Interesting History Facts
The Christopher Columbus Story

Discovery of Trinidad and Tobago...


Galleon deck cannons

We join the Christopher Columbus story in July 1498, when on his third voyage Columbus' ships are caught in the doldrums in the mid-Atlantic after venturing further south than he has done before.

It has become evident to the Spanish crown that Christopher Columbus is an explorer rather than an administrator. His second voyage ended in disaster with him being returned to Spain in chains, and on this his third voyage he has been warned to stay away from Hispaniola. Control of his great "Enterprise of the Indies" is slipping through his fingers.

Christopher Columbus portrait Trinidad, Island of the Trinity 

He is concerned, they have spent a little more than a week languishing in the still heat of the doldrums, with stores of fresh water running low. In answer to his prayers a southeasterly wind finally sets them free to continue westward in search of the "Caribbee Isles", thus continues our Christopher Columbus story...

On 31st July, now down to their last barrel of water, they sight 3 mountain peaks and in response to a promise made to god, which seems confirmed by his sighting, Columbus names the island "La Ysla de la Trinidad."

They find Trinidad (Island of the Trinity) well populated, see many towns and houses along the southern coast, and make land at either Moruga or Erin to replenish their dwindling water supply. While ashore they notice fishing implements that have been carelessly abandoned by people who fled at their approach.

Christopher Columbus and his crew met with a group of Amerindians Close Encounter 

On the 2nd August, while sailing west along the south coast they spot 25 Amerindians in a large dugout canoe following.

As the canoe draws alongside the Indians begin to call out, possibly to inquire who they were and where they come from. Columbus orders the younger men in his crew to entertain the natives with a dance, but the gesture is mistaken for a war dance and the natives fire upon the Spanish. The Spanish return fire the natives move on down the line. The Amerindians begin conversing with the pilot of the next ship, who finds the Indians well formed and lighter skinned than those on northern islands."

Columbus woodcut Beyond the Serpent's Mouth 

That night, while anchored somewhere off Icacos, or as Columbus called it “Punta del Arenal” (Sandbank Point), near where today there is a inlet called Columbus Bay, a storm and heavy currents tear one the ship away from its anchor. Bewildered and a bit fearful Columbus names the passage "La Boca de la Sierpe" (the Serpent's Mouth).

 Finding the Garden of Eden 

They spend the next week exploring the Gulf of Paria and it's environs, where they come across the mouth of the Orinoco River, which reportedly is the largest river any of his crew has seen. Columbus, always the religious man and eager for fame and fortune, believes he has found the Garden of Eden, another miracle to add to his version of the Christopher Columbus story.
Galleon deck cannons

 Through the Dragon's Mouth 

On 13th August, Columbus anchors off Chacachacare, naming the bay Puerto de Gatos (Port of Cats) after unruly monkeys, which they mistake for wild cats, chased his crew off the island.

On 14th August, Columbus makes his way into the Caribbean Sea, between the islands that stretch from Trinidad to Venezuela. While exiting the Gulf of Paria his ships are again faced with strong currents, and a lack of wind puts his ships in danger so he names this passage "La Boca del Dragon" (the Dragon's Mouth).

Columbus woodcut The Beautifully Formed Land 

Twice he catches a brief glimpse of Tobago. The first time, while exploring the Paria Peninsular, he names the island, "Bella Forma", the beautifully formed land. The second occasion is soon after exiting the Dragon's Mouth, and this time he names the island, which is to be immortalized in Daniel Defoe's classic novel "Robinson Crusoe", "Isla de la Asumpcion" (Assumption Island).

So, we exit the Christopher Columbus story in much the same way that we entered, with this ambitious and driven explorer on his way to "discover" yet more of the Caribbean, still believing that he is in Asia.

 Controversial Columbus Debate 

At the time of Christopher Columbus' brief visit in 1498, Trinidad was peopled with between 35,000 to 40,000 Caribs and Arawaks, a population that would be decimated by Spanish slaving and European disease. By 1783 Trinidad's native population is a mere 2,032 souls. It is not until 1838, 340 years after his visit - at the time of emancipation, that Trinidad's population again reaches 36,665 souls; however, less than 1,000 are indigenous people.

Christopher Columbus meets with native Indians Closing Chapters 

Christopher Columbus died 6 years after his discovery of Trinidad and Tobago, just 14 years after setting foot in the New World. On his deathbed he still believed that he has fulfilled his dream of opening a new trade route to India and the Orient.

An abstract historical postmortem using diaries and historical records seem to indicate that the Caribbean had its revenge on Columbus. Evidence suggests that he may have died from reactive arthritis (Reiter's Syndrome), following a bactericidal infection caught from parrots he brought back on his fourth and last voyage.

It was not until 1521, 15 years after his death when Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigated the globe, that it is confirmed beyond any doubt that the lands Columbus discovered were in fact a continent previously unknown to Europe, when the closing chapter in the Christopher Columbus story can been written.

Caribbean explorers ship Christopher Columbus Story 

While Columbus may not have been the first European to set foot in the Americas - the Viking, Leif Erickson, briefly settled the Newfoundland and Labrador coast during the late 900s to early 1000s - and Columbus is reported to have spoken with a native American couple in Galway, Ireland - a conversation that may have helped convince him that it was possible to sail across the Great Ocean - his voyages transformed Europe and the World.

Was Christopher Columbus hero or villain? The conclusion to the Christopher Columbus story has yet to be written. The truth about Christopher Columbus is that he was just the crest of an inevitable wave that was to wash over Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean, and the Americas during the Age of Discovery.
Galleon deck cannons

         Related Topics...       
The Early History of the West Indies
Caribs, Arawaks, the First Trinidadians?
Caribbean Cannibal Stories
Early Tourism in Trinidad
Real Pirates of the Caribbean

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