Book VI, Chapter XIII
About a hot spring that flows under a sweet, cold river on the Island of Dominica: something the author has experienced, having been there twice, where he saw what this chapter describes.
Translated by Meredith (Annie) Trentman ’22
Well, we have moved off the subject, and now I want to bring to the reader’s memory another spring, which many people happen to pass by and pass over without seeing. Thus, it is invisible but can be touched, and it lies on the island of Dominica; I do not attest to this from learning it from any other author, but from my own experience, which is as follows. I have said elsewhere that the island of Dominica, located at a distance of fourteen degrees from the Equator towards the Arctic pole, is inhabited by the Carib Indians, and in the western part of the island there is a good bay and a very good river that is called Aguada, where most of the ships that arrive to this island of Hispaniola from Castile get water; they do this with great caution and guns in hand, because of the fierce Carib Indians to be found on the island. I was on the island for two and a half days and slept two nights by this river I mentioned in the year 1514, when the fleet bringing Governor Pedrarias Dávila and two thousand men or more on its way to the Mainland stopped there: after this, in the year 1526, I was again in the same port on the Aguada river and spent nearly an entire day on land, when governor Pedro de los Ríos, Pedrarias’s successor in the governorate of Castilla del Oro, came to the Mainland; and both times I saw and experienced what I will now describe. This river, where it enters the sea, is twenty paces across, slightly more or less, at its widest, and at its deepest part, which is there at the mouth, the water does not reach a man’s armpits; and near the coast or land to the northern part it is so hot under the water that putting one’s hand under and taking a fistful of sand, it’s as if one takes a handful of embers or burning ash, so hot that it cannot be borne. And so the water is very hot a span or a bit more above the sand; the other water that the river brings through is fresh and good, the most pleasant drinking water, like the waters in all of these Indies. So there must be some stream or spring of hot water there: this I very much believe, because up to three hundred steps or fewer from there, on the same coast and to the northern side, is a stream so hot its water cannot be drunk; near that is a pond or lake that has become so murky and cloudy it looks the color of a yellow raisin: these waters must be must a source of sulfur and ferrous sulfate, and they can be surmised to be where all the hot waters come from. I experimented by placing a well-capped gourd under the cold river, uncapping it where I felt the heat and hot sand in order to collect some of that hot water, and recapped it down below so it didn’t mix with cold water as I brought it up, and it came out so hot that it could not be brought to the lips. And it was quite easy to experience what I describe because it is found right off the riverbanks, where the water is no deeper than a little above the knee. This river is golden, I confirmed this the last time I was there and found small grains of gold, so it’s thought that it must be very rich. It belongs to un-conquered people and the island’s terrain is very rough; it is densely covered by trees and palms from what I have seen and perceived of it from the coast; but as I have said, we will speak much more about these springs in the books and parts dealings with matters found on the Mainland.
Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University