Cristóbal Colón

Fourth Voyage  1502 - 1504

The object of his fourth voyage would be to discover the narrow water-passage that existed between these two mainland’s, through which allowed the Atlantic Ocean to flowed into the Indian Ocean. Once he discovered this passage,  he could sail around the world and get back to Spain by way of the Cape of Good Hope.

Part of the instructions we was given, was that he could not visit the island of Española on his trip to the Indies he would only be allowed to stop there on his return trip. He could not bring back slaves from the lands he visited. There would be no private trading allowed while on this trip. The cost of the expedition would be borne by the by the King and Queen, and there would be an auditor, provided by the crown, to keep track of all treasures acquired. 

When Columbus set sail for the Forth Voyage to the new world, he came prepared to deal with real Indians of the far east. He had all the credentials for any of the rulers with whom he may have met. He had Arabic interpreters and trinkets and other items to use for trade with them for gold. He also had enough provisions to last him for at least two years. Columbus sailed, from the port of Cadiz on May 11, 1502, on his fourth and last voyage. His small fleet consisted of four caravels, ranging from 50 to 70 tons. the Capitana (his flag ship), Santiago de Palos, El Gallego, and Vizcaino. His brother, Bartolome Colón, El Adelantado (Governor of all the Spanish New World), was captain of one of them, and there was a crews of about, one hundred and fifty men. Among them was Columbus's second son, Fernando who was only thirteen years old. Fernando would later write the life story of his father, where he gave a complete account of the fourth voyage. After putting in at Arcila on the Atlantic coast of Morocco, at the Canaries, they reached the island of Martinique in the West Indies on June 15th. There they took on fresh water, and rested for 3 days. On Jun 18th, they stopped and Dominica, then past the Leeward chain of islands, past the southern coast of Puerto Rico, and then the mouth of the Ozama River in Española, were the new capital of Santo Domingo, was located. Although he was instructed that he could not stop in Española, he wished to send some letters back to Spain, and try to trade the caravel, Santiago de Palos, which proved to be a poor handling ship and he suspected that a hurricane was coming.

The Governor refused to allow him to disembark and he had to find refuge somewhere else. Columbus noticed that the fleet that had brought Ovando, to the Española, was about to set sail for the return trip, and he advised the Governor, to not to send the ship, but to wait until after the storm passed. The Governor made fun of Columbus, and ignored the warning, and sent the fleet home. As soon as they left, they were hit by the hurricane while in the Mona Passage, and most of the ships sunk (19 ships were lost) with all hands (over 500 lives were lost) and cargo, which included gold (200,000 castellanos of gold and the largest nugget, ever found with a  weight of 3,600 pesos ) and pearls that were being sent back to Spain. , while others managed to make it back in sinking conditions (3 ships). Only one ship had the good fortune of making it to Spain. This was the ship on which Ovando had placed, 4,000 pesos in gold, that belonged to Columbus.

Columbus took his fleet to the mouth of the Jaina River, for protection from the storm. Here they were spared the brunt of the storm, (June 30th) with only minor damage done to the ships. They had agreed that if they should get separated, they would all meet at Puerto Escondido. One of the ships was separated from the rest during the storm, but they all rendezvous as arranged. From there, they sailed to Jamaica, stopped to get fresh water, and continued. They sailed between the Grand Cayman Islands to a group of small islands off the coast of Cuba. They had no intention of stopping there, but the wind and currents, would not allow him to continue west.  He anchored here on  July 24th until when the winds changed on the 27th. to a northeast direction, allowing them to sail southwest for 360 miles.

