The Life and Voyages of Christopher Columbus

By Washington Irving | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
DISCOVERY AND COASTING OF CUBA.

[ 1492.]

For several days the departure of Columbus was delayed by contrary winds and calms, attended by heavy showers, which last had prevailed, more or less, since his arrival among the islands, It was the season of the autumnal rains, which in those torrid climates succeed the parching heats of summer, commencing about the decrease of the august moon, and lasting until the month of November.

At length, at midnight, October 24th, he set sail from the island of Isabella, but was nearly becalmed until midday; a gentle wind then sprang up, and, as he observes, began to blow most amorously. Every sail was spread, and he stood toward the west-south-west, the direction in which he was told the land of Cuba lay from Isabella. After three days' navigation, in the course of which he touched at a group of seven or eight small islands, which he called Islas de arena, supposed to be the present Mucaras islands, and having crossed the Bahama bank and channel, he arrived, on the morning of the 28th of October, in sight of Cuba. The part which he first discovered is supposed to be the coast to the west of Neuvitas del Principe.

As he approached this noble island, he was struck with its magnitude, and the grandeur of its features; its high and airy mountains, which reminded him of those of Sicily; its fertile valleys, and long sweeping plains watered by noble rivers; its stately forests; its bold promontories and stretching headlands, which melted away into the remotest distance. He anchored in a beautiful river, of transparent clearness, free from rocks and shoals, its banks overhung with trees. Here, landing, and taking possession of the island, he gave it the name of Juana, in honor of Prince Juan, and to the river the name of San Salvador.

On the arrival of the ships, two canoes put off from the shore, but fled on seeing the boat approach to sound the river for anchorage. The admiral visited two cabins abandoned by their inhabitants. They contained but a few nets made of the fibres of the palm-tree, hooks and harpoons of bone, and some other

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