The following map shows the route Columbus took on his second voyage between September 1493 and June 1496.
It was on this second voyage that he came across Jamaica, on Monday, May 5, 1494.
Columbus Gets Introduced to Jamaica During his First Voyage
Columbus was first introduced to Jamaica’s existence during his first voyage when he made his first landing on the island of