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and which is still preserved in the library of that city. The outline of
his discoveries may there be seen, under the name of Western Lands ;
and from their situation it cannot be doubted that they are the present
coasts of Brazil and the environs of the Straits of Magellan. This
globe was made in the year that Columbus set out on his expedition ;
therefore it is impossible that Beham could have profited by the works
of that navigator, who, besides, went a much more northerly course.*

It is not unlikely that both these navigators, living in the same age,
pursued the same object almost simvdtaneously. It appears that Beham
and Columbus were intimate friends, and eminent geographers in their
day. As such they must frequently have conferred upon the great
topic of their ambition. Beham's claims are founded upon many cor-
roborative testimonies; and Columbus's accounts of his own expedition
are minutely circumstantial, and apparently independent of any
extraneous aid.

* Chahncrs'e " Eiographical Dictionary."


The mention of the mariner's compass in the account of Columbus's
expedition, and the discovery by him of the variation of the needk^,
affords us an opportunity of making a brief digression. At wliatever
time the mariner's compass was invented, it is certain that it was not
commonly used in navigation before the year 1420. In that year the
science was considerably improved under the auspices of Henry, Duke
of Visco, brother to the King of Portugal. In the year, 1485, Eoderick
and Joseph, physicians to John II., King of Portugal, together with one
Martin de Bohemia, a Portuguese, calculated tables of the sim's decli-
nation for the use of sailors, and recommended the astrolabe for taking
observations at sea. Columbus is said to have availed himself of the
instructions of Martin. The account of Columbus's voyage is pregnant
with interest, affording, as it does, an insight into the system of navi-
gation prior to the use of the compass. His seamen became alarmed
when they lost sight of the land, and their commander was obliged to
deceive them as to the number of leagues they had sailed from the
shore. The flight of a bird, or the floating of a reed, were eagerly
regarded as indications of land. From this, and from other testimonies,
we learn that prior to the use of the compass and of charts, ships made
their voyages by coasting along the shore, and rarely ventured out of
sight of laud. Thus they were doubly exposed to the perils of ship-
wreck, by being driven ashore, or by striking upon unseen rocks ; while
there was no possibility of maritime discovery, since ships could never
quit the cautious track along the coast.

In " Purchas's Pilgrim " we find, by an account of the voyage of
Eloco, a Norwegian pirate, made in the early part of the tenth century,
from Shetland to Iceland, that pirates used to elude capture, by
putting oiit to sea to a distance to which other navigators dared not
venture. And these marauders adopted the expedient of taking land-
birds with them, and setting them free, to ascertain whether they
were a great or small distance from the shore : — " There was yet no
use of the mariner's compafle, wherefore Floco, leaving Hietlandia, tooke
certaine ravens unto him ; and when hee thought hee had sayled a great
way hee sent forth one raven, which, flying aloft, went back again to
Heitlandia which she saw behind. Whereupon Floco, perceiving that hee
was yet nearer to Heitlandia than other countries, and therefore courageously
going forward, he sent forth another raven which because she could see no
land, neither before nor behind, Hght upon the ship again. But, laftly, the
third raven was sent forth by Floco, and having for the moll part performed


his voyage, through the sharpnefle of her quick sight attained the land she
speedily flew thither, whose diredlion Floco following, beheld firfl the
eaftern side of the island."

"We are reminded, also, by the perusal of the last-mentioned work,
of the dreadful ravages which were common among the crews of ships
before matters of marine hygiene became properly understood, and
which in small ships, which were slow sailers, difficult of management,
and carrying a very limited number of men, must have produced
thousands of disasters that have never been recorded : — " Bein^ betwixt
three and four degrees of the equinoftial line, my company within a few
daies began to fall ficke of a disease which seamen are apt to call the scurvie ;
And seemeth to be a kind of dropfie. .......

