Discovery Of New York Harbor By Verazzano (1524)
VERAZZANO'S OWN ACCOUNT
Having remained in this place three days, anchored off the coast, we decided on account of the scareity of ports to departs always skirting the shore, which we baptized Arcadia on account of the beauty of the trees. In Arcadia we found a man who came to the shore to see what people we were: who stood hesitating and ready to fight. Wathcing us, he did not permit himself to be approached. He was handsome, nude, with hair fastened back in a knot, of olive color.
We were about XX [in number], ashore, and evading him, he approached to within about two fathoms, showing a burning stick as if to offer us fire. And we made fire with powder and flint and steel, and he trembled all over with terror, and we fired a shot. He stopt as if astonished, and prayed, worshiping like a monk, lifting his finger toward the sky, and pointing to the ship and the sea he appeared to bless us.
Toward the north and east, navigating by daylight and casting anchor at night, we followed a coast very green with forests, but without ports, and with some charming promontories and small rivers. We baptized the coast "di Lorenna" on account of the Cardinal; the first promontory "Lanzone," the second "Bonivetto," the largest river "Vandoma" and a small mountain which stands by the sea "di S. Polo" on account of the count.
At the end of a hundred leagues we found a very agreeable situation located within two small prominent hills, in the midst of which flowed to the sea a very great river, which was deep within the mouth; and from the sea to the hills of that [place] with the rising of the tides, which we found eight feet, any laden ship might have passed. On account of being anchored off the coast in good shelter, we did not wish to adventure in without knowledge of the entrances. We were with the small boat, entering the said river.
To the land, which we found much populated. The people, almost like the others, clothed with the feathers of birds of various colors, came toward us joyfully, uttering very great exclamations of admiration, showing us where we could land with the boat more safely. We entered said river, within the land, about half a league, where we saw it made a very beautiful lake with a circuit of about three leagues; through which they [the Indians] went, going from one and another part to the number of XXX of their little barges, with innumerable people, who passed from one shore and the other in order to see us. In an instant, as is wont to happen in navigation, a gale of unfavorable wind blowing in from the sea, we were forced to return to the ship, leaving the said land with much regret because of its commodiousness and beauty, thinking it was not without some properties of value, all of its hills showing indications of minerals. Acre called it Angoleme from the principality which thou attainedst in lesser fortune, and the bay which that land makes called Santa Margarita ' from the name of thy sister who vanquished the other matrons of modesty and art.
The anchor raised, sailing toward the east, as thus the land turned, having traveled LXXX leagues always in sight of it, we discovered an island triangular in form, distant ten leagues from the continent, in size like the island of Rhodes, full of hills, covered with trees, much populated [judging] by the continuous fires along all the surrounding shore which we saw they made. We baptized it Aloysia, in the name of your most illustrious mother; not anchoring there on account of the unfavorableness of the weather.
We came to another land, distant from the island XV leagues, where we found a very beautiful port," and before we entered it, we saw about XX barges of the people who came with various cries of wonder round about the ship. Not approaching nearer than fifty paces, they halted, looking at the edifice [i.e., the ship], our figures and clothes; then all together they uttered a loud shout, signifying that they were glad. Having reassured them somewhat, imitating their gestures, they came so near that we threw them some little bells and mirrors and many trinkets having taken which, regarding them with laughter, they entered the ship confidently. There were among them two Kings, of as good stature and form as it would be possible to tell; the first of about XXXX years, the other a young man of XXIIII years, the clothing of whom was thus: the older had on his nude body a skin of a stag, artificially adorned like a damask with various embroideries; the head bare, the hair turned back with various bands, at the neck a broad chain ornamented with many stones of diverse colors. The young man was almost in the same style.
This is the most beautiful people and the most civilized in customs that we have found in this navigation. They excel us in size; they are of bronze color, some inclining more to whiteness, others to tawny color; the face sharply cut, the hair long and black, upon which they bestow the greatest study in adorning it; the eyes black and alert, the bearing kind and gentle, imitating much the ancient [manner]. Of the other parts of the body I will not speak to Your Majesty, having all the proportions whieh belong to every well-built man. Their women are of the same beauty and charm; very graceful; of comely mien and agreeable aspect; of habits and behavior as much according to womanly custom as pertains to human nature; they go nude with only one skin self the stag embroidered like the men, and some wear on the arms very rich skins of the lynx; the head bare, with various arrangements of braids, composed of their own hair, which hang on one side and the other of the breast. Some use other hairarrangements like the women of Egypt and of Syria use, and these are they who are advanced in age and are joined in wedlock.
