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N the 30th of May, 1498, Columbus

set sail from the port of San Lucar de Barrameda, with his squadron of

six vessels, on his third voyage of discovery. The route he proposed to take was different from that pursued in his former voyages.

He intended to depart from the Cape Verde Islands, sailing to the southwest until he should come under the equinoctial line, then to steer directly westward with the favor of the trade-winds until he should arrive at land, or find himself in the longitude of Hispaniola. Various considerations induced him to adopt this course. In his preceding voyage, when he coasted the southern side of Cuba der the belief that it was the continent of Asia, he had observed that it swept off toward the south. From this circumstance and from information gathered among the natives of the Caribbee Islands, he was induced to believe that a great tract of the mainland lay to the south of the countries he had already discovered. King John II. of Portugal appears to have entertained a similar idea, as Herrera records an opinion expressed by that monarch that there was a continent in the southern ocean.

* If this were the case, it was supposed by Columbus that, in proportion as he approached the equator and extended his discoveries to climates more and more under the torrid influences of the sun, he should find the productions of nature sublimated by its rays to more perfect and precious qualities. He was strengthened in this belief by a letter written to him at the command of the Queen by one Jayme Ferrer, an eminent and learned lapidary, who, in the course of his trading for precious stones and metals, had been in the Levant and in various parts of the East; had conversed with the merchants of the remote parts of Asia and Africa, and the natives of India, Arabia, and Ethiopia, and was considered deeply versed in geography generally, but especially in the natural histories of those countries whence the valuable merchandise in

Herrera, Hist. Ind., decad. i., lib. iii., cap. 9.


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