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  • Writer's pictureJacqueline Grant

Peek Inside Columbus's Diary

Updated: Jul 30, 2022

The actual journal written by Christopher Columbus has been lost. What we have is a copy made in the sixteenth century by the friar Bartolomé de las Casas as well as references to the original journal in a book written by Columbus' son Fernando.

The following timeline is taken from John Cummins book entitled The Voyage of Christopher Columbus, and from Michael Paiewonsky's, Conquest of Eden, 1493-1515.


12 October - The crews made landfall at an island the natives called Guanahani and Columbus called San Salvador.

6 December - The Santa María and Niña reached Isla España or Española - they landed at Puerto San Nicolás on the northwestern tip of the island.

24 December - At midnight the seas were calm so Columbus lay down to rest. So too did the others and the helm was left to a boy. The calm waters carried the ship to a bank where it was grounded. Columbus told some of his men to take the boat they had been towing behind them, take an anchor and "drop it astern" in order to try to save the ship. Instead, the men tried to abandon the ship by fleeing to the Niña. The crew of the Niña, "refused to take them aboard."

25 December in the wee hours - "When I saw my own men fleeing in the boat," wrote Columbus, "the sea falling and the ship now in danger, I had no alternative but to cut away the mainmast and lighten the ship as much as we could to see if we could float her off. However, with the tide ebbing all the time there was no help for her; she took a list, her seams began to open, and she filled up from below the waterline."

Realizing his ship was lost, Columbus took his men aboard the Niña for safety. Because he knew there were other sand bars around he sailed back and forth and did not approach the floundered ship until daylight. He sent word to the Taino king.

26 December - King Guacanagarí offered to help. He sent his people with many large canoes to unload the ship and take the items that were on board to land. He placed guards around the items to protect them from theft or damage.

Columbus decided that running aground could be seen as an opportunity. It allowed him to leave behind a settlement in the New World. Without the ship running aground he would not have had the supplies to leave with the men.

26 December - Columbus writes, "So they are finishing planks to use in building the fortifications, and I shall leave supplies of bread and wine for over a year, and seeds to sow, and the ship's boat, and a caulker, a carpenter, a lombardier, a cooper, and many other men." [Some believe that wood from the floundered flagship was used to build the fort, but Columbus specifically stated the ship remained intact - just grounded]

Columbus also told his men not to spread out or separate and not to go beyond King Guacanagarí's borders, but to stay together until his return. He wanted them to continue to keep an eye out for the gold mine he was sure was on the eastern part of the island and he implied they should do this without letting the Indians know what they are doing.

27 December - Columbus received word that the Pinta - his third ship - was nearby. Columbus had wanted to do further explorations in search of gold but the Pinta and her captain, Martín Alonso, had left the other two ships and gone off without permission. When Columbus lost his flagship, he could not risk losing the Niña and be stranded in the New World.


4 January - Columbus sailed away from La Navidad.

The Second Voyage

25 September - Columbus left Cadiz with 1,500 men and seventeen ships.

12 October - They left Ferro in the Canary Islands and after only three weeks of sailing they arrived in the 'Indies.'

3 November - They landed on an island Columbus named Dominica because they landed on a Sunday.

21 or 27 November - The fleet traveled through the islands and finally on November 21 (some sources say November 27) they reached their destination - the island Columbus had named España and the fort settlement of La Navidad. Unfortunately, the settlement was gone. They found the bodies of the thirty-nine men left unburied.

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