Towards the end of July they arrived at an island called Guanaja (the modern Bonaccao or Bonacca) off the coast of Honduras. Near this island they captured a large dugout, the largest and most ornate canoes that they had ever seen. "Long as a galley", and 8 feet wide, with a weather proof cabin in the middle of the canoes. There were 25 men and some women and children on board. These belonged to a party of Mayan merchants, out on a trading trip. The canoes were loaded with an assortment of articles for trade that the Spaniard had seen before in their explorations. There were cups, bells, and hatchets made of copper, cloaks and tunics of dyed cotton beautifully worked, knives of obsidian, wooden swords edged with flint, bread and beer, and cacao or chocolate beans' (cacao beans were used as currency by the Mayan's, Aztec's and others in Central America). The men and women wore clothing, and were evidently more highly civilized than any of the Indians Columbus had previously seen. He began to think that at last he was about to get into touch with the strange races of the (Far) East. By using signs and a Taino Indian they had brought has an interpreter, the Spaniards were able to learn that their captives had come from a land, several days' journey to the west, and that there was plenty of gold, pearls, and spices there. On learning hearing this, Columbus allowed them all to go, except for one old man, the skipper,  whom he kept as a guide. Columbus renamed the captive, Iumba, giving him the Christian name, Juan Pérez.

From Bonacca, Columbus continued his southerly course and found a cape, which he named Caxinas, now known as Cape Honduras. Here the land ran east and west, and when Guimba, as the Mayan guide was called, was asked from which direction the gold came, he lied and pointed to the east. That gesture changed the history of the western world. Had he pointed the other way, towards the Yucatan, his own country, Mexico would probably have had a more merciful conqueror than Cortéz, and the Isthmus of Panama might never have become, as it subsequently did, the great magnet for the commerce of the east and the west. Juan Perez was dismissed with presents, and the fleet proceeded, in the direction he had indicated, east-south-east, along the coast of Honduras, encountering terrible storms, until they reached a narrow point, from which the land turned south, and the weather improved. This was one of the most difficult part of the trip, since they had to sail against the wind. To do this, they had to tack, back and forth, just to gain a few miles. For 28 days, the sailed north, out to sea, and then south, to spend the night close to land, advancing a distance of 165 miles. On September 14, the coast started turning south. To this point they gave the appropriate name of Gracias A Diós. They then sailed along the coast of the present day Nicaragua and Costa Rica, stopping at various points to barter with the natives. 

On October 5th, 1502, they dropped anchor in Almirante Bay within the confines of the modern Panama. Thus Bastidas, sailing from South America to the west in 1501, and Columbus, sailing from Honduras to the east and south, discovered at different times different parts of Panama. Columbus had given strict orders, at the start of the expedition, keeping his men from fraternizing with the natives, and would not allow them to trade with them. One of the clauses of his charter with the King, was that no private trading would be allowed. Columbus did not want his men to harm the natives in anyway, to prevent the natives from becoming upset, and attacking the Spaniards. At first,  Columbus enter a channel, leading to the great Bay, and he thought that he had finally found the channel needed to get to India. Here the local natives called the main land, Quiriquetana and a couple of islands in the bay, Carambaru and Cerabaro. He also that the natives wore large medals on their chest, made of pure gold, not guanine (alloy of copper and gold), as in the previous landings. The use of pure gold, the names of the area, convinced Columbus that he had finally reached Cipangu (China). He did trade with the natives, getting their gold disks for three hawks' bells, and the heavier ones, for more bells. The natives, waved Columbus on through an other channel which he thought was the final passage to China, but ended up in an other lagoon, which he called the Alburema, now known as the Chiriqui Lagoon. On the 6th of October, he passed his four caravels, the Capitana, Santiago, Gallega and Vizcaíns into this landlocked lagoon. On the 7th, they went ashore, and traded for more gold disks, gold eagles and provisions. Fernando described the natives of the area, as being painted in black, white and red, all over their bodies. They covered their genitals with narrow cotton cloth, that they made. These Indians, were the Guaymies, (that populated the whole area, all the way to the Panama Canal). They stayed in the area for 10 day, trading with the natives and getting as much information as possible. One of the natives by the name of Cariai serves as an interpreter, after leaning the Castilian language very rapidly.  Columbus learned that he was on an isthmus and there was a great sea on the other side of the mountains, 9 days march over the cordillera. He also learned that another land laid on this ocean, called Ciguare (Chiriqui), which again, convinced Columbus that India, was just a short distance away. This knowledge, that he was on an isthmus, and there was no strait in the area, convinced Columbus, to stop looking for one, and concentrate on learning all he could of the area, and searching for gold.

