First Voyage to America: From the Log of the

First Voyage to America: From the Log of the "Santa Maria"

by Christopher Columbus

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Dramatic, revealing entries — including Columbus' own words — document epochal voyage, heavy seas, discouraged crew, first sighting of land, appearance of island natives, more. Translated into English, reset in large type. 44 illustrations, including a number from rare sources. Fascinating historical document. Publisher's note.See more details below


Dramatic, revealing entries — including Columbus' own words — document epochal voyage, heavy seas, discouraged crew, first sighting of land, appearance of island natives, more. Translated into English, reset in large type. 44 illustrations, including a number from rare sources. Fascinating historical document. Publisher's note.

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First Voyage to America

From the Log of the "Santa Maria"

By Christopher Columbus

Dover Publications, Inc.

Copyright © 1991 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-486-12246-5



Martin Vincent, Pilot of the King of Portugal, relates that 450 leagues West of Cape St. Vincent, he picked up a log curiously carved, but not with iron, which had been brought there by a westerly wind.

Another carved fragment of wood which came from the West had been seen near Porto Santo by Pedro Correa, brother-in-law of Columbus.

Others reported "reeds of such bigness that a single joint would contain nine garrafas of wine." No such reeds grew in western Europe or Africa.

The inhabitants of the Azores related to Columbus that after a course of westerly winds the sea cast up pine trees which were not the growth of those parts, and at another time the sea brought the bodies of two men of strange race to the island of Flores. Still another time covered boats, or almadias, had been cast up on the shore.


In the name of Our Lord


Whereas, Most Christian, High, Excellent and Powerful Princes, King and Queen of the Spains and of the Islands of the Sea, Our Sovereigns, in this year of Grace, 1492, after Your Highnesses had overthrown the powers of the Moors at the City of Granada, where in this present year on the second day of January, I saw the royal banners of your majesties planted by force of arms upon the battlements of the Alhambra, which is the fortress of that city, and saw the Moorish King come forth from the gates of the city and kiss the royal hands of Your Highnesses, and of my Lord the Prince; and in the present month, in consequence of the information which I had given Your Highnesses concerning the lands of India, ruled by a prince called the Grand Can, which in our language means King of Kings, and how he and his ancestors had often sent to Rome for learned men who might instruct him in our Holy Faith, and how the Holy Father had never complied, so that many believing in idolatry were lost to the doctrines of perdition; therefore, Your Highnesses, as Catholic Christians and defenders of the Christian Faith against the doctrines of Mohamet and all other idolatries, did resolve to send me, Christopher Columbus, to these parts of India and to this prince and his people to learn their disposition and the proper means of converting them to the Christian Faith; and ordered that I should not go to the eastward as is customary, but by a westerly route, in which direction we have hitherto no certain evidences that anyone has gone.

Thus, after expelling the Jews from your domains in the same month of January, Your Highnesses ordered that I should go with sufficient fleet to this same part of India, and for that purpose most graciously elevated me to the title of Don, High Admiral of the Sea and perpetual Viceroy and Governor of all islands and continents that I should discover and gain both now and hereafter in the Ocean Sea, and that my son should succeed me and so on from generation to generation forever.

Hereupon, I left the city of Granada on Saturday, May 12, 1492, and came to the town of Palos which is a seaport, where I did arm three vessels for such enterprises; and departed from that port well supplied with provisions and with many sailors, on the 3rd day of August of the same year, being Friday, half an hour before sunrise. I steered for the Canary Islands of Your Highnesses, which are in the said Ocean Sea, that I might thence set out for the Indies to perform the embassy to the princes there, so as to comply with my orders. As part of my duty, I thought it well to write an account of all the voyage most punctually, noting the happenings from day to day, as will hereafter appear. Moreover, I did resolve to describe each night what had passed in the day and to note each day how I had navigated at night. I intend to draw up a nautical chart which shall contain the several parts of the ocean and land in their proper situation; and also to compose a book to represent the whole by pictures with latitudes and longitudes, on which accounts it behooves me to abstain from my sleep and make many trials in navigation, which will demand much labor.


Friday August 3, 1492

SET SAIL from the bar of Saltes at eight o'clock and sailed with a strong sea breeze till sunset towards the south for fifteen leagues. Afterwards steered S. W. and S. by W., which is the direction of the Canaries.

Saturday August 4, 1492

Steered S. E. by S.

Sunday August 5, 1492

Sailed day and night more than forty leagues.

