Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB
[graphic]

thereby enrich themselves and gather strength to make war against us.

It is of great consequence also to supply those possessions with soldiers for their defence; and this we might do with great facility by means of this strait, and prevent our enemies from becoming masters of them, as might be the case for want of soldiers and assistance. And God being willing, by means of this navigation we should have an opportunity of converting the inhabitants of those parts, for whose souls it pleased God to suffer—which would be, if not the greatest of all advantages, certainly not the least. Many other things might be offered in favour of this navigationthe most essential, however, is evidently how to prevent the great disadvantages which would result from not examining and fortifying the Strait of Apian; for since it is no longer a matter of doubt that such a place exists, as I testify to have seen it myself, it is very evident how great a misfortune it would be were it discovered and fortified by our enemies, who are endeavouring to find it with great earnestness, as we know that last year (1608) they sent out a ship from England to look for it. The Strait of Anian being occupied by our enemies, would occasion serious injury to us; as on account of their vicinity to it, they might easily send through it their fleets which, divided into squadrons of thirties, might make themselves masters of the possessions of New Spain and Peru ; where, declaring to the natives of India freedom and liberty of conscience, it is probable that many of them, if not all, would go over to them; and thus they might strengthen themselves in those seas to such a degree that we, having no place from whence we might quickly send succours, might be irrecoverably deprived of our territories; and this danger is so much to be feared, that even if we were not assured by our own eyes that in the South Sea exists this strait, we should be anxious to seek for it, in order to fortify it, or to undeceive ourselves if there be no such place, and to satisfy our minds that no such danger was to be apprehended. And here let me remark, that if our enemies have not occasioned us any very great losses in the South Sea, it is because they possess not a port of such consequence as that of the Strait of Anian. And now that I am commanded by your Majesty and the Council of State to give some account of this voyage, and of the method of fortifying the strait, it will be proper also to give the course to be steered, and the situation and harbour of that strait, with all the circumstances of my voyage; and beginning with the navigation, by attending to the following narrative, any good seaman will readily discover the strait.

Departing from Spain, suppose from Lisbon, the course is N.W. for the distance of four hundred and fifty leagues ; when the ship will have arrived at latitude 60°, where the Island of Friesland will be seen, anciently called File or Fule. It is an island somewhat less than Ireland. From thence the course must be taken to the westward, running upon the parallel of 60° for one hundred and eighty leagues, which will bring the navigator to the land of Labrador, where the strait of that name or Davis's Strait begins, the entrance of which is very wide, somewhat more than thirty leagues; and the land on the coast of Labrador which is to the west is low, but the opposite side the mouth of the strait is composed of very high mountains. Here two openings

One of these openings runs E.N.E. and the other N.W.; that which runs E.N.E. must be left, which is the one on the right hand looking towards the north, because it leads to Greenland, and ultimately to the sea of Friesland. Taking therefore the contrary opening, and turning the prow N.W., by proceeding in this direction eighty leagues, the ship will be found in latitude 64o. Here the strait takes another turn to the north, continuing one hundred and twenty leagues, and as far as latitude 70°, when it again turns to the N.W. and continues in that direction

ninety leagues, which will bring the ship to latitude 75%, nearly at which place the whole Strait of Labrador will have been passed; that is to say, it begins at 60° and

length, and having three turns or reaches, the first and last of which run N.W. and S.E. and the centre one north and south : being sometimes narrower than twenty leagues, and sometimes wider than forty, and containing many ports, bays and sheltering places, which might be of service in cases of necessity. As far as the 73d parallel the shores appear to be inhabited, for in many parts of the coasts we observed smoke.