On October 17th, the fleet put to sea and continued exploring the coast of Tierra Firme. They were now in the area, which they called, El Golfo de los Mosquitos, which lacks good harbors. One day out, they anchored at the mouth of a river called Guaiga (Chiriqui River), and a region that the natives called Veragua and an area, very rich in gold mines. They stayed there several days, hoping to make contact with the natives. In this area, the native villages were located up river, not on the beach, as in the lands that they had visited in the past. On October 20th, they made contact and found the natives to be very belligerent.  Columbus had sent a boat ashore, when they saw a large group of natives on the beach. The natives attacked the Spaniard, yelling and screaming and making threatening gestures at them. Eventually, they were able to get close enough to exchange some 16, pure gold, polished mirrors, for 3 hawks' bells each. The next day they tried to land again, but was prevented again by the natives. Again, the natives threatened to attacked. one of the Spaniards wounded an Indian, and fired their gun, which made them all run away. They did manage to trade for 3 more gold mirrors. They also learned that most of the natives gold, had been left at their home, since they came to the beach to fight, not trade.

Trading with the friendly natives on Tierra Firme, province of Veragua.

Columbus then continued along the Mosquito coast. They anchored in the mouth of another river, called Cativa by the natives. Here, the natives threatened them, as before, but soon changed their attitude, and allowed the Spaniards to land. At this place, the found a large stucco building, and traded for more gold disks. They continued their journey, to another area called Cobraba. Here they traded with 5 villages, for large quantities of gold. One of the natives, referred to a place called Veragua, where all of the gold collected and the ornaments were made. The next day, they arrived at a village called Cubiga, that was located up the river. This was the area where the natives from Chiriqui, told the Spaniards, that was the last place to trade for gold, along the coast. The next day, they left Cubiga, continuing there explorations, with Columbus saying that they would return to explore that area, and find the gold mines.

The day they left Cubiga, they were hit by a storm, and were forced past Limon Bay, and took refuge in an excellent harbor, that he named, Puerto Bello, on November 2nd, 1502. He named it because it was very beautiful and well protected and the land around it was well cultivated. This same harbor was visited by Bastidas, the year before. There were many houses near the beach and the people were friendly, and they traded for provisions and finely woven, cotton cloth. They were forced to stay there 7 days, due to inclement weather.

On the 9th of November, they set sail, rounding Manzanillo Point and continued to the east until the direction of the wind changed, and drove them back, some of the distance the had covered. They were pushed back about 13 miles, so they dropped anchor off the coast of some islands, where Nombre de Dios, was later founded and renamed by Nicuesa in 1508. Columbus called this place, Puerto de Bastimentos, because the islands were all planted with fields of maize, and they were able to get all of the provisions they needed. The fleet remained here for 12 days, making needed repairs to their caravels and barrels. 

Fernando recounts the incident here, where one of the ships boats, seeing a dugout full of natives, rowed to the dugout. As they approached, the natives all jumped into the water and dived underwater. Whenever a native swam back to the surface, the boat would row toward him. This cause the native to dive underwater again, resurfacing a distance from the boat. This continued for hours, while the men on the ships roared with laughter, and the men in the boat, just got madder, never being able to get any of the natives. For the natives, this was just a game, while those in the boat, saw no hummer in what was happening.

On November 23rd, they sailed out of Nombre de Dios and dropped anchor at a place called Guigua (the mouth of Rio Culebra). Going ashore, they met a large group of natives, and did some trading with them. On the next day, they took off again, and were soon forced into another harbor, that Columbus named Retrete (this place is now called Puerto Escibanos) and is about 20 miles east of Nombre de Dios.  This port was very small, with a narrow channel, and the ships had to go in, one by one. Since they were anchored, so close to shore, the Spaniards were able to disobey Columbus' orders, and would slip away at night, to steal from the natives, and rape their women. Such were the outrages, that the natives, were provoked into becoming belligerent and attacking the Spaniards. Columbus, tried to appease the natives, but they were so incensed, that did not heed him. He was forced to fire some of his cannons, at them, but they only thought that it was only a noise machine, and they show no fear of it. The cause Columbus to fire a cannon ball at a group of natives, and when the realized the cannons did more than make noise, and could kill a lot of men at the same time, the scattered, and hid. From then on, the natives were fearful of the Spaniards, and stayed well hidden. The natives of this area, were different than those seen by the Spaniards before. These were tall and well built and had fine features. They lacked the pot belly that was common, among the natives they had seen, up to then. Here is the first time, that Fernando, mentions alligators, during the whole trip. He mentions that if the caught a man on shore, they would drag them into the water, and devour him. He said that they were the same crocodiles that were on the Nile River.

