Columbus - The Voyage
'As soon as the sun arose, all their boats were manned and armed. They rowed towards the island with their colors displayed, with warlike music, and other martial pomp. As they approached the coast, they saw it covered with a multitude of people, whom the novelty of the spectacle had drawn together, whose attitudes and gestures expressed wonder and astonishment at the strange objects which presented themselves to their view. Columbus was the first European who set foot in the new world which he had discovered. He landed in a rich dress, and with a naked sword in his hand. His men followed, and kneeling down, they all kissed the ground which they had so long desired to see. They next erected a crucifix, and, prostrating themselves before it, returned thanks to God for conducting their voyage to such a happy issue. They then took solemn possession of the country for the crown of Castile and Leon, with all the formalities which the Portuguese were accustomed to observe in acts of this kind in their new discoveries.
The Spaniards, while thus employed, were surrounded by many of the natives, who gazed in silent admiration upon actions which they could not comprehend, and of which they did not foresee the consequences. The dress of the Spaniards, the whiteness of their skins, their beards, their arms, appeared strange and surprising. The vast machines in which they had traversed the ocean, that seemed to move upon the waters with wings, and uttered a dreadful sound resembling thunder, accompanied with lightning and smoke, struck them with such terror, that they began to respect their new guests as a superior order of beings, and concluded that they were children from the sun, who had descended to visit the earth.
The Europeans were hardly less amazed at the scene now before them. Every herb, and shrub, and tree, was different from those which flourished in Europe. The soil seemed to be rich, but bore few marks of cultivation. The climate, even to the Spaniards, felt warm, though extremely delightful. The inhabitants appeared in the simple innocence of nature entirely naked. Their black hair, long and uncurled, floated upon their shoulders, or was bound in tresses around their heads. They had no beards, and every part of their bodies was perfectly smooth. Their complexion was of a dusky copper color; their features singular, rather than disagreeable; their aspect gentle and timid. Though not tall, they were well-shaped and active. Their faces, and several parts of their bodies, were fantastically painted with glaring colors. They were shy at first through fear, but soon became familiar with the Spaniards; and with transports of joy received from them hawks' bells, glass beads, or other baubles, in return for which they gave such provisions as they had, and some cotton yarn, the only commodity of value that they could produce. Towards evening Columbus returned to his ship, accompanied by many of the islanders in their boats, which they called canoes and though rudely formed out of the trunk of a tree, they rowed them with surprising dexterity. Thus, in the first interview between the inhabitants of the old and new worlds everything was conducted amicably, and to their mutual satisfaction. The former, enlightened and ambitious, formed already vast ideas with respect • to the advantages which they might derive from the regions that began to open to their view. The latter, simple and undiscerning, had no foresight to the calamities and desolation which were approaching their country.
Columbus, who now assumed the title and authority of admiral and viceroy, called the island which he had discovered San Salvador. It is better known by the name of Guanahani, which the natives gave to it, and is one of that large cluster of islands called the Lucaya or Bahama Isles. It is situated above three thousand miles to the west of Gomera, from which the squadron took its departure, and only four degrees to the south of it so little had Columbus deviated from the westerly course which he had chosen as the most proper.'