And I wifh that some learned man would write of it, for it is the plague of
the sea and the spoyle of mariners ; doubtlcffe it Avould be a worke worthy
of a worthy man, and moft beneficial for our countrie ; for in twenty years
(since I have used the sea), I dare take upon me to give account of ten
thousand men consumed with this diseased

There is an account of the same dreadful malady in " Commodore
Anson's Voyage." The transcriber of the voyage relates that, after
passing through the straits of Magellan the scurvy attacked the
ship's company : — " And now, as it were to add the finishing stroke to
our misfortunes, our people began to be universally afflicted with that
most terrible, obstinate, and, at sea, incurable disease, the scurvy ;
which made a most dreadful havoc among us, beginning at first to
carry off two or three a-day, but soon increasing, and at last carrying
off eight or ten ; and, as most of the living were very ill of the same
distemper, and the little remainder, who preserved their healths better,
in a manner quite worn out with incessant labour, I have some-
times seen four or five dead bodies, some sewn up in tlieir hammocks,
others not, washing about the decks for want of help to bury them
in the sea." The above passage is dated the 8th of March; upon
the 8th of May — that is, in a period of two months — the writer
says : — " Our unspeakable distress (arising from the deplorably bad
weather) was still aggravated by the difficulties we found in working
the ship, as the scurvy had by this time destroyed no less than
200 of our men, and had in some degree affected almost the whole

The Trial sloop, which accompanied Lord Anson's ship, was,


in its degree, equally affected by the scourge. Upon its arrival at
the island of Juan Fernandez, the rendezvous of the squadron, thirty-
four of its crew had perished, and the survivors vrere so weakened
that only its captain, the lieutenant, and three of the men could stand
by the sails.

Arrived at the island, and the means of arresting the scourge, by
means of an improved diet, being within reach, we yet find that of
135 patients sent on shore sixty died within a few days.

It will be borne in mind that the squadron, under Commodore
Anson, had been fitted out to cruise about and attack the Spanish
settlements in South America. By various unfortunate mischances
the expedition failed. But it is in point to remark that the Spanish
fleet, sent out to attack them, also miscarried in its object, in the
words of the author just quoted : — " In attempting to pass Cape
Horn, they had been forced to put back after encountering storms
and famine, besides being grievously attacked by the scurvy, which
had made greater havoc among them than among us.''

About the year 1496, Henry VII., perceiving his error in not
listening in time to the proposal of Columbus, endeavoured to retrieve
it by granting to John Cabot, a Venetian, then settled in Bristol, and
to his sons, power and authority " to navigate all the parts, countries,
and bays of the eastern, western, and northern seas, under our ban-
ners, flags, and ensigns, with five ships, and such and so many mariners
and men as they shall judge proper, at their sole cost and charges, to
discover and investigate whatsoever islands, countries, regions, or
provinces of gentiles or infidels, in whatever part of the* world they
may be situated, which have hitherto been unknown to all Christians,
with power to set up oui* said banners, or ensigns, in any town, castle,
island, or continent of the countries so to be discovered by them.
And such of the said towns, castles, or islands so found out and
subdued by them, to occupy and possess, as our vassals, governors,
lieutenants, and deputies, the dominion, title, and jurisdiction
thereof, and of the continent so found out remaining to us, pro-
vided that out of all profits and produce arising from this expe-
dition, the said Cabot and sons shall be obliged to pay us, for each
voyage they shall so make, on their return to our port of Bristol, to
which port they are hereby absolutely bound to steer, after all needful
costs and charges are deducted, one-fifth part of the whole capital



gain, either in mercliandise or money. The said Cabots to be free
from all customs on the goods they shall import. The lands they shall
discover and subdue shall not be frequented nor visited by any others
of our subjects, without the license of Cabot and sons, under
forfeiture," etc.

Here was a sufficient charter to the Cabots for taking possession of
all the continent of North America, had they possessed resolution and
means sufficient for planting what they the following year discovered,
or had the king possessed spirit enough to have supported such an
expedition for a national purpose ; whereby the English would have
been the first planters of the American continent.*

The Cabot expedition set out in one Bristol ship and three from
London, laden with various wares, and went as far as the north side of


Labrador. Captain Fox, in his book called " The North-West Fox,"
printed in the year 1635, says, " he took tlie way towards Iceland,
from beyond the Cape of Labrador, until he found himself in fifty-
eight degrees and better, and thence he sailed along the shores of
America, as far as the Isle of Cuba ; and so returned back to England ;"

* Anderson's " Ilislory of Commerce."