Monday August 6, 1492

The rudder of the caravel Pinta became unshipped making the steering most difficult. It was suspected that this had been planned by Gomez Rascon and Christopher Quintero, to whom the caravel belonged, for they dreaded to go on the voyage. The Admiral says that before setting out these men had been inclined to oppose and "pull holes," as they say. The Admiral was much disturbed at not being able to help the Pinta without danger, but he says he was somewhat quieted when he thought how brave and energetic a man was Martin Alonzo Pinzon, Captain of the Pinta. Made during the day and night twenty-nine leagues.

Tuesday August 7, 1492

The Pinta's rudder again broke loose. Secured it, and made for the island of Lanzarote, one of the Canaries. Sailed, day and night, twenty-five leagues.

Wednesday August 8, 1492

There were differing opinions among the pilots of the three vessels as to their true situation, but that of the Admiral proved to be nearer the truth. He was anxious to go to Grand Canary in order to leave the caravel Pinta there, since she was steering badly and making water, and he wished to secure another vessel if one were to be found. They were unable to reach the island that day.

Thursday August 9, 1492

The Admiral was not able to reach the island of Gomera till Sunday night. Because the Pinta could not be navigated, Martin Alonzo remained at Grand Canary by command of the Admiral.


Twenty-one days August 10—31, 1492

The Admiral returned to Grand Canary and there with great labor and the help of Martin Alonzo and the others repaired the Pinta. Rigged her with square sails instead of the lateen sails that she had carried before. Finally sailed to Gomera.

Saturday September 1, 1492

Saw great flames of fire burst from a high mountain on the island of Teneriffe.

Three days September 2—4, 1492

Returned to Gomera with the Pinta repaired. The Admiral says that many honorable Spanish gentlemen, inhabitants of the island of Hierro, declared that every year they saw land to the west of the Canaries. And others, natives of Gomera, confirmed the same on oath. The Admiral here says that he remembers, while he was in Portugal in the year 1484, that a man came to the King from the island of Madeira to beg for a caravel to search out this land that was seen. This man swore that it could be seen every year and always in the same way. The Admiral also says that he remembers that the same lands of the same shape and size and in the same direction had been seen by the inhabitants of the Azores.

Wednesday September 5, 1492

After taking in wood, water, meat, and other provisions which had been provided by the men left on shore when he went to Grand Canary to repair the Pinta, the Admiral was now ready to start on the long voyage with the three vessels.


Thursday September 6, 1492

SET SAIL from the harbor of Gomera this morning and shaped the course for the voyage. The Admiral learned by a vessel from the island of Hierro that there were three Portuguese caravels cruising about with the object of taking him—this must have been the result of the King of Portugal's envy that Columbus should have gone to Castile to the King and Queen of Spain. It was calm the whole day and night.

Friday September 7, 1492

In the morning were between Gomera and Teneriffe. All Friday and Saturday until three oclock at night, becalmed.

Saturday September 8, 1492

Three o'clock at night it began to blow from the N. E. Shaped the course to the West. Shipped much sea over the bows which made progress slow. Day and night went nine leagues.

Sunday September 9, 1492

Sailed this day nineteen leagues, and determined to count less than the true number, that the crew might not be dismayed if the voyage should prove long. In the night sailed thirty leagues at the rate of ten miles an hour. The sailors steered badly, letting her fall away to the N. E. even to half a point; concerning this the Admiral many times rebuked them.

Monday September 10, 1492

This day and night sailed sixty leagues at the rate of ten miles an hour. Reckoned only forty-eight leagues, that the men might not be terrified if they should be long upon their voyage.

Tuesday September 11, 1492

Steered a course W. and sailed above twenty leagues. Saw a large fragment of the mast of a vessel, apparently of a hundred and twenty tons, but could not pick it up. In the night sailed about twenty leagues, and reckoned only sixteen, for the reason already given.

Wednesday September 12, 1492

This day steered the same course. Sailed day and night thirty-three leagues, and reckoned less for the same reason.

Thursday September 13, 1492

This day and night sailed W. thirty-three leagues against the currents. Reckoned three or four less. On this day, at the commencement of the night, the needles turned a half point to north-west, and in the morning they turned somewhat more north-west.

Friday September 14, 1492

Steered this day and night W. twenty leagues; reckoned somewhat less. The crew of the Nina reported that they had seen a tern and a boatswain bird, or water-wagtail. These birds never go farther than twenty-five leagues from the land.

Saturday September 15, 1492

Sailed day and night W. twenty-seven leagues and more. In the beginning of the night saw a marvellous bolt of fire fall from the heavens into the sea at a distance of four or five leagues.