On December 5th, they set sail again, going back to investigate the area of Veragua. Columbus was sure that the rough weather was over, and he would have no problem getting back to Veragua. The next day, on the 6th, the weather changed, and so did the wind. The fleet spent the next month, being battered by the rough seas and winds, between Puerto Bello, and the Chagres River.

On December 17th, the fleet anchored in a port the natives called Huiva.  A short distance away was a large rock, at the mouth of a river, that he called Peñon (the palisades were where el Castillo de San Lorenzo, was built, in 1595). They rested here for 3 days, trading with the natives for gold, when ever they could. Columbus noted that the river was full of alligators (caimans), as many as he had seen on the Nile. Later, he entered this feature onto his charts, and called it El Rio de Los Lagartos, a name that lasted for many years. They set sail again on the 20th, because the weather had improved. As soon as they hit open water, a storm came up, forcing them back into another harbor. Columbus gave this harbor a Spanish name, calling it, Puerto Gordo (Limón Bay). They stayed there from December 26 through January 3, 1503. Columbus entered a note in his charts, as to the large size of this bay, and that all of the ship of the world would fit into it. English seamen would later mistranslate this comment, and named it Navy Bay, a name that stuck for a long time.

On January 3rd, 1503, the 4 ships loaded with provisions, and set sail for Veragua. On the 6th, they dropped anchor off a river, that Columbus named Belén (Bethlehem) since it was the day of the Epiphany. There were sand bars, at the mouth of this river, and also of the Veragua River, a couple of miles away. Finding the depth of the sand bar at Belén of 7 feet, and less at Veragua, they sailed two of their ships, the Capitana and Viszína on the 9th, before the tide changed the depth of the bar, leaving the other two ships outside. They immediately rowed their boats, up river to trade with the natives. They were not able to get across the bar, until the next day, at high tide. This place was ideal, as a base of operations for the exploration of the area, and finding the gold mines that Veragua was famous for. Columbus decided that they would stay there for at least a month, until after the rainy season was over.

Columbus was able to find an Indian, that had learned some Spanish, while they were at Chiriqui, who served as an interpreter while they were there. On the 12th of January, they rowed up the Veragua River, in the direction of the village of the local cacique, El Quibián, he, in turn, came down the river with a large group of warriors in their dugouts, and they met half way. At this meeting, one of the warriors, went to the river, and got a large rock, dried it, and set it so that Quibián could sit down, during the powwow. At this meeting, Columbus got the impression that Quibián gave his permission to them to explore the area and his river. The next day, Quibián returned and visited with Columbus on his flag ship and he was given gifts.

As they got ready to explore the Belén River, a storm struck, and the river flooded, forcing them to abandon their expedition. The rain and floods, kept them from going anywhere for two weeks. On February 6th, the rowed up the Veragua River with 68 men, and spent the night at Quibián's village. The next day, they continued up river, with some of Quibián's men, as guides. On the second day, they reach the area where the natives obtained their gold. In one day, the Spaniards were able to collect some gold, with out tools. Each of the men, were able to get about $10.00 worth of gold, using their knives, as the only tool. The group then returned to their ships, very pleased and excited over having found the gold mines. Columbus was so pleased, that he decided to build a settlement there, and return to Spain for reinforcements. In this place, there was much more gold, than they ever found in Española, and although he never found the strait to India, he found large quantities of gold, and that would please the King.