*«^i-S3^ /.

^~7 C?^!!£iJ^^i^IJ^i^4^



where, King Henry being engaged in a war with Scotland, he found no
encouragement to continue his enterprises, so that Sebastian, the most
active and ingenious of the Cabots, entered into the King of Spain's
service, and was instrumental in other American discoveries. The
principal object of the Cabot expedition was said, by the writers
of those times, to have been to discover a nortli-west passage to
the Indies, or Spice Islands, or to Cathaia, as they then termed
China, whither some travellers had gone overland in the eleventh,
twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. Cabot having sailed as far north
as 67", the land which he first saw was the country between the
north of the river of Canada and Hudson's Strait, which he there-
fore named Prima Vista, or first discovered. It next received the
name of Corterealis, from a Portuguese, who, sailing from Lisbon,
fell in with that coast in the year 1500. Herrera, in his " History
of America," says that Cabot " advanced as far as sixty-eight degrees
of north latitude, and finding the cold very intense, even in July,
he durst not proceed any further ; but he gave a better account of
all those parts than any other had done,"

The Cape of Grood Hope was first discovered in 1493, by a Por-
tuguese squadron under the command of Bartholomew Diaz. But
Diaz merely saw it : the tempestuous aspect of the sea, produced by
currents meeting from opposite oceans, deterred that navigator from
completing this great discovery. Diaz gave to it the name of the
" Cape of Tempests;" it was believed at the time to be impossible to
sail round it. The King of Portugal, some few years afterwards, deter-
mined to follow up the discovery, and sent ships, under the command of
Yasco di Grama, to try to pass beyond the Cape. Di Gama surmounted
the difficulties which had deterred his predecessors, and, ui the year 1497,
European sliips for tlie first time entered the Indian seas, and trade
commenced with the Indies, and the Islands of the Indian Archipelago,
by the Indian Ocean, instead of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Arabian
Oulf, interrupted by the Isthmus of Suez.

The voyage of Di Gama, like that of Columbus, was one of those
bold adventures which only a man of great intelligence, high courage,
and strong determination could have imdertahen and completed. The
most experienced mariners at Lisbon considered that he was goiug to
certain destruction. Like Columbus, he had to contend with the muti-
nous despondency of his crews, and his difficulties were increased by
tempests which occurred at the Cape. But his courage and dcter-



inination were superior to all obstacles : his ships doubled the Cape on
the 20th November, 1497, and having proceeded as far as Calicut,
doubled the Cape again in April, 1 199, and returned to Lisbon in a
little less than two years and two months. For a long time the approach
to the Cape was regarded -ndth dread. A Y03^ager of the seventeenth
century remarks, " the Cape of Good Hope might better be called the
Cape of Death, because of the continual fear of death they are in who
come near it. For the space of eight days we w^ere tossed in a terrible

The reason why no earlier attempts had been made to sail around
the African continent ai'e thus lucidly explained by Dr. Eoberts: —
" While the operations of their Indian trade were carried on within a
sphere so circumsci'ibed, the conveyance of a cargo by the Arabian
GruLf, notwithstanding the expense of land carriage, either from Elath
to Ehiuoculura, or across the desert to the Nile, was so safe and com-
modious, that the merchants of Tyre and Alexandria had little reason
to be solicitous for the discovery of any other.

'• The situation of both these cities, as well as that of the other con-
siderable commercial states of antiquity, was very different from that of
the countries to which, in later times, mankind have been indebted for
keeping up intercourse with the remote parts of the globe. Portugal,
Spain, England, Holland, which have been most active and successful in
tliis line of enterprise, all lie on the Atlantic Ocean (in Avhich exerj
European voyage of discovery must commence), or have immediate
access to it. But Tyre was situated at the eastern extremity of the
Mediterranean ; Alexandria not far from it ; Ehodes, Athens, Corinth,
which came afterwards to be ranked among the most active trading
cities of antiquity, lay considerably advanced towards the same quarter
in that sea. The commerce of aU these states was long confined
within the precincts of the Mediterranean, and in some of them never
extended beyond it. Tlie pillars of Hercules, or the Straits of Gibraltar,
were long considered as the utmost boundary of navigation. To reach
them was deemed a signal proof of naval skill ; and before any of these
states could give a beginning to an attempt towards exploring the vast
unknown ocean Avhich lay beyond it, they had to accomplish a voyage
(according to their ideas) of great extent and much danger. This was
sufficient to deter them from engaging in an arduous undertaking, fi'om

* Voyage to Argo, by Augclo and Carli, ICGG.


which, even if attended with success, their situation prevented tlieir
entertaining hopes of deriving great advantage.

