Christopher Columbus and the New World HTML version

During the night the ships had drifted a little with the current, and before the north-east
wind. When the look-out man on the Pinta first reported land in sight it was probably the
north-east corner of the island, where the land rises to a height of 120 feet, that he saw.
The actual anchorage of Columbus was most likely to the westward of the island; for
there was a strong north-easterly breeze, and as the whole of the eastern coast is fringed
by a barrier reef, he would not risk his ships on a lee shore. Finding himself off the north
end of the island at sunrise, the most natural thing for him to do, on making sail again,
would be to stand southward along the west side of the island looking for an anchorage.
The first few miles of the shore have rocky exposed points, and the bank where there is
shoal water only extends half a mile from the shore. Immediately beyond that the bottom
shelves rapidly down to a depth of 2000 fathoms, so that if Columbus was sounding as he
came south he would find no bottom there. Below what are called the Ridings Rocks,
however, the land sweeps to the south and east in a long sheltered bay, and to the south of
these rocks there is good anchorage and firm holding-ground in about eight fathoms of
We may picture them, therefore, approaching this land in the bright sunshine of the early
morning, their ears, that had so long heard nothing but the slat of canvas and the rush and
bubble of water under the prows, filled at last with the great resounding roar of the
breakers on the coral reef; their eyes, that had so long looked upon blue emptiness and
the star-spangled violet arch of night, feasting upon the living green of the foliage ashore;
and the easterly breeze carrying to their eager nostrils the perfumes of land. Amid an
excitement and joyful anticipation that it is exhilarating even to think about the cables
were got up and served and coiled on deck, and the anchors, which some of them had
thought would never grip the bottom again, unstopped and cleared. The leadsman of the
Santa Maria, who has been finding no bottom with his forty-fathom line, suddenly gets a
sounding; the water shoals rapidly until the nine-fathom mark is unwetted, and the lead
comes up with its bottom covered with brown ooze. Sail is shortened; one after another
the great ungainly sheets of canvas are clewed up or lowered down on deck; one after
another the three helms are starboarded, and the three ships brought up to the wind. Then
with three mighty splashes that send the sea birds whirling and screaming above the rocks
the anchors go down; and the Admiral stands on his high poop-deck, and looks long and
searchingly at the fragment of earth, rock-rimmed, surf-fringed, and tree-crowned, of
which he is Viceroy and Governor-General.
Watling's Island, as it is now called, or San Salvador, as Columbus named it, or
Guanahani, as it was known to the aborigines, is situated in latitude 24 deg. 6' N., and