One day, when lunching with the illustrious Duke of Medina-Sidonia in Seville, I saw one of these pearls which had been presented to him. It weighed more than a hundred ounces, and I was charmed by its beauty and brilliancy. Some people claim that Nunez did not find these pearls at Curiana, which is more than one hundred and twenty leagues distant from Boca de la Sierpe, but in the little districts of Cumana and Manacapana near by the Boca and the island of Margarita. They declare that Curiana is not rich in pearls. This question has not been decided; so let us treat of another subject. You now perceive what, in the course of years, may be the value of this newly discovered country and western coasts, since after a superficial exploration they have yielded such evidences of wealth.
TO THE SAME CARDINAL LUDOVICO D’ARAGON
Vincent Yanez Pinzon and his nephew Arias, who accompanied the Admiral Columbus on his first voyage as captains of two of the smaller vessels which I have above described as caravels, desirous of undertaking new expeditions and making fresh discoveries, built at their own expense four caravels in their native port of Palos, as it is called by the Spaniards. They sought the authorisation of the King and towards the calends of December, 1499, they left port. Now Palos is on the western coast of Spain, situated about seventy-two miles distant from Cadiz and sixty-four miles from Seville in Andalusia, and all the inhabitants without exception are seafaring people, exclusively occupied in navigation.
[Note 1: An interesting account of this expedition may be read in Washington Irving’s Companions of Columbus; see also Navarrete, op. cit., 82, 102, 113.]
Pinzon coasted along the Fortunate Isles, and first laid his course for the Hesperides, otherwise called the islands of Cape Verde, or still better, the Medusian Gorgons. Sailing directly south on the ides of January, from that island of the Hesperides called by the Portuguese San Juan, they sailed before the south-west wind for about three hundred leagues, after which they lost sight of the north star. As soon as it disappeared they were caught in winds and currents and continual tempests, though in spite of these great dangers they accomplished by the aid of this wind two hundred and forty leagues. The north star was no longer to be seen. They are in contradiction with the ancient poets, philosophers, and cosmographers over the question whether that portion of the world on the equinoctial line is or is not an inaccessible desert. The Spaniards affirm that it is inhabited by numerous peoples, while the ancient writers maintain that it is uninhabitable because of the perpendicular rays of the sun. I must admit, however, that even amongst ancient authorities some have been found who sought to maintain that that part of the world was habitable. When I asked the sailors of the