''But could we suppose the discovery of a new passage to India to
liave become an object of desire or piu'suit to any of these states, their
science, as well as practice of navigation was so defective, that it would
have been hardly possible for them to attain it. The vessels which the
ancients employed iu trade were so small as not to afford stowage for
provisions sufficient to subsist a crew during a long voyage. Their
construction was such that they could seldom venture to depart far
from land, and their mode of steering along the coast (which I have
been obliged to mention often) so circuitous and slow, that from these,
as well as from other circumstances which I might have specified, we
may pronounce a voyage fi'om the Mediterranean to India by the Cape
of Good Hope to have been an undertaking beyond their power to
accomplish, in such a manner as to render it, in any degree, subservient
to commerce."

This discovery was followed in 1522 by another of equal importance
and interest. Eernando Magalhaen, a Portuguese, had formed, in
conjunction with a countryman, Euy Falero, the design of finding a
western passage to the East Indies and the Moluccas, or Spice Islands,
which were regarded by the Spanish and Portuguese as offering an
important field for extended commerce in their rich productions. Like
all such great enterprises, it lay in abeyance for a time — was rejected
by Emmanuel, King of Portugal, upon the groimd that it would open
the way for other nations to the East Indies, the trade of which the
Portuguese desired to monopolize. This, however, kindled the rivalry
of the King of Spain, and in the month of September, 1519, jNIagalhaen
sailed from San Lucar de Barremeda, his expedition consisting of five
ships and 236 men. The Portuguese officers under his command soon
displayed a spirit of insubordination, deeming it to be derogatory to
their honoiu' to be directed by an alien. Magalhaen discovered that
three of the captains had formed a conspiracy against him, and the
plot was so dangerous to his object and safety, that he found it
necessary to execute two of the captains, and to turn another ashore
among the wild Indians on the Brazilian coast, together with a priest
who had encoiu-aged the plans of the conspirators. This done, he
proceeded on his voyage, and, on the 21st of October, 1520, having
been out above a year, he discovered the movith of the Straits of
Patagonia, which he at once entered, and to which he gave his name.


pigafetta's accoukt of magalhaen's expeditioit.

The solemn grandeur of the rocky clifts and mountains which form
tlie walls of tliis narrow and perilous passage, with little variation, for
a distance of 350 miles, was sufficient to appal the hearts of the crews,
who 'Jinew not to what dangers they were approaching. Having


sailed about 150 miles in the strait, they discovered an arm of it
branching off from the main channel. ]Maga.lhaen ordered one of
liis ships to explore this, and bring him an accoimt of it. The
seamen, being parted fr(jm the company of their commander, mutinied
against the captaui, deserted the expedition, and returned to Spain.
Magalhaen, finding that the ship did not return, and suspecting the
cause, proceeded through the strait, and entered the South Sea with
only three ships, one having been previously WTCcked. Tltese tcere tlie
first European ships ihat had entered tlie great Southern Ocean, upon
the waters of which Xunez; Balboa had, in the year 1513, gazed with
Avonder, after a perilous march across the Isthmus of Panama. When
Magalhaen looked upon the vast expanse of waters before him, he shed
tears of joy. He gave to the Southern Ocean the name of "the
Pacific," on account of the calmness ])revailing in that watery region.
The last laud of ilie strait he called Cabo Descado, or Cape Desire,


because it was the end of his desired passage to the Houth Hea.
Wishing to explore the great ocean which he had been the first to
enter, he steered in a west-north-west direction, and saik'd three
months and twenty days without seeing land. Famine and disease
overtook his crews ; they were compelled to eat leather, torn from
the masts and rigging, and to drink water that liad become putrid
under the heat of the torrid zone. Nineteen men died, and tliirty
were helpless. After sailing 1500 leagues, in the face of famine
and death, he found a small island in latitude 88" south, llanng
obtained some relief there, he held on his course until, in about 12'
north latitude, he came to a group of islands which he named De los
Ladrones, or of thieves, because the wondering natives, amazed at the
sight of the ships, flocked around them in their canoes, and going on
board stole evex'ything they could lay hold of, regarding the meanest
article of manufacture as a prize of enormous value.

