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entered that region which extends for eight or ten degrees on each side of the line, and is known among seamen by the name of the calm latitudes. The trade-winds from the southeast and northeast, meeting in the neighborhood of the equator, neutralize each other, and a steady calmness of the elements is produced. The whole sea is like a mirror, and vessels remain almost motionless with flapping sails; the crews panting under the heat of a vertical sun, unmitigated by any refreshing breeze, Weeks are sometimes employed in crossing this torpid track of the ocean.
The weather for some time past had been cloudy and oppressive, but on the 13th there was a bright and burning sun. The wind suddenly fell and a dead sultry calm commenced, which lasted for eight days. The air was like a furnace ; the tar melted, the seams of the ship yawned ; the salt meat became putrid ; the wheat was parched as if with fire; the hoops shrank from the wine- and water-casks, some of which leaked and others burst ; while the heat in the holds of the vessels was so suffocating that no one could remain below a sufficient time to prevent the damage that was taking place. The mariners lost all strength and spirits, and sank under the oppressive heat. It seemed as if the old fable of the torrid zone was about to be realized ; and that they were approaching a fiery region where it would be impossible to exist. It is true the heavens were for a great part of the time overcast, and there were drizzling showers; but the atmosphere was close and stilling, and there was that combination of heat and moisture which relaxes all the energies of the human frame.
During this time the Admiral suffered extremely from the gout, but, as usual, the activity of his mind, heightened by his anxiety, allowed him no indulgence nor repose.
He was in an unknown part of the ocean, where everything depended upon his vigilance and sagacity ; and was continually watching the phenomena of the elements, and looking out for signs of land. Finding the heat so intolerable he altered his course and steered to the southwest, hoping to find a milder temperature farther on, even under the same parallel. He had observed in his previous voyages that, after sailing westward a hundred leagues from the Azores, a wonderful change took place in the sea and sky, both becoming serene and bland, and the air temperate and refreshing. He imagined that a peculiar mildness and suavity prevailed over a great tract of ocean extending from north to south, into which the navigator sail
ing from east to west would suddenly enter, as if crossing a line. The event seemed to justify his theory, for after making their way slowly for some time to the westward, through an ordeal of heats and calms, with a murky, stifling atmosphere, the ships all at once emerged into a genial region, a pleasant, cooling breeze played over the surface of the sea and gently filled their sails, the close and drizzling clouds broke away, the sky became serene and clear, and the sun shone forth with all its splendor, but no longer with a burning heat.
Columbus had intended on reaching this temperate tract to have stood once more to the south and then westward ; but the late parching weather had opened the seams of his ships and caused them to leak excessively, so that it was necessary to seek a harbor as soon as possible, where they might be refitted. Much of the provisions also was spoiled, and the water nearly exhausted. He kept on therefore directly to the west, trusting, from the flights of birds and other favorable indications, he should soon arrive at land. Day after day passed away without his expectations being realized. The distresses of his men became continually more urgent; wherefore, supposing himself in the longitude of the Caribbee
Islands, he bore away towards the northward in search of them.*
On the 31st of July there was not above one cask of water remaining in each ship, when about mid-day a mariner at the mast-head beheld the summits of three mountains rising above the horizon, and gave the joyful cry of land. As the ships drew nearer it was seen that these mountains were united at the base. Columbus had determined to give the first land he should behold the name of Trinity. The appearance of these three mountains united into one struck him as a singular coincidence ; and with a solemn feeling of devotion he gave the island the name of La Trinidad, which it bears at the present day.†
* Hist. del Almirante, cap. 67. † Ibid, ubi sup.
HAPING his course for the island, Colum
bus approached its eastern extremity, to which he gave the name of Punta de
la Galera, from a rock in the sea, which resembled a galley under sail. He was obliged to coast for five leagues along the southern shore before he could find safe anchorage. On the following day (August ist) he continued coasting westward in search of water, and a convenient harbor where the vessels might be careened. He was surprised at the verdure and fertility of the country, having expected to find it more parched and sterile as he approached the equator ; whereas he beheld groves of palm-trees and luxuriant forests sweeping down to the sea-side, with fountains and running streams. The shores were low and uninhabited ; but the country rose in the interior, was cultivated in many places, and