Sunday September 16, 1492

Sailed day and night W. thirty-nine leagues and reckoned only thirty-six. Some clouds and small rain. The Admiral says that on that day and ever afterwards they met with very temperate breezes so that there was great pleasure in enjoying the mornings. These were most delightful, wanting nothing but the melody of the nightingales. He compares the weather to that of Andalusia in April. Began to meet with large patches of weeds, very green, which appeared to have been recently washed away from land. From this judged some island was near, though not a continent according to the opinion of the Admiral, who says, the continent we shall find further ahead.

Monday September 17, 1492

Steered W. and sailed, day and night, above fifty leagues; wrote down only forty-seven. Current favorable. Saw a great deal of weed which proved to be rock-weed. It came from the W. and was met with very frequently. Were of opinion that land was near. The pilots took the sun's amplitude and found that the needles declined N. W. a full quarter. The seamen were terrified and dismayed without saying why. The Admiral discovered the cause, and ordered them to take the amplitude again the next morning, when they found that the needles were true. The cause was that the star moved from its place, while the needles remained stationary. At dawn saw many more weeds, apparently river weeds, and among them a live crab which the Admiral kept. He said that these are sure signs of land, never being met with eighty leagues out at sea. The sea-water was found to be less salt than it had been since leaving the Canaries. The breezes were always soft. All very cheerful. Strove which vessel should outsail the others and be the first to discover land. Saw many tuna fish and the crew of the Nina killed one. The Admiral here says that these signs of land came from the West, in which direction, I trust in that high God in whose hands are all victories, we very soon shall sight land. This morning he saw a white bird called a water-wagtail which has not the habit of sleeping on the sea.

Tuesday September 18, 1492

This day and night made more than fifty-five leagues; wrote down only forty-eight. All this time the sea was very smooth and the ships sailed upon it as they would have done upon the river at Seville. This day Martin Alonzo with the Pinta, which was a swift sailer, ran ahead of the other vessels. He called to the Admiral from his caravel that he had seen great flocks of birds flying westward and that he expected to see land that night. For this reason he pressed onward. A great mass of dark, heavy clouds appeared in the north, which is a sign of being near the land.

Wednesday September 19, 1492

Continued on, and sailed, day and night, twenty-five leagues, experiencing a calm. Wrote down twenty-two leagues. On this day at ten o'clock a booby came to the ship, and in the afternoon another arrived. These birds do not generally venture more than twenty leagues from the land. It drizzled without wind, which is a sure sign of land. The Admiral did not wish to cause delay by beating to the windward in search of land, although he held it for certain that there were islands to the north and south. This in fact was the case, for he was sailing in the midst of them. His wish was to sail on to the Indies, since there was such fair weather. For if it please God, as the Admiral says, we shall examine these parts upon our return. Here the pilots found their places upon the charts. The reckoning of the Nina made her 440 leagues distant from the Canaries, that of the Pinta 420, that of the Admiral 400.

Thursday September 20, 1492

Steered W. by N., varying with alternate changes of wind and calm. Made seven or eight leagues' progress. Two boobies came on board, and afterwards another, a sign of the nearness of land. Saw large quantities of weeds today, though none were seen yesterday. Caught a bird with the hand which is like a tern. It was a river bird and not a sea bird, with feet like those of a gull. At dawn three land birds came singing to the ship. They disappeared before sunset. Afterwards saw a booby coming from W. N. W. and flying to the S. W., an evidence of land to the westward. These birds sleep on shore and go to sea in the morning in search of food, never flying more than twenty leagues from land.

Friday September 21, 1492

Most of the day calm, afterwards a little wind. Steered the course day and night, sailing less than thirteen leagues. At dawn saw so much weed that the ocean seemed to be covered with it. The weed came from the West. Saw a booby. The sea smooth as a river, and the finest air in the world. Saw a whale, a sign of land, as they always keep near the coast.

Saturday September 22, 1492

Steered about W. N. W., her head turning from one point to another, varying the course and making about thirty leagues. Saw few weeds. Some sandpipers were seen and another bird. The Admiral here says, this head wind was very necessary to me, for my crew had grown much alarmed at the thought that in these seas no wind ever blew in the direction of Spain. Part of the day saw no weeds. Later they were very thick.

Sunday September 23, 1492

Sailed N. W. and N. W. by N. and at times W. nearly twenty-two leagues. Saw a turtle dove, a booby, a river bird, and other white fowl. There was a great deal of weed with crabs in it. The sea being smooth and tranquil, the sailors murmured, saying that they had got into smooth water, where the wind would never blow to carry them back to Spain. Afterwards the sea rose without wind, which astonished them. The Admiral says on this occasion, the rising of the sea was very favorable to me, such as had only happened before in the time of the Jews when they went out of Egypt and murmured against Moses, who delivered them out of captivity.


Excerpted from First Voyage to America by Christopher Columbus. Copyright © 1991 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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