In these early expeditions, the amazement of savages upon seeing
ships and strange people approach their coasts, scarcely surpassed the
wonder of adventurous explorers at the novel objects which met their
sight, and the dread with which the common mariners regarded
expeditions into unknown seas. Hence we can understand why the
crews of Columbus, Di Gama, and INIagalhaen were alike mutinous, and
disposed to take every chance of flying from the perils of their voyages.

Among Magalhaen's company was a gentleman of Vicenza,
Cavallero Antonio Pigafetta, who wrote an account of the voyage,
and from whose notes we may gather an insight into the feelings
of the more intelligent members of the exploring party. Pigafetta
thus explains his motives for joining the expedition : — " As from the
books I had read, and from the converfation of learned men wlio frequented
the houfe of the Bishop and Prince of Teramo, I knew that by navigating the
ocean wonderful things were to be seen, I determined to be convinced
of them by my own eyes, that I might be enabled to give others the
narrative of my voyage, as well for their amusement as advantage, and at the
same time acquire a name that fliould be handed down to poftcrity."

He states that Magalhaen * was cautious of disclosing the fact that

* Pigafetta -writes Magaglianes, the Portiigixese Magalhaens, the Spaniards
Magallenes, the French Magellan. — Amoretti. Each of these nations has altered the
orthography to preserve the sound of his name. The EngUsh, on the contrary, have
neither preseiTed the sound nor the original mode of speUing of the Portuguese


]ie intended to take a course yet unexplored by mariners, lest it
might have the effect of disheartening liis crews. The expedition
arrived at an island called Teneriffe, where they heard of a singular phe-
nomenon — " That it never rains, and that the island has neither spring nor
river, but that it produces a large tree, the leaves of which continually diftil
excellent water ; this is colledled in a pit at the foot of the tree, and hither
the inhabitants go for what water they want, and all the animals, tame and
wild, to quench their thirst. This tree is perpetually encircled by a thick
mist, which doubtlcfs supphes its leaves with Avater."

Sailino- directly south, " We saw birds of many kinds. Some appeared
to us to have no rump; others make no nefts for want of feet; but the female
lays and hatclies her eggs on the back of the male in the midfl: of the
sea. There are some which live on the excrements of other birds; and
I have myfcif oftentimes seen one of thefe birds purfuing another without
interruption until it voided its excrement, upon which it seized with

Two of these marvels are explained by the existence of a wiiter-
fowl having feathered legs, and of the young, wliich are hatched on
shore, getting on the back of the motlier ^vhen in the sea ; the other
relates to birds which watch for the divers, and chase them to seize the
fish which they bring up.

In the Brazils they discovered " hogs, which seemed to have their
navel on the back." They found also, " cannibals of gigantic size, whose
voice was as loud as the bellowing of a bull." " This man was of such
immense ftature that our heads scarcely reached to his waist." They found
an animal which " had the head and cars of a mule, the body of a camel,
the legs of a flag, and the tail of a horse."

The inhabitants of one of the islands visited " had such large holes in
their ears, and the ends of them were drawn down so much, that one might
thruft an arm through the orifice." They were told, *' that in these seas
are birds of a black colour, resembling our crows, which, when the whale
appears upon the surface of the water, watch the moment it opens its mouth
to fly into it, and thence proceed to pluck out its heart, which they carry
away with them to some other spot to feed upon. The only proof they
have, however, of this fact is their having seen this bird feeding on the heart
of the whale, and their finding the whale dead, without a heart."

name, but have adopted the orthogi-aphy of the French : following the practice Of

Online LibraryRobert Kemp PhilpThe history of progress in Great Britain (Volume 1) → online text (page 29 of 37)