The Ilha de San Thome, or island of St Thomas, which is said to have received its name from the saint to whom the chapel of the great monastery of Thomar is dedicated, and to which all the African discoveries are subjected in spirituals, has its southern extremity almost directly under the equinoctial, and is a very high land of an oval shape, about fifteen leagues in breadth, by twelve leagues long.
The most southerly of these islands, in lat. 1 deg. 30’ S. now called Annobon, was originally named Ilha d’Anno Bueno, or Island of the Happy Year, having been discovered by Pedro d’Escovar, on the first day of the year 1472. At a distance, this island has the appearance of a single high mountain, and is almost always topt with mist. It extends about five leagues from north to south, or rather from N. N. W. to S. S. E. and is about four leagues broad, being environed by several rocks and shoals. It has several fertile vallies, which produce maize, rice, millet, potatoes, yams, bananas, pine-apples, citrons, oranges, lemons, figs, and tamarinds, and a sort of small nuts called by the French noix de medicine, or physic nuts. It also furnishes oxen, hogs, and sheep, with abundance of fish and poultry; and its cotton is accounted excellent.
Including the voyages of Cada Mosto and Pedro de Cintra, which have been already detailed, as possibly within the period which elapsed between the death of Don Henry in 1463, and King Alphonzo, which latter event took place on the 28th August 1481, and the detached fragments of discovery related in the present Section, we have been only able to trace a faint outline of the uncertain progress of Portuguese discovery during that period of eighteen years, extending, as already mentioned, to Cape St Catherine and the island of Annobon. A considerable advance, therefore, had been made since the lamented death of the illustrious Don Henry; which comprehended the whole coast of Guinea, with its two gulfs, usually named the Bights of Benin and Biafra, with the adjacent islands, and extending to the northern frontier of the kingdom of Congo. If the following assertion of de Barros could be relied on, we might conclude that some nameless Portuguese navigators had crossed the line even before the death of Don Henry; but the high probability is, that the naval pupils of that illustrious prince continued to use his impress upon their discoveries, long after his decease, and that the limits of discovery in his time was confined to Cape Vergas. Some Castilians, sailing under the command of Garcia de Loaysa, a knight of Malta, landed in 1525 on the island of St Matthew, in two degrees of southern latitude. They here observed that it had been formerly visited by the Portuguese, as they found an inscription on the bark of a tree, implying that they had been there eighty-seven years before. It also bore the usual motto of that prince, talent de bien faire.