Christopher Columbus by Filson Young - V6

Christopher Columbus by Filson Young - V6

CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS BY FILSON YOUNG - V6 FILSON YOUNG BOOK 6. CHAPTER V THE THIRD VOYAGE Columbus was at sea again; firm ground to him although so treacherous and unstable to most of us; and as he saw the Spanish coast sinking down on the horizon he could shake himself free from his troubles and feel that once more he was in a situation of which he was master. He first touched at Porto Santo where if the story of his residence there be true there must have been potent memories for him in the sight of the long white beach and the plantations with the Governor's house beyond. He stayed there only a few hours and then crossed over to Madeira anchoring in the Bay of Funchal where he took in wood and water. As it was really unnecessary for him to make a port so soon after leaving there was probably some other reason for his visit to these islands; perhaps a family reason; perhaps nothing more historically important than the desire to look once more on scenes of bygone happiness for even on the page of history every event is not necessarily big with significance. From Madeira he took a southerly course to the Canary Islands and on June 16th anchored at Gomera where he found a French warship with two Spanish prizes all of which put to sea as the Admiral's fleet approached. On June 21st when he sailed from Gomera he divided his fleet of six vessels into two squadrons. Three ships were despatched direct to Espanola for the supplies which they carried were urgently needed there. These three ships were commanded by trustworthy men: Pedro de Arana a brother of Beatriz Alonso Sanchez de Carvajal and Juan Antonio Colombo--this last no other than a cousin of Christopher's from Genoa. The sons of Domenico's provident younger brother had not prospered while the sons of improvident Domenico were now all in high places; and these three poor cousins hearing of Christopher's greatness and deciding that use should be made of him scraped together enough money to send one of their number to Spain. The Admiral always had a sound family feeling and finding that cousin Antonio had sea experience and knew how to handle a ship he gave him command of one of the caravels on this voyage--a command of which he proved capable and worthy. From these three captains after giving them full sailing directions for reaching Espanola Columbus parted company off the island of Ferro. He himself stood on a southerly course towards the Cape Verde Islands. His plan on this voyage was to find the mainland to the southward of which he had heard rumours in Espanola. Before leaving Spain he had received a letter from an eminent lapidary named Ferrer who had travelled much in the east and who assured him that if he sought gold and precious stones he must go to hot lands and that the hotter the lands were and the blacker the inhabitants the more likely he was to find riches there. This was just the kind of theory to suit Columbus and as he sailed towards the Cape Verde Islands he was already in imagination gathering gold and pearls on the shores of the equatorial continent. He stayed for about a week at the Cape Verde Islands getting in provisions and cattle and curiously observing the life of the Portuguese lepers who came in numbers to the island of Buenavista to be cured there by eating the flesh and bathing in the blood of turtles. It was not an inspiriting week which he spent in that dreary place and enervating climate with nothing to see but the goats feeding among the scrub the turtles crawling about the sand and the lepers following the turtles. It began to tell on the health of the crew so he weighed anchor on July 5th and stood on a southwesterly course. This third voyage which was destined to be the most important of all and the material for which had cost him so much time and labour was undertaken in a very solemn and determined spirit. His health which he had hoped to recover in Spain had been if anything damaged by his worryings with officialdom there; and although he was only forty-seven years of age he was in some respects already an old man. He had entered although happily he did not know it on the last decade of his life; and was already beginning to suffer from the two diseases gout and ophthalmia which were soon to undermine his strength and endurance. Religion of a mystical fifteenth-century sort was deepening in him; he had undertaken this voyage in the name of the Holy Trinity; and to that theological entity he had resolved to dedicate the first new land that he should sight. For ten days light baffling winds impeded his progress; but at the end of that time the winds fell away altogether and the voyagers found themselves in that flat equatorial calm known to mariners as the Doldrums. The vertical rays of the sun shone blisteringly down upon them making the seams of the ships gape and causing the unhappy crews mental as well as bodily distress for they began to fear that they had reached that zone of fire which had always been said to exist in the southern ocean. Day after day the three ships lay motionless on the glassy water with wood-work so hot as to burn the hands that touched it with the meat putrefying in the casks below and the water running from the loosened casks and no one with courage and endurance enough to venture into the stifling hold even to save the provisions. And through all this the Admiral racked with gout had to keep a cheerful face and assure his prostrate crew that they would soon be out of it. There were showers of rain sometimes but the moisture in that baking atmosphere only added to its stifling and enervating effects. All the while however the great slow current of the Atlantic was moving westward and there came a day when a heavenly breeze stirred in the torrid air and the musical talk of ripples began to rise again from the weedy stems of the ships. They sailed due west always into a cooler and fresher atmosphere; but still no land was sighted although pelicans and smaller birds were continually seen passing from south-west to north- east. As provisions were beginning to run low Columbus decided on the 31st July to alter his course to north-by-east in the hope of reaching the island of Dominica. But at mid-day his servant Alonso Perez ...