Narrative of the Third Voyage, 1498-1500 (Excerpt)

Christopher Columbus

I have always read that the world comprising the land and the water was spherical, and the recorded experiences of Ptolemy and all others have proved this by the eclipses of the moon and other observations made from East to West, as well as the elevation of the Pole from North to South. But as I have already described, I have now seen so much irregularity, that I have come to another conclusion respecting the Earth, namely, that it is not round as they describe, but of the form of a pear, which is very round except where the stalk grows, at which part it is most prominent; or like a round ball upon part of which is a prominence like a woman’s nipple, this protrusion being the highest and nearest the sky, situated under the equinoctial line, and at the eastern extremity of this sea. . . .

Ptolemy and the other philosophers who have written upon the globe thought that it was spherical, believing that this [western] hemisphere was round as well as that in which they themselves dwelt, the centre of which was in the island of Arin, which is under the equinoctial line between the Arabian Gulf and the Gulf of Persia; and the circle passes over Cape St. Vincent in Portugal westward, and eastward by Cangara and the Seras;—in which hemisphere I make no difficulty as to its being a perfect sphere as they describe; but this western half of the world I maintain is like half of a very round pear, having a raised projection for the stalk, as I have already described, or like a woman’s nipple on a round ball. Ptolemy and the others who have written on the globe had no information respecting this part of the world, which was then unexplored; they only established their own hemisphere, which, as I have already said, is half of a perfect sphere. And now that your Highnesses have commissioned me to make this voyage of discovery, the truths which I have stated are evidently proved, because in this voyage, when I was off the island of Hargin and its vicinity, which is twenty degrees to the North of the equinoctial line, I found the people black and the land very much burnt; and when after that I went to the Cape Verde Islands I found the people there very much darker still, and the more southward we went, the more they approach the extreme of blackness; so that when I reached the parallel of Sierra Leone, where, as night came on, the North star rose five degrees, the people there were excessively black, and as I sailed westward the heat became extreme. But after I had passed the meridian or line which I have already described, I found the climate became gradually more temperate; so that when I reached the island of Trinidad, where the North star rose five degrees as night came on, there, and in the land of Gracia, I found the temperature exceedingly mild; the fields and the foliage likewise were remarkably fresh and green, and as beautiful as the gardens of Valencia in April. The people there are very graceful in form, less dark than those whom I had before seen in the Indies, and wear their hair long and smooth; they are also more shrewd, intelligent, and courageous. The sun was then in the sign of Virgo over our heads and theirs; therefore all this must proceed from the extreme blandness of the temperature, which arises, as I have said, from this country being the most elevated in the world and the nearest to the sky. On these grounds, therefore, I affirm that the globe is not spherical, but that there is the difference in its form which I have described; the which is to be found in this hemisphere at the point where the Indies meet the ocean, the extremity of the hemisphere being below the equinoctial line. And a great confirmation of this is, that when our Lord made the sun, the first light appeared in the first point of the East, where the most elevated point of the globe is.