They have in the ears various pendant trinkets as the orientals are accustomed to have, the men like the women among which we saw many plates wrought from copper, by whom it is prized more than gold; which, on account of its color, they do not esteem; wherefore among all it is held by them more worthless; on the other hand rating blue and red above any other. That which they were given by us which they most valued were little bells, blue crystals and other trinkets to place in the ears and on the neck. They did not prize cloth of silk and of gold, nor even of other kind, nor did they care to have them; likewise with metals like steel and iron; for many times showing them our arms they did not conceive admiration for them nor ask for them, only examining the workmanship. They did the same with the mirrors; suddenly looking at them, they refused them, laughing. They are very liberal, so much so that all which they have they give away. We formed a great friendship with them, and one day, before we had entered with the ship in the port, remaining on account of the unfavorable weather conditions anchored a league at sea, they came in great numbers in their little barges to the ship, having painted and decked the face with various colors, showing to us it was evidence of good feeling, bringing to us of their food, signaling to us where for the safety of the ship we ought to anchor in the port, continually accompanying us until we cast anchor there.
In which we remained XV days, supplying ourselves with many necessities; where every day the people eame to see us at the ship, bringing their women, of whom they are very careful; because, entering the ship themselves, remaining a long time, they made their women stay in the barges, and however many entreaties we made them, offering to give them various things, it was not possible that they would allow them to enter the ship. And one of the two Kings coming many times with the Queen and many attendants through their desire to see us, at first always stopt on a land distant from us two hundred paces, sending a boat to inform us of their coming, saying they wished to come to see the ship; doing this for a kind of safety.
And when they had the response from us, they came quickly, and having stood awhile to look, hearing the noisy clamor of the sailor crowd, sent the Queen with her damsels in a very light barge to stay on a little island distant from us a quarter of a league; himself remaining a very long time, discoursing by signs and gestures of various fanciful ideas, examining all the equiment of the ship, asking especially their purpose, imitating our manners, tasting our foods, then parted from us benignantly. And one time, our people remaining two or three days on a little island near the ship for various necessities as is the custom of sailors, he came with seven or eight of his attendants, watching our operations, asking many times if we wished to remain there or a long time, offering us his every help. Then, shooting with the bow, running, he performed with his attendants various games to give us pleasure.
Many times we were from five to six leagues inland, which we found as pleasing as it can be to narrate, adapted to every kind of cultivation—grain, wine, oil. Because in that place the fieids are from XXV to XXX leagues wide, open and devoid of every impediment of trees, of such fertility that any seed in them would produce the best crops. Entering then into the woods, all of which are penetrable by any numerous army in any way whatsoever, and whose trees, oaks, cypresses, and others are unknown in our Europe. We found Lucallian apples, plums, and filberts, and many kinds of fruits different from ours. Animals there are in very great number, stags, deer, lynx, and other species, whieh, in the way of the others, they capture with snares and bows, which are their principal arms. The arrows of whom are worked with great beauty, placing at the end, instead of iron, emery, Jasper, hard marble, and other sharp stones, by which they served themselves instead of iron in cutting trees, making their barges from a single trunk of a tree, hollowed with wonderful skill, in which from fourteen to XV men will go comfortably; the short oar, broad at the end, working it solely with the strength of the arms at sea without any peril, with as much speed as pleases them.
Going further, we saw their habitations, circular in form, of XIIII to XV paces compass, made from semi-circles of wood [i.e., arched saplings, bent in the form of an arbor], separated one from the other, without system of architecture, covered with mats of straw ingeniously worked, which protect them from rain and wind. There is no doubt that if they had the perfection of the arts we have, they would build magnificent edifices, for all the maritime coast is full of blue rocks, crystals and alabaster; and for such cause is full of ports and shelters for ships. They change said houses from one place to another according to the opulence of the site and the season in which they live. Carrying away only the mats, immediately they have other habitations made. There live in eaeh a father and family to a very large number, so that in some we saw XXV and XXX souls. Their food is like the others of pulse (which they produce with more system of culture than the others, observing the full moon, the rising of the Pleiades, and many customs derived from the ancients), also of the chase and fish. They live a long time and rarely incur illness; if they are opprest with wounds
without crying they cure themselves by themselves with fire, their end being of old age. We judge they are very compassionate and charitable toward their relatives, making them great lamentations in their adversities, in their grief calling to mind all their good fortunes. The relatives, one with another, at the end of their life use the Sicilian lamentation, mingled with singing lasting a long time. This is as much as we were able to learn about them.
