Having remained 48 days at Massua, we set sail from thence on our return to India on the 9th of July 1541, one hour before sunrise, and by day-break we were two or three leagues short of the north point of Dallak, and among some flat islands that have some woods, which islands are scattered in the sea to the north of Dallak. We sailed through a channel between two of these islands, having a fair wind almost N.W. our course being N.E. by N. After doubling a shoal we came to anchor, and at two in the afternoon we sailed again with a fair wind at N.N.E. coasting the island of Dallak. An hour before sunset we came to a very flat sandy island, called Dorat Melkuna, from which on all sides extended great shoals. When the sun set we were a league short of the island of Shamoa, between which and the west side of Dallak, opposite the Abyssinian coast, is the most frequented channel for such as sail to Massua. All the coast of Dallak which we sailed along this day trends N.N.W. and S.S.E. and is very low. The 18th of July by day break we saw the mouth of the straits, about three leagues distant, “and we saw all the fleet lye at hull, and presently we set sail altogether.”
[Footnote 332: A large portion of the Journal is again omitted at this place, either by Don Juan or his abbreviator, Purchas.—E.]
[Footnote 333: Perhaps in coming in sight of the Strait, the ship of Don Juan was so much in advance as barely to see the hulls of the rest; and lay to till the rest came up.—E.]
Before leaving the Gulf of Arabia or of Mecca, it may be proper to consider the reason why the ancients called this Gulf the Red Sea, and to give my own opinion founded on what I actually saw, whether it differ in colour from the great ocean. In the sixth book of his Natural History, Pliny quotes several opinions as the origin of the name Erythros given to this sea by the ancients. The first is, that it took its name from Erythra, a king who once reigned on its borders, whence came Erythros which signifies red in the Greek. Another opinion was that the reflexion of the sun-beams gave a red colour to this sea. Some hold that the red colour proceeds from the sand and ground along the sea coast, and others that the water was red itself. Of these opinions every writer chose that he liked best. The Portuguese who formerly navigated this sea affirmed that it was spotted or streaked with red, arising as they alleged from the following circumstances. They say that the coast of Arabia is naturally very red, and as there are many great storms in this country, which raise great clouds of dust towards the skies, which are driven by the wind into the sea, and the dust being red tinges the water of that colour, whence it got the name of the Red Sea.