History of Christopher Columbus's Second Voyage to the Americas

About the history of Christopher Columbus's second voyage to the Americas in 1493.



Sept. 25, 1493 Columbus set sail. At Gomera, in the Canary Islands, he became tincto d'amore ("dyed with love") for a cruel but beautiful widow.

Incidents of the voyage:

* Hispaniola (Haiti): Commander Alonso de Ojeda (1465?-1515), a pirate who had come into the queen's favor by dancing on a 200-ft.-high tower beam in Seville, found three gold nuggets. A settlement, Isabela, was established.

* Jamaica: A bejeweled cacique, his wife in a "little cotton thing no bigger than an orange peel," and their two teenaged daughters went aboard ship and begged to go to Spain, but Columbus sent them home.

* However, Columbus did take 1,500 Indians captive. Of these, 500 were sent to Spain. Then the Spanish colonists at Isabela were allowed as many as they wanted for slaves, and the balance were set free. The latter were so eager to get away from the Spanish that some mothers abandoned their babies during their flight. Only 6,000 Arawak natives out of the original population of about 1 million were alive in Hispaniola in 1533.

Mar. 10--June 11, 1496 During the voyage home, food supplies became so perilously low that the crew suggested they eat the Caribs on board. Columbus refused, saying that they were people too. When they made landfall, the faces of all were "the color of saffron."

* At court, with a cacique in a big gold collar and crown, Columbus presented Ferdinand and Isabella with gold nuggets as big as pigeons' eggs.

1494 The secular Treaty of Tordesillas again divided the undiscovered lands of the world between Portugal and Spain, and moved the boundary line 270 leagues (about 2.5 statute mi.) further west, which was to Portugal's advantage.

1497 John Cabot (1450--1498), a "lower-class Venetian. . . of a fine mind, very expert in navigation," sailed from Bristol, England, under letters of patent issued by Henry VII of England "to seeke out, discover, and finde whatsoever iles, countreyes, regions, or provinces of the heathens and infidelles. . . in what part of the world soever they bee." Cabot--whose name was probably anglicized from Caboto after he and his wife and three sons moved to the seafaring town of Bristol, England, not later than 1495--had one small ship, the Matthew, and a crew of 18, including his Italian barber. On June 24 they made their landfall, probably at what is now Belle Isle, off the coast of Labrador. Cabot found fishnets and a red stick pierced at both ends, likely a weaving shuttle, indicating native fishermen. Stone-weighted baskets dropped in the water came up full of cod. This region is now the Grand Bank, a world renowned fishing ground. Home by August, Cabot, a hero wearing silk clothes bought perhaps with the pound 10 given him by the king on his return, strutted down Lombard Street while common people ran after him like madmen. He was the first Renaissance explorer to discover North America: Cape Breton Island, possibly Nova Scotia, certainly Newfoundland.

1498 Planning to reach Cipango (Japan), where Cabot thought "all the spices of the world have their origin, as well as the jewels," he left on a second voyage, the first search for a Northwest Passage. He never returned. English historian Polydore Vergil scoffed snidely that Cabot had "found his new lands only on the ocean's bottom."

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