On the 14th of February, Bartholomew Colón, El Adelantado, took a group of 54 men, to explore an area, 22 miles to the west. They reached a river that the natives called Urirá (Culovebora River) were they met a large group of friendly natives, and were able to trade for some more gold disk, and saw large quantities of maize, cultivated by the Guaymi's. The Adelantado, with about half the force, continued overland to two villages, Cobrava and Cativa, where he found more maize and gold disk. He obtains a large number of these disk, which he likened, if the same quality, as the finest chalices, and that they wore hanging from their necks by strings, like a Christian  might wear a cross or an Agnus Dei.

When the Adelantado, returned, they proceeded to build the settlement of Santa María de Belén. They built it on a small hill, on the west bank of the river, a the distance of about a rifle shot away from the mouth. Buildings were constructed of timber cut from the area, with the roofs being made of thatch. All provisions that they brought from Spain, would be stored in the Gallega, on of the caravels. They elected to leave the Gallega there, since she was so BADLY eaten by teredo worms (Sea worms that are the plague of wooden boats. They will bore through the wood and cause the boat to leak, like a sieve) , that her hull was like a sponge, and they would not be able to keep her afloat.  When a dozen houses were built, Columbus got ready to go, and the rain stopped. This caused the water level in the river to drop, and the ships could not get over the sand bars, and were stranded.

At this time, Quibián noted that the visitors planned to stay, and were not leaving, and his attitude change toward the Spaniards. Columbus also suspected that some of his men, were sneaking off into the bush, and taking things from the natives, by force. The Spaniard began to see large groups of natives, coming into the area, painted in war paint, and claiming that they were going to join forces with Quibián, who was planning a raid on the neighboring tribe of Cobrava.

Diego Méndez, one of the gentlemen volunteers on Santiago, conferred with Columbus, their suspicions of the situation. Méndez, who had learned some of the Guaymi language during their stay, volunteered to check out the situation, and took off in one of the boats, towards the Veragua River, when he came upon a site were there were a thousand warriors, encamped, hooting and howling. Méndez, landed his boat, and walked up to the warriors, and asked them what they were up to. He then retuned to his boat, and had his men row out into the middle of the river, where they could watch the warriors, and keep an eye on them. The next morning, he returned to the ships, and told Columbus what he saw. Columbus, still wanted to leave men at Belen, while he went back to Spain for reinforcements. We would not abandon his plans, unless he had more evidence that the warriors planned to attack. Méndez, again volunteered to find out.

This time, he walked along the shore with one of the men, until he found a couple of dugouts, were the warriors admitted that they planned to attack in two days. He got the warriors to take him to Quibián's village, so that he could confer with Quibián. He approached Quibián with the pretext that he had come to cure an arrow wound the cacique had. He was admitted into the village and into Quibián's hut. There he was confronted by the cacique's sons and others, and they would not let him get close to Quibián. Méndez then proceeded to sit down, and have his companion, give him a hair cut. This surprised the warriors, and they being very curious of the strange habits of the Spaniards, did not know what to do. Quibián permitted his hair to be cut, and he was presented with the scissors comb and mirror. Méndez then asked to be fed, and he sat down with his companion and Quibián, to eat. After this, they returned to the ships.

Now with more proof that Quibián planned to attack the settlement, Méndez and Columbus agree on a plan to control the situation. They planned to take Quibián and his family and other caciques, hostages. The next day, with a force of 80 men, the rowed to Quibián's village. Hiding most of his men in the jungle, the Adelantado, Méndez and a couple of men,  marched into the village, pretending he was back to check Quibián wound. When Quibián went to meet them, they grabbed him and fire a shot, which was a signal, for the Spaniards to rush into the village. They captured Quibián, his family, and some other important prisoners. They were all bound and sent with the pilot, Juan Sánchez with a couple of men, to escort them back to Belén, in one of the boats. The rest stayed in the village, finishing the job.

Quibián complained to Sánchez, that his hands were tied to tight, and Sánchez fell for the trick, loosening the ropes. Quibián was able to escape by jumping overboard. Sánchez, let go of the rope, so that he would not be pulled into the water, allowing Quibián to escape into the jungle. When the rest of the party returned to Belén, they had with them, a large amount of gold, that they took from the village. The captives that did not get away, were taken to one of the ships, and put in chains. They had hoped to take Quibián with them on their return to Spain, insuring that the Guaymi's would not present a problem to the Colony. 

