The First Voyage Log

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Columbus's log of the first voyage has not survived, although we do have a good abstract of it, written in the 1530's by Bartolome de las Casas. (The best English version of this work is Dunn & Kelley's 1989 transcription: see the bibliography. An earlier translation of the entire log can be found here.)

On the westward passage, Columbus kept two sets of distance figures in the log. According to Las Casas, this was done to allay the fears of the crew that they had sailed too far from Spain. In 1983, James E. Kelley suggested that the real reason for the two sets of figures was that Columbus was converting between Italian Leagues (of 2.67 nautical miles) and Portuguese Maritime Leagues (of 3.19 nautical miles). The two league measures differ by a ratio of 6-to-5, and it is significant that the two league figures in the log tend to cluster around just this ratio. In the table below, these two figures are listed as True and Reported leagues. I have also included my own corrections to Las Casas, listed as Reconstructed. The reason for these reconstructions can be found in my paper on Columbus and longitude.

The eastward passage below is based on a reconstruction by James E. Kelley, Jr., but with some corrections of my own.

The Westbound Passage, 1492
Date 'True' Lgs. 'Reported' Lgs. Reconstructed Lgs. Course
8-Sep 9 9 W
9-Sep 15 day 18
30 night 36 W by N
10-Sep 60 48 60 assumed W
11-Sep 20 24 W
20 16 20
12-Sep 33 less 33
13-Sep 33 29 33 W
14-Sep 20 less 20
15-Sep 27 32 W
16-Sep 39 36 39 W
17-Sep 50 47 50 W
18-Sep 55 48 55
19-Sep 25 22 25
20-Sep 7 or 8 9 W by N, WNW
21-Sep 13 16
22-Sep 30 36 WNW
23-Sep 27 32 NW
24-Sep 14.5 12 14.5 W
25-Sep 21 13 21 SW by W
26-Sep 31 24 31 W
27-Sep 24 20 24 W
28-Sep 14 13 14 W
29-Sep 24 21 24 W
30-Sep 14 11 14 W
1-Oct 25 20 25 W
2-Oct 39 30 39 W
3-Oct 47 40 47
4-Oct 63 46 63 W
5-Oct 57 45 57
6-Oct 40 33 40 W
7-Oct 23 day 18 23 W
5 night 5 WSW
8-Oct 11.5 or 12 11.75 WSW
9-Oct 11 day 11 W by S
20.5 night 17 20.5 W by N
10-Oct 59 44 59 WSW
11-Oct 27 day 27 WSW
22.5 night 22.5 W
2 to island 2
Totals: 1108.75 1142.25

A summary of the log during his explorations of the West Indies can be found in the section dealing with landfall clues.

The table below is adapted from "An analysis of the Homebound Leg of Columbus's First Voyage to America," copyright 1992 by James E. Kelley, Jr. and used by permission. Kelley's paper is item number KLWP890908 in The Working Papers of the Columbus Round Robin, compiled by David Henige and James E. Kelley, Jr., 1993 [Three reels of microfilm with introduction and index. Madison: University of Wisconsin Libraries, $45]. All distances are given in leagues.

The Eastbound Passage, 1493
Date Reconstructed Lgs. Course
16-Jan 2 E by S
14 E by N
2 SE
12 NE by E
17-Jan 7 NE by E
10 NE by E
4 NE by E
11 E
18-Jan 10 E by S
7.5 ESE
15 N by E
19-Jan 14 N by E
16 NE by N
10 NE
11 NE by N
20-Jan 5 NE
2.8 SE
9 NNE
21-Jan 13 N by E
13 NNE
21 NNE 1/2 E
22-Jan 8 NNE
4.5 N by E
3 NE
7 ENE
8 ENE
23-Jan 21 NE by N
7.5 NE
7.5 ENE
24-Jan 11 NE
14 ENE
25-Jan 9.5 ENE
6 NNE
7 ENE
26-Jan 14 E by S
10 SE by E
6 N
27-Jan 16.5 NNE 1/4 N
6 NE
3 ENE
28-Jan 9 ENE
5 ENE
29-Jan 9.8 ENE
8 ENE
30-Jan 7 ENE
13.5 N by E
31-Jan 7.5 N by E
8.8 NE
13.5 ENE
1-Feb 10.5 ENE
29.3 ENE
2-Feb 10 ENE
19.3 ENE
3-Feb 29 ENE
27.5 ENE
4-Feb 32.5 E by N
19.3 E
5-Feb 13.5 E
27.5 E
6-Feb 35.8 E
38.5 E
7-Feb 32.5 E
22 E
8-Feb 3 E
9 E by S
6.8 SSE
6.8 SSE
9-Feb 3 SSE
16 S by E
5 NE
9 E
10-Feb 32.5 E
24.8 E
11-Feb 39 E
16.5 E
12-Feb 19.5 E
11.5 E
13-Feb 6 E
7 E
13.8 E
14-Feb 5 NE by E
8 NE by E
7.5 NNE 1/2 E
2.5 NE
15-Feb 13 ENE
Total: 1072.8
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