Be it known to your majesty that I first went to these new countries in search of trade, in which I was occupied for four years, during which I experienced various reverses of fortune; at one time raised to the summit of human wishes, and afterwards reduced to the lowest ebb of misery, in so much that I had resolved to abandon commerce, and to confine my exertions to more laudable and safer exertions. I disposed myself, therefore, to the purpose of exploring various parts of the world, that I might see the wonderful things which it contains. An opportunity soon fortunately offered for satisfying this desire, as King Ferdinand of Spain fitted out four ships for the discovery of new countries towards the west, and was pleased to employ me upon this service. We set sail on the 20th of May 1497 from the port of Cadiz, taking our course through the great gulf of the ocean, in which voyage we were occupied for eighteen months, discovering many continents, and almost innumerable islands, most of which were inhabited, all of which were utterly unknown to our predecessors and the ancients. If I am not mistaken, I have somewhere read that the ocean is entirely void of countries and inhabitants, as appears to have been the opinion of our poet Dante, in his Inferno. But of the wonderful things which I have seen there, your majesty will find an account in the following narrative.
The first Voyage of Americus Vespucius.
As already mentioned, we set sail with four ships in company from Cadiz on the 20th May 1497, shaping our course with the wind at S.S.W. for the islands formerly called the Fortunate, and now named the Grand Canaries; which are situated in the western extremity of the then known habitable world, and in the third climate, the elevation of the pole being twenty-seven degrees and two thirds. These islands are 280 leagues distant from Lisbon, where this work was written. After spending about a week there, taking in wood, water, and other necessaries, commending ourselves to GOD, we set sail with a fair wind towards the west, one quarter south-west, and made such progress that in about twenty-seven we arrived at a country which we believed to be a continent, about a thousand leagues distant from the Great Canaries, in 16 deg. north latitude, and 75 deg. west longitude from the Canary islands. Our fleet cast anchor at this place, a league and a half from shore, to which we went in some boats well armed and full of men. On nearing the beach, we could plainly see great numbers of naked people going about, at which circumstance we were much rejoiced. The natives, however, were astonished on seeing us, on account of the unusual appearance of our dress and manners, so that as we advanced they all fled to a hill in the neighbourhood, whence at that time we could not allure them by any signs of peace and friendship.