Nicholas Weiner ’22: Book XXI, Chapter I (In Which the Route and Coastline of the Mainland Is Discussed and Described)

Book XXI, Chapter I

In which the route and coastline of the Mainland is discussed and described, from the Strait of Ferdinand Magellan to the large and famous river of Panama, also known as the Río de la Plata, coming towards the equinoctial line and our arctic pole from the Antarctic or southern portion.

Translated by Nicholas Weiner ’22

From Cape Vírgenes, which is on the direction of the equinox at the mouth of the Strait of Magellan, coming towards the equinoctial line, it is twenty leagues to the Bay of Santiago; and from there, there are another ten leagues to the river called de la Cruz, in which there is a round island. It is twenty-five leagues from this river to the point of the San Julián river, which is further north, and the land from the tip of this port to the bay is called Sierras Hermosas, and it is twenty leagues from here to the bay they call Los Trabajos. Two rivers flow into this bay alongside an island, and the river closest to us and the equinoctial line is called the Juan Serrano River. He was a talented navigator who was with the aforementioned Captain Magellan on the first voyage as senior navigator, when that famous Strait was discovered. The distance from the promontory of Cape Vírgenes to this river could be eighty leagues, more or less; and it is located a little more than forty-nine degrees from the equinoctial line.

From the Juan Serrano river to Cabo Blanco the coast turns northeast for almost sixty leagues, and this cape is at forty-seven degrees from the equinoctial line, although the navigator Diego Rivera puts it at somewhat less, and the navigator or cosmographer Alonso de Chaves puts it at what is said above. Halfway up these sixty leagues from the coast of the Juan Serrano river to Cabo Blanco, moving southeast forty leagues, there are some offshore islands called the Samson Islands. I do not know the reason for this name; but they are forty-nine and a half degrees, more or less, from the other side of the equinoctial line, and all five islands are in the space of fifteen leagues. From Cabo Blanco the coast turns northeast for twenty leagues to the mouth of a river; the land that is on the side of the cape is called the land of Marcó, and the river is called the Canamor, the mouth of which runs another fifty leagues northeast to the Point or Cape of Santo Domingo, and in front of it there is a cove called the Cobos reef, which is at forty-four and a half degrees from the equinoctial circle on the south side. It is forty leagues from the inlet or reef of Cobos to the Bahía sin Fondo or Bottomless Bay, with the coastline running northeast. There is an island in the middle of the bay, which is forty-three degrees from the South. From the other side of the equinoctial circle, from the aforementioned Bahia sin Fondo to the Barreras Blancas there is a distance of thirty leagues, and they are a little more than forty-one degrees from the other side of the equinoctial circle. Fifty leagues farther down the line is the Anegados Bajos bay, in which bay there is an island thirty-eight and a half degrees from the other side of the equinoctial line. Ten or twelve leagues further is the land they call de los Humos. Thirty leagues further there are the Arenas Gordas, thirty-eight degrees from the other side of the line. Thirty leagues further on is the point of Santa Elena, thirty-seven degrees on the other side of the equinoctial line, from the point of San Julián, which is fifty leagues from there. From this part of the Strait to the point of Santa Elena the coastline runs northeast, and from the point of Santa Elena it runs northeast-due-northeast forty degrees to Cabo Blanco, which is the point of the mouth of the Río Grande de Panamá, or Río de la Plata: this cape is thirty-five and a half degrees from the other side of the equinoctial circle; and the other end of the mouth towards the side of the bay is called Cape Santa María, which is thirty-four and a half degrees from the other side of the equinoctial circle, in front of which is a round island, which is called the island of Cobos. From Cabo Blanco to the cape of Santa María the coastline runs northeast-southeast for twenty leagues of latitude or width, according to modern charts, and many eyewitnesses, and well-known persons, and friends who have been there, by whom I have been informed, say the same. The river is a large and notable thing in the cosmography, and about it, its provinces and governorate there is a detailed description ahead, in Book XXIII of this second part. Note, reader, that from the famous Strait of Magellan and Cape Vírgenes to Río Grande de la Plata, I have given you information, and confirmed the ports and rivers and seas and main bays in the five hundred and twenty-five leagues of coastline, more or less.

Image retrieved from John Carter Brown Library at Brown University