It started raining again, and they were able to sail their ships over the sand bars, and they prepared to sail to Spain. The Adelantado, Bartholomew Colón was left in charge, Diego Méndez would be one of his lieutenants, and seventy men were to be left in Belén to hold it until Columbus returned. On April 6th, with most of the force saying farewell on the beach, and only 20 guards at Belén, Quibián attacked the settlement, with over 300 warriors, shooting arrows, darts and spears. They were able to kill one and wound several men, including the Adelantado, but were held a bay, by the fierce fighting of the Spaniards and the wolfhound that was at the fort. At this time, Captain Diego Tristán of the Capitana, had gone ashore to get a final supply of water, and he remained in his boat, in the river, not offering any assistance, since he had only come to get water, not fight. After three hours, the battle was over, and Tristán came ashore to fill his barrels with water. As they headed back to the ship, they passed close to a spot on the river, where some of the natives were hiding.  They attacked the boat, killing Tristán and his companions except for one, that jumped into the water and swam away.

The three ships were out in open water, about a mile from shore. They were able to see much of the fighting. The men that were to be left behind, wanted to leave on the ships, but the Gallega was in no condition to float, and had been grounded, to keep her from sinking earlier. The decision was made to get all of the men out of Belén, and abandon the settlement. The only boat left, could not be sent in to pick up the men, so the men at Belén, made a raft, and managed to float all of the supplies that had been left in the settle, out to the ships. They were able to get all of the men on board. On April 16, 1503, Easter night, when all were on the ships, they set sail for Española. Thus ended the first attempt to Colonize and garrison Panama and Tierra Firme.

Columbus now beat up the coast eastward, past the Chagres River and Limon Bay, until he again reached Puerto Bello, where one of his three remaining ships, the Biscaina, had to be abandoned on account of her extremely leaky condition. When Diego de Nicuesa arrived in Puerto Bello, to establish his settlement in 1510, he found the remains of the Biscaina. Columbus still continued eastward for about ten leagues, and then, on May 1, 1503, from Marmora, as his son Fernando calls it, sailed north for Española. Columbus thought that he was further east, than he was, when he headed north, expecting to run into Española. The identification of Marmora is difficult. Some are of opinion that Columbus went as far as Cape Tiburon and saw the Gulf of Urabi or Darien; a more probable opinion is that the most easterly point he reached in Panama was Punta Mosquito. When he headed for Española his ships were practically un-seaworthy, and only the most strenuous bailing with pumps and kettles prevented them from being entirely swamped. Contrary winds and currents carried him far out of his course, he landed on the south coast of Cuba. Realizing the they were way off course, and that his ship would not make it all the way to  Española, he steered for Jamaica, where, at Puerto Bono, he arrived on June 24. Next day he moved into another more easterly harbor, into which he had once before put during his second voyage in 1494, and to which he had then given the name of Santa Gloria. Here he ran his two worn out vessels aground, shored them up so that they could not move, and built sheds on them for the protection of himself and his men. 

Diego Méndez, with a couple of men walked to several native villages and befriended the people and purchased food from them. He arranged for them to take food to Columbus, since they were without food. He sent one of the men that was in his party, with instruction to Columbus, to pay for the food that the natives were bringing. He proceeded to other villages, and made the same arrangement with them. insuring that the Spaniards would have plenty to ear. In one of the villages, he was able to trade for a large dugout, which he used to explore the island. They waited in Jamaica for several months, hoping to see a ship sail past, and hailing her to get them off the island. This never happened, since they were in an area, where there was no exploration. Previous expeditions in that area, had determined that there was no gold in the region, so nobody wanted to go there.

