The True Story of Christopher Columbus HTML version
How They Fared On The Sea Of Darkness
Did you ever set out, in the dark, to walk with your little brother or sister along a road
you did not know much about or had never gone over before? It was not an easy thing to
do, was it? And how did your little brother or sister feel when it was known that you were
not just certain whether you were right or not? Do you remember what the Bible says
about the blind leading the blind?
It was much the same with Columbus when he set out from Palos to sail over an
unknown sea to find the uncertain land of Cathay. He had his own idea of the way there,
but no one in all his company had ever sailed it, and he himself was not sure about it. He
was very much in the dark. And the sailors in the three ships were worse than little
children. They did not even have the confidence in their leader that your little brother or
sister would probably have in you as you traveled that new road on a dark night. It was
almost another case of the blind leading the blind, was it not?
Columbus first steered his ships to the south so as to reach the Canary Islands and
commence his real westward voyage from there. The Canary Islands, as you will see by
looking in your geography, are made up of seven islands and lie off the northern corner
of Africa, some sixty miles or so west of Morocco. They were named Canaria by the
Romans from the Latin canis, a dog, "because of the multitude of dogs of great size" that
were found there. The canary birds that sing so sweetly in your home come from these
islands. They had been known to the Spaniards and other European sailors of Columbus's
day about a hundred years.
At the Canaries the troubles of Columbus commenced. And he did have a lot of trouble
before his voyage was over. While near the island called the Grand Canary the rudder of
the Pinta, in which Captain Alonso Pinzon sailed, somehow got loose, then broke and
finally came off. It was said that two of the Pinta's crew, who were really the owners of
the vessel, broke the rudder on purpose, because they had become frightened at the
thoughts of the perilous voyage, and hoped by damaging their vessel to be left behind.
But Columbus had no thought of doing any such thing. He sailed to the island of Gomera,
where he knew some people, and had the Pinta mended. And while lying here with his
fleet the great mountain on the island of Teneriffe, twelve thousand feet high, suddenly
began to spit out flame and smoke. It was, as of course you know, a volcano; but the poor
frightened sailors did not know what set this mountain on fire, and they were scared
almost out of their wits' and begged the Admiral to go back home. But Columbus would
not. And as they sailed away from Gomera some sailors told them that the king of
Portugal was angry with Columbus because he had got his ships from the king and queen
of Spain, and that he had sent out some of his war-ships to worry or capture Columbus.
But these, too, Columbus escaped, although not before his crews had grown terribly
nervous for fear of capture. At last they got away from the Canaries, and on Sunday, the
ninth of September, 1492, with a fresh breeze filling their sails, the three caravels sailed