The True Story of Christopher Columbus HTML version

How The Admiral Sailed Away
The agreement made between Columbus and the king and queen of Spain was signed on
the seventeenth of April, 1492. But it was four months before he was quite ready to sail
He selected the town of Palos as the place to sail from, because there, as you know,
Captain Pinzon lived; there, too, he had other acquaintances, so that he supposed it would
be easy to get the sailors he needed for his ships. But in this he was greatly mistaken.
As soon as the papers had been signed that held the queen to her promise, Columbus set
off for Palos. He stopped at the Convent of Rabida to tell the Friar Juan Perez how
thankful he was to him for the help the good priest had given him, and how everything
now looked promising and successful.
The town of Palos, as you can see from your map of Spain, is situated at the mouth of the
river Tinto on a little bay in the southwestern part of Spain, not far from the borders of
Portugal. To-day the sea has gone away from it so much that it is nearly high and dry; but
four hundred years ago it was quite a seaport, when Spain did not have a great many sea
towns on the Atlantic coast.
At the time of Columbus's voyage the king and queen of Spain were angry with the port
of Palos for something its people had done that was wrong—just what this was we do not
know. But to punish the town, and because Columbus wished to sail from there, the king
and queen ordered that Palos should pay them a fine for their wrong-doing. And this fine
was to lend the king and queen of Spain, for one year, without pay, two sailing vessels of
the kind called caravel's, armed and equipped "for the service of the crown"—that is, for
the use of the king and queen of Spain, in the western voyage that Columbus was to
When Columbus called together the leading people of Palos to meet him in the church of
St. George and hear the royal commands, they came; but at first they did not understand
just what they must do. But when they knew that they must send two of their ships and
some of their sailing men on this dreadful voyage far out upon the terrible Sea of
Darkness, they were terribly distressed. Nobody was willing to go. They would obey the
commands of the king and queen and furnish the two ships, but as for sailing off with this
crazy sea captain—that they would not do.
Then the king's officers went to work. They seized some sailors (impressed is the word
for this), and made them go; they took some from the jails, and gave them their freedom
as a reward for going; they begged and threatened and paid in advance, and still it was
hard to get enough men for the two ships. Then Captain Pinzon, who had promised
Columbus that he would join him, tried his hand. He added a third ship to the Admiral's
"fleet." He made big promises to the sailors, and worked for weeks, until at last he was
able to do what even the royal commands could not do, and a crew of ninety men was got