Maya and Aztec

Ancient Mesoamerican civilizations


Category: Christopher Columbus



On the day they sailed from Haiti, the look-out on the “Nina’s” mast noticed the “Pinta” sailing fast towards them.

Soon Martin Pinzon came aboard the “Nina” with his brother Francisco and his cousin Diego. Vicente was glad to see his brothers safe. All the Pinzons now stood shoulder to shoulder and faced Columbus.

The talk was short, tense and businesslike. Although Martin and the Admiral hated each other, it was safer to travel back to Spain together. For the moment they needed each other.

With Francisco and Diego, Martin climbed into the boat that would take them back to the “Pinta”. They waved goodbye to Vicente who remained on the “Nina”, with Columbus. They would take care of this foreign upstart at home, they told each other.

Martin Pinzon had sailed to Babeque but had found no gold there. Then he had come to Haiti, not far from where Columbus had landed, and had marched inland to the hills of Cibao, where he had found much gold.

The two ships sailed north-east, back through the seaweed of the Sargasso Sea. They were bringing back the greatest geographical secret of all time.

It was winter, and as they moved northward the sea became rougher. They had very little food, and all seamen were trying to catch fish.

Columbus spent his time in his cabin writing detailed reports of the voyage. He described everything he had seen in his usual eloquent way to please the king and queen. However, he did not write exactly about the distances travelled and the routes he had taken. He wanted to be the only man who knew the way back. He knew that if he gave the monarchs too much information he could easily be replaced.

The wind blew harder. The sky darkened. All the men crossed themselves fearfully and muttered that this was the most terrible storm at sea they had ever seen.

The furious Atlantic tossed the tiny caravels from one mountainous wave to another. On the second day of the storm the “Pinta” disappeared. Had she sunk?

At last, on February 17, Columbus sighted land ahead of his ship. The storm had driven them against the island of Santa Maria in the Portuguese Azores. Columbus knew it was risky to land on Portuguese soil, but he needed a harbour for fresh water and repairs.

While the “Nina” was taking on fresh water, some of the sailors went ashore. They were all seized by the governor of the island and put in gaol.

The governor thought they had been trespassing on Africa’s shores, which Portugal claimed.

The Admiral stayed on board his ship, knowing that the governor wanted to seize him. He shouted threats that he would come back with the whole Spanish fleet and destroy Santa Maria and the governor. The governor, seeing that he would not be able to seize Columbus returned the sailors. The “Nina” sailed away hastily although another storm was threatening.

The storm caught them 250 miles north of the Azores. It was impossible to sail home to Spain and Columbus decided to look for a harbour on the Portuguese coast.

The “Nina” managed to reach the Lisbon harbour, to the amazement of the people on shore, who had never expected to see any ship come through such a storm. Columbus moored the “Nina” right under the guns of a huge Portuguese warship.

A boat came over from the warship and boarded the “Nina”. A big officer walked up to Columbus and ordered him to come along to the warship and explain his presence to the captain.

Columbus looked at the officer. He had seen him somewhere before. It was none other than Bartholomew Dias, the man who had rounded the tip of Africa, now serving as master of a ship of the fleet.

Christopher Columbus haughtily refused. If the Portuguese captain wanted to see him, he could come over himself! He, Christopher Columbus, was Spain’s Admiral of the Ocean Sea, the highest sea officer in Castile, and he demanded to be treated with proper respect!

Dias was amazed. A Spanish Admiral! In this tiny caravel! He refused to believe.

Columbus showed his credentials from the king and queen of Spain. As Dias read them his eyes became wide. “Moreover,” said Columbus, “I have just come from the west, from the Indies beyond the Ocean Sea!”

Dias climbed into his boat and rowed back to the warship in a hurry. In a short time Captain Damao, with all his officers, came in their newest uniforms to show their respect to Spain’s newest Admiral.

Then came a message from shore. King John of Portugal had heard of Columbus’s arrival. He promised all the repairs and fresh food that Columbus needed and desired to see the Admiral immediately.

Columbus hesitated because there was danger in the invitation. Who knew what King John’s jealousy might cause him to do?

But, danger or no danger, you must not refuse the invitation of a king. Columbus went to the king’s court. He passed through the city of Lisbon along which he had walked so many years before. He passed the chart-maker’s shop where he and Bartholomew had worked. It was all so familiar.

King John greeted him cautiously and demanded to hear his story. Columbus told him where he had been and what he had found. He showed the Indians he brought along with him and the gold masks. John listened in silence, but his face became dark.

It was a tense day. Columbus knew that the only thing that saved him from assassination was John’s fear of offending the sovereigns of Spain. When the visit was over, King John asked politely, “Why risk the seas again? Why not travel overland to Spain, across Portugal? I will give you horses and mules.”

Columbus did not want to be killed on a mountain road by the king’s men disguised as robbers. He said he preferred to go by sea.

Soon the “Nina” sailed away for home.

The storm had driven Martin Pinzon’s “Pinta” into a little harbour on the Spanish coast just north of the Portuguese border. Pinzon lost no time in going ashore.

He wanted to be first to see the king and queen. So he sent a messenger overland by horse to the royal court at Barcelona. He announced his arrival from the Indies and asked permission to make his personal report to their Royal Highnesses.

The answer came swiftly. The king and queen preferred to hear the report from the Admiral himself. They ordered Pinzon to come to court only in the train of Christopher Columbus

Furious and humiliated, Pinzon boarded the “Pinta” and sailed for home. As the “Pinta” entered the Rio Tinto before the town of Palos, the first thing Pinzon saw was the “Nina” She had just come in a few hours before!

Martin Pinzon did not even report to the Admiral. He got into the boat, was rowed ashore by his men, reached his home and crawled into bed. He was sick from the hardships of the voyage and offended. He did not want to live any more.

He died a few days afterwards, hating Christopher Columbus to his last minute.

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