Once again, Diego Méndez came to the rescue, when he offered to take his dugout with ten native paddlers and another Spaniard, to paddle their way, across the sea, from Jamaica to Española. They agreed to send two dugouts, just incase one did not make it. They took six Christians, and ten Indians per canoe. One of the dugouts would be commanded by Diego and the other by Fieschi, an Italian gentleman, that had proven this worth during the expedition. They figured that they would have to travel 108 nautical miles, but they could stop on the Island of Navassa, which they figured was a little over half way across the ocean. The trip started on a day in July, when the sea was calm

On the first day, the sun and heat gave them a hard time, and they had to take turns swimming in the ocean, to keep cool. That evening, they were far enough out, that they could barely make out the Blue Mountains of Jamaica. They paddled all through the night, and the next morning realized that the natives, were not use to sea voyages and had drank all of their water on the first day. The Spaniards, accustomed to the sea, knew how to space and conserve their water, and had their supply which they had to share with the Indians. They hoped to reach Navassa before dark, but they did not. On the second night, one of the Indians died of thirst, and the others were too weak to continue paddling. On the third night, still no Navassa. By the light of the moon, they were able to make out the island, and the next morning, the fourth day out of Jamaica, they landed on the island. They found water trapped in the rocks, and some of the natives drank so much, so fast,  that they died. They gathered shellfish, and started a fire, and cooked it, and had a good meal that night. That evening, they were able to see the mountains of Cape Tiburon, on Española, only 30 miles away. They set out that night, arriving in Española before morning. After resting for two days at Cape Tiburon, Bartolomeo Fieschi, did as promised, and was prepared to paddle back to Jamaica. But none of the men wanted to go with him, not even the Indians.

The natives of the area, brought them food, and Méndez set off to Santo Domingo with six fresh Indian paddlers. When he reached Azua, the place they had weathered the hurricane over a year before, he learned that the Governor, Don Nicolás de Ovando, was in the interior, pacifying the natives, and searching for gold. Méndez, set out on foot, to reach the place where the governor was at, to ask for a ship to go rescue Columbus, and his crew. Fearing that the news of Columbus' new discoveries of land and gold, would cause the King to restore his rights and privileges, Ovando was not ready to have the Admiral back in Española, so he delayed Méndez, during his campaign, at his headquarters for over 7 months. In the mean time, Ovando, put down the natives revolt with great blood shed and cruelty. Méndez reached Ovando in August, 1503, and it was not until March, 1504, that he was allowed to proceed to Santo Domingo, by foot. There, he had to wait an additional two months, before ships arrived from Spain. The one ship that was in port, Ovando would not allow Méndez to contract, to go pick up Columbus. Méndez proceeded to hire two of the ships to go to Jamaica to rescue Columbus and his men. Méndez paid for the charter, with the gold he had for Veragua. The third ship was used to return to Spain, so that Méndez could give the King and Queen, letters that Columbus wrote about the expedition, and the 20% share of the gold that was collected. Fieschi, was never able to hire anybody to help him get back to Jamaica, and remained in Santo Domingo, until Columbus arrived.

In Santa Gloria, Jamaica, Columbus and his men waited to be rescued. Trouble started brewing when the Porras brothers, started talk about a mutiny. They were on the trip, because their sister was the mistress of the Royal Treasurer, and he ordered Columbus to take them along. Francisco Porras was made captain of the Santiago, and Diego Porras, was the crown representative, and comptroller. As political appointees, they refused to do any work, and were a burden on the expedition. The Adelantado, was acting captain of the Santiago, and his fine seamanship, kept Francisco Porras out of trouble, when the going got rough. They spread discontent among the crew, claiming that the reason, Columbus ran the ships aground was to prevent the men from ever getting home alive. The told the men that Columbus knew that when he got back to Spain, the King was going to be very unhappy, since they never found the passage to India, and he lost all the ships. The Porra's promised that if they killed Columbus, when the got to Española, Governor Ovando, would congratulate them, and not try them for mutiny, since he hated Columbus. Half of the men at Santa Gloria, joined the mutiny. On the morning of January 2, 1504, Francisco Porras boarded Capitana, were Columbus was at, and demanded that Columbus get them to Spain, or else. Porras, then went out and started yelling that he wanted to go to Castile, and who would join him. At this point, they tried to take control of the ship, but were prevented by Bartholomew Colón, and some others, loyal to the Admiral. 

