SPAIN - HISTORY - CHRISTOPHER COLUMBUS
Fourth voyage. Columbus made a fourth voyage nominally in
search of the Strait of Malacca to the Indian Ocean.
Accompanied by his brother Bartolomeo and his 13-year-old
son Fernando, he left Cadiz, Spain, on May 11, 1502, with
the ships Capitan, Gallega, Vizcaino and Santiago de Palos.
He sailed to Arzila on the Moroccan coast to rescue
Portuguese soldiers whom he had heard were under siege by
the Moors. On June 15, they landed at Carpet on the island
of Martinique (Martinica). A hurricane was brewing, so he
continued on, hoping to find shelter on Hispaniola.
He arrived at Santo Domingo on June 29, but was denied
port, and the new governor refused to listen to his storm
prediction. Instead, while Columbus' ships sheltered at
the mouth of the Rio Jaina, the first Spanish treasure
fleet sailed into the hurricane.
Columbus' ships survived with only minor damage, while
twenty-nine of the thirty ships in the governor's fleet
were lost to the storm. In addition to the ships, 500
lives (including that of the governor, Francisco de
Bobadilla) and an immense cargo of gold were surrendered
to the sea.
After a brief stop at Jamaica, Columbus sailed to Central
America, arriving at Guanaja (Isla de Pinos) in the Bay
Islands off the coast of Honduras on July 30. Here
Bartolomeo found native merchants and a large canoe, which
was described as "long as a galley" and was filled with
On August 14, he landed on the American mainland at Puerto
Castilla, near Trujillo, Honduras. He spent two months
exploring the coasts of Honduras, Nicaragua, and Costa
Rica, before arriving in Almirante Bay, Panama on October
On December 5, 1502, Columbus and his crew found
themselves in a storm unlike any they had ever experienced.
In his journal Columbus writes,
For nine days I was as one lost, without hope of life.
Eyes never beheld the sea so angry, so high, so covered
with foam. The wind not only prevented our progress, but
offered no opportunity to run behind any headland for
shelter; hence we were forced to keep out in this bloody
ocean, seething like a pot on a hot fire.
Never did the sky look more terrible; for one whole day
and night it blazed like a furnace, and the lightning
broke with such violence that each time I wondered if it
had carried off my spars and sails; the flashes came with
such fury and frightfulness that we all thought that the
ship would be blasted.
All this time the water never ceased to fall from the sky;
I do not say it rained, for it was like another deluge.
The men were so worn out that they longed for death to end
their dreadful suffering.
In Panama, Columbus learned from the natives of gold and a
strait to another ocean. After much exploration, in
January 1503 he established a garrison at the mouth of the
Rio Belen. On April 6 one of the ships became stranded in
At the same time, the garrison was attacked, and the other
ships were damaged. Columbus left for Hispaniola on April
16, heading north. On May 10 he sighted the Cayman
Islands, naming them "Las Tortugas" after the numerous sea
turtles there. His ships next sustained more damage in a
storm off the coast of Cuba. Unable to travel farther, on
June 25, 1503, the ships were beached in St. Ann's Bay,
Columbus and his men remained stranded on Jamaica for a
year. Two Spaniards, with native paddlers, were sent by
canoe to get help from Hispaniola. That island's governor
obstructed all efforts to rescue Columbus and his men.
In the meantime Columbus, in a desperate effort to induce
the natives to continue provisioning him and his hungry
men, successfully intimidated the natives by correctly
predicting a lunar eclipse for February 29, 1504, using
the Ephemeris of the German astronomer Regiomontanus.
Grudging help finally arrived on June 29, 1504, and
Columbus and his men arrived in Sanlúcar, Spain, on
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