Cruise in the West India Archipelago - Various Discoveries
Having thus taken every precaution for the security of the colony, he left Navidad on the 4th of January 1493, and steering towards the east, discovered and gave names to most of the harbors on the northern coast of the island. On the 6th he descried the Pinta, and soon came up with her, after a separation of more than six weeks. Pinzon endeavored to justify his conduct by pretending that he had been driven from his course by stress of weather, and prevented from returning by contrary winds. The admiral, though he still suspected his perfidious intentions, and knew well what he urged in his own defense to be frivolous as well as false, was so sensible that this was not a proper time for venturing upon any high strain of authority, and felt such satisfaction in this junction with his consort, which delivered him from many disquieting apprehensions, that, lame as Pinzon's apology was, he admitted of it without difficulty, and restored him to favor. During his absence from the admiral, Pinson had visited several harbors in the island, and acquired some gold by trafficking with the natives, but had made no discovery of any importance.
From the condition of his ships, as well as the temper of his men, Columbus now found it necessary to hasten his return to Europe. The former, having suffered much during a voyage of such unusual length, were extremely leaky; the latter expressed the utmost impatience to revisit their native country, from which they had been so long absent, and where they had things so wonderful and unheard-of to relate. Accordingly, on the 16th of January, he directed his course towards the northeast, and soon lost sight of land. He had on board some of the natives, whom he had taken from the different islands which he discovered; and besides the gold, which was the chief object of research, he had collected specimens of all the productions which were likely to become subjects of commerce in the several countries, as well as many unknown birds, and other natural curiosities, which might attract the attention of the learned, or excite the wonder of the people. The voyage was prosperous to the 14th of February; and he had advanced nearly five hundred leagues across the Atlantic Ocean, when the wind began to rise, and continued to blow with increasing rage, which terminated in a furious hurricane. Everything that the naval skill and experience of Columbus could devise was employed in order to save the ships. But it was impossible to withstand the violence of the storm, and, as they were still far from any land, destruction seemed inevitable. The sailors had recourse to prayers to Almighty God, to the invocation of saints, to vows and charms, to everything that religion dictates or superstition suggests to the affrighted mind of man. No prospect of deliverance appearing, they abandoned themselves to despair, and expected every moment to be swallowed up in the waves. Besides the passions which naturally agitate and alarm the human mind in such awful situations, when certain death, in one of its most terrible forms, is before it, Columbus had to endure feelings of distress peculiar to himself. He dreaded that all knowledge of the amazing discoveries which he had made was now to perish; mankind were to be deprived of every benefit that might have been derived from the happy success of his schemes; and his own name would descend to posterity as that of a rash, deluded adventurer, instead of being transmitted with the honor due to the author and conductor of the most noble enterprise that had ever been undertaken. These reflections extinguished all sense of his own personal danger. Less affected with the loss of life than solicitous to preserve the memory of what he had attempted and achieved, he retired to his cabin, and wrote upon parchment a short account of the voyage which he had made, of the course which he had taken, of the situation and riches of the countries which he had discovered, and of the colony that he had left there. Having wrapped up this in an oiled cloth, which he enclosed in a cake of wax, he put it into a cask carefully stopped up, and threw it into the sea, in hopes that some fortunate accident might preserve a deposit of so much importance to the world.'