The mutineers all piled into ten dugouts and took off. They headed east, robbing the natives along the way, telling them to collect payment from Columbus. They went to the most eastern point of Jamaica where they waited for a calm sea to set out towards Española. They set out to sea, and about four leagues out, the water became so rough, that they started throwing things overboard, to help stabilize the canoes. When this was not enough, the even threw the Indian paddlers overboard. The natives that hung on to the side of the canoes, had their hands cut off, so they would let go. Only a few of the Indians were spared, to steer the canoes. They returned to Jamaica, and hung around for a month, making two additional attempts to cross, but all were failures. Finally, the abandoned their canoes, and started walking back to Santa Gloria, abusing the natives as they went.

Meanwhile, at Santa Gloria, all was well, until the natives started bring less food and supplies. They were unhappy with the treatment they were receiving from the mutineers, and were getting even with Columbus, for the action of the Spaniards. At this point, Columbus was aware of a coming eclipse of the moon, that was to occur on the night of February 29, 1504. Columbus warned the natives, that his god was unhappy with them, because they were not bringing food to the Spaniards. The night, when the eclipse was occurring, the natives became scared, and came running with food, and when it was almost over, Columbus ordered it to stop, and the moon reappeared. From that point on, they had no trouble from the natives. Following the eclipse, Columbus was able to calculate, exactly where they were (latitude), by timing the eclipse, and the time of the night.

At the end of March, 1504, they spotted a small caravel, coming from the sea, and she anchored next to the grounded ships. She was not sent from Española to rescue them, but was sent by Ovando to spy on them, and left the same night. The captain, Diego de Escobar, did give the Admiral two casks of wine and a slab of salted pork, with the compliments of the Governor, and a message from Méndez, telling that he had arrived in Española, and would send a boat to pick them up, when one became available. On May 19th, Columbus sent his brother, with 50 armed men to offer war or peace to the mutineers, that were at the Indian village of Maima. Porras decided to fight, and they were beaten by the by Columbus' forces. They killed some of the mutineers and arrested the Porras's, along with his officers. They were chained and locked up, while others were forgiven, when they said they were sorry.

On the two ships sent by Méndez  from Española Columbus and the survivors set out, on June 28, 1504, for Santo Domingo, but met with such adverse winds that they did not arrive At that city until August 13. There, he was greeted by Ovando, who offered his home, for Columbus to stay, but the reception was not warm. Ovando then insulted Columbus, by setting free, all of the mutineers, including the Porra brothers, that were the ring leaders.

The admiral started on his last voyage from the West Indies for Spain on September 12, and, after a stormy passage, dropped anchor in the harbor of San Lúcar on November 7, 1504. Here ended the active life of the High Admiral of the Ocean Sea.

Less than two years later, on Ascension Day, May 20, 1506, with the chains in which he had once returned to Spain in, hanging over his bed in an inn at Valladolid, Christopher Columbus, worn out with disease and heart-broken with disappointment and ingratitude, received the last sacraments of the Church of which he was so loyal a son, and with the pious expression of faith, In manus tuas, Domine, commendo spiritum meum, on his lips, brought to an end his wonderful and glorious career.

Note: The course that is outlined is not the exact course taken by Columbus, but an approximation of it. I just want to give the readers an idea of the general course and the main islands discovered by Columbus on his fourth voyage of discovery. The map below has a more accurate view of his explorations in Panamá.

This map traces Christopher Columbus' trip through Panamá. He firsts lands in Almirante Bay (Oct 6, 1502), On Nov. 24, he arrives at a place he called El Retrete (near Cabo Tiburon). On Dec. 5, he starts back to Veragua. On Jan. 6, 1503 he anchored in Veraguas, at a place he named Nuestra Señora de Belen. On May 1, 1503, he sailed from a place he called Marora, north to Española.

 < 1492

First Voyage
1492 - 1493

Second Voyage
1493 - 1496

Third Voyage
1498 - 1500

Panama History Home

June 21, 2002