The land is situated in the parallel of Rome, in forty and two-thirds degrees, but somewhat colder on account of chance and not on account of nature, as I will narrate to Your Majesty in another part, describing at present the situation of said port. The shore of said land runs from west to east. The mouth of the port looks toward the south, half a league wide, after entering which between east and north it extends XII leagues, where, widening itself, it makes an ample bay of about XX leagues in circuit. In which are five little islands of much fertility and beauty, full of high and spreading trees, among which any numerous fleet, without fear of tempest or other impediment of fortune, could rest securely. Turning thence toward the south to the entrance of the port, on one side and the other are very charming hills with many brooks, which from the height to the sea discharge clear waters, which on account of its beauty we called "Refugio."
In the midst of the mouth is found a rock of Petra Viva produced by nature, adapted for the building of any desired engine or bulwark for its protection, which on account of the nature of the stone and on account of the family of a gentlewoman we ealled " La Petra Viva "; on whose right side at said mouth of the port is a promontory which we ealled " Jovio Promontory. "Being supplied with our every necessity, the 6th day of May we departed from said port, following the shore, never losing sight of the land. We sailed one hundred and fifty leagues, within which space we found shoals which extend from the continent into the sea 50 leagues. Upon which there was over three feet of water; on account of which great danger in navigating it, we survived with difficulty and baptized it "Armellini, " finding it of the same nature and somewhat higher with some mountains, with a high promontory which we named "Pallavisino,"~~ which all indicated minerals. We did not stop there because the favorableness of the weather served us in sailing along the coast: we think it must conform to the other. The shore ran to the east.
In the space of fifty leagues, holding more to the north, we found a high land full of very thick forests, the trees of which were pines, cypresses and such as grow in cold regions. The people all different from the others, and as much as those passed were of cultivated mariners, these were full of uncouthness and vices, so barbarous that we were never able, with howsoever many signs we made them, to have any intercourse with them. They dress with the skins of bear, lynxes, sea-wolves, and other animals. The food, according to that which we were able to learn through going many times to their habitations, we think is of the chase, fish, and some products which are of a species of roots which the ground yields by its own self. They do not have pulse, nor did we see any signof cultivation, nor would the ground, on account of its sterility, be adapted to produce fruit or any grain. If, trading at any time with them, we desired their things, they came to the shore of the sea upon some rock where it was very steep, and— we remaining in the small boat—with a cord let down to us what they wished to give, continually crying on land that we should not approach, giving quickly the barter, not taking in exchange for it except knives, hooks for fishing, and sharp metal. They had no regard for courtesy, and when they had nothing more to exchange, at their departing the men made at us all the signs of contempt and shame which any brute creature could make. Contrary to their wish, XXV armed men of us were inland two and three leagues, and when we descended to the shore they shot at us with their bows, sending forth the greatest cries, then fled into the woods. We do not know any value of any moment in this land, except the very great forests, with some hills which possibly have some metal, beeause on many [natives] we saw "paternosters " of copper in the ears.
We departed, skirting the coast between east and north, which we found very beautiful open and bare of forests, with high mountains back inland, growing smaller toward the shore of the sea. In fifty leagues we discovered XXXII islands, among which we called the three larger "The Three Daughters of Navarra," all near to the continent, small and of pleasing appearance, high, following the curving of the land, among which were formed most beautiful ports and channels, as are formed in the Adriatic Gulf, in the Illyrias, and Dalmatia. We had no intercourse with the peoples and think they were, like the others, devoid of morals and culture.
Navigating between east-southeast and northnortheast, in the space of CL leagues, we came near the land whieh the Britons found in the past, by the Cabots,8 which stands in fifty degrees and having consumed all our naval stores and victuals, having discovered six hundred leagues and more of new land, furnishing ourselves with water and wood, we decided to turn toward France.
As early as the reign of Edward III, sailors from Genoa and other foreign ports had served in the English navy. The increasing confusions of Italy after the French invasion naturally tempted her seamen to transfer their skill to the rising powers of western Europe. Among such emigrants was John Cabot, a Venetian, who settled in Bristol, and then, after a return to his own country, again revisited his adopted city. Of his earlier history and personal character we know nothing. Our own records furnish nothing but the scanty outlines of his career, and the one glimpse of light which is thrown upon the living man is due to a lately discovered letter from his countryman, the Venetian ambassador.