To some persons it has seemed impossible to navigate at so high an altitude of the pole ;-in answer to this it may be observed, that the Hanseatics live in latitude 72°, into whose harbour, namely, that of St. Michael, and in all the Bay of St. Nicholas, nearly a thousand merchant ships enter every year, which, in order to go to the sea of Flanders, must necessarily ascend to latitude 75°. Having cleared the Strait of Labrador we began to descend from that latitude, steering W.S.W. and S.W. for three hundred and fifty leagues, till we arrived in latitude 71°, when we perceived a high coast without being able to discover whether it was part of the continent or an island, but we remarked that if it was the continent it must be opposite to the coast of New Spain. From this land, seen at 71°, we directed our course to the W.S.W. for four hundred and forty leagues, until we came as low as 60°, in which parallel the Strait of Anian was discovered.

Thus the same course must be followed which I made, at least as far as Friesland ; for I set sail from the Baccallaos in quest of that island to procure provisions and other necessaries, which we obtained from some islands lying near it called Zelandillas ; they are three in number, one of which only is inhabited, and the other two serve as pastures for the cattle of the natives, who are rather savage, though they seem to be Catholics or Christians.-Returning to our voyage-I say, according to my opinion, that it would be more prudent, when the Strait of Labrador is cleared, to coast along the opposite coast of New Spain, for two reasons ; first, to discover what population it contains, and secondly, to seek for provisions and necessaries for the ships which have to sail through this passage.

According to the narrative above mentioned, it appears that the distance from Spain to Friesland is four hundred and fifty leagues, and from thence to Labrador one hundred and eighty, and to the termination of that strait two hundred and ninety, which make in the whole nine hundred and twenty leagues ; and these added to seven hundred and ninety, which we found to be the distance from the north part of the Strait of Labrador to the Strait of Anian, make in the whole one thousand seven hundred and ten leagues for the distance between Spain and the Strait of Anian.

The season in which we freed the Strait of Ladrador was very rigorous, being the beginning of March ; and as we were navigating the strait during the latter part of February, we suffered great hardships on account of the darkness, the cold, and the storms; the days during that time were short, and the cold so great, that the waves of the sea, which beat against the ship, froze on it in such a manner, that the vessel seemed to be one mass of crystal ; and we were obliged to break the ice, for it grew so thick that in some parts we found it more than a palmo in thickness.

It is a great mistake to suppose that this sea can freeze all over; for as it is spacious, and rapid currents are always running through the strait, these and the great waves occasioned by its continual motion will not suffer it to freeze; but on the borders of the sea, and the parts where it is quiet, I think it may freeze, and we perceived that the water which beat against the shores was frozen. This only I know, and it was told us in Iceland, that a strait of the sea between Friesland and Greenland was frozen during the greater part of the year; because it was in the midst of mountains and high land on the side of Friesland, by which the rays of the sun were prevented from falling upon it; and being thus surrounded by high hills, it was not affected by the winds, which might have set its waves in motion, and therefore the continual calm had allowed it to be frozen, and rendered it unnavigable ; and the same thing occurs in the seas above mentioned.

[graphic]

But when we returned through this Strait of Labrador, which was in the month of June and part of July, we enjoyed continual daylight, so that when we arrived at the arctic circle, or latitude 661°, we lost not the sight of the sun, nor did it sink below the horizon until we came to the middle of the Strait of Labrador ; and thus, from the sun continuing always above the horizon, the air was so warm, that we felt more heat than even in the central parts of Spain ; yet when we exposed ourselves to the rays of the sun, they did not much incommode us; and because there are always great currents and winds coming from the north, the Strait of Labrador is easily and quickly cleared. The rapid currents, occasioned by the Aux and reflux, are of great assistance in entering and departing from the strait, even when the winds are contrary; and as they blow incessantly from the north, it is needful, on departing from Spain to Anian, to take advantage of the tides; and this account we will now conclude with the course of the ship and the incidents of the voyage.

The strait we discovered in 60°, at the distance of 1710 leagues from Spain, appears, according to ancient tradition, to be the one which geographers name in their maps the Strait of Anian; and if it be so, it must be a strait having Asia on one side and America on the other, which seems to be the case, according to the following narration :

· As soon as we had cleared the strait, we coasted along the shores of America for more than one hundred leagues,

« AnteriorContinuar »