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Christopher Columbus and the New World

Events Of The First Voyage
"In nomine D.N. Jesu Christi—Friday, August 3, 1492, at eight o'clock we started from
the bar of Saltes. We went with a strong sea breeze sixty miles,—[Columbus reckoned in
Italian miles, of which four = one league.]—which are fifteen leagues, towards the south,
until sunset: afterwards to the south-west and to the south, quarter south-west, which was
the way to the Canaries."
With these rousing words the Journal
[The account of Columbus's first voyage is taken from a Journal written by himself, but
which in its original form does not exist. Las Casas had it in his possession, but as he
regarded it (no doubt with justice) as too voluminous and discursive to be interesting, he
made an abridged edition, in which the exact words of Columbus were sometimes
quoted, but which for the most part is condensed into a narrative in the third person. This
abridged Journal, consisting of seventy-six closely written folios, was first published by
Navarrette in 1825. When Las Casas wrote his 'Historie,' however, he appears here and
there to have restored sections of the original Journal into the abridged one; and many of
these restorations are of importance. If the whole account of his voyage written by
Columbus himself were available in its exact form I would print it here; but as it is not, I
think it better to continue my narrative, simply using the Journal of Las Casas as a
document.]
of Columbus's voyage begins; and they sound a salt and mighty chord which contains the
true diapason of the symphony of his voyages. There could not have been a more
fortunate beginning, with clear weather and a calm sea, and the wind in exactly the right
quarter. On Saturday and Sunday the same conditions held, so there was time and
opportunity for the three very miscellaneous ships' companies to shake down into
something like order, and for all the elaborate discipline of sea life to be arranged and
established; and we may employ the interval by noting what aids to navigation Columbus
had at his disposal.
The chief instrument was the astrolabe, which was an improvement on the primitive
quadrant then in use for taking the altitude of the sun. The astrolabe, it will be
remembered, had been greatly improved, by Martin Behaim and the Portuguese
Commission in 1840—[1440 D.W.]; and it was this instrument, a simplification of the
astrolabe used in astronomy ashore, that Columbus chiefly used in getting his solar
altitudes. As will be seen from the illustration, its broad principle was that of a metal
circle with a graduated circumference and two arms pivoted in the centre. It was made as
heavy as possible; and in using it the observer sat on deck with his back against the
mainmast and with his left hand held up the instrument by the ring at the top. The long
arm was moved round until the two sights fixed upon it were on with the sun. The point
 
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