered it on Palm Sunday, ( Pascua Florida,) he gave it the name of Florida, which it retains to the present day. The Indian name of the country was Cautio.*

Juan Ponce landed, and took possession of the country in the name of the Castilian Sovereigns. He afterwards continued for several weeks ranging the coasts of this flowery land, and struggling against the gulf-stream and the various currents which sweep it. He doubled Cape Cañaveral, and reconnoitered the southern and eastern shores without suspect­

____________________
Herrera, Hist. Ind. d. 1. l. ix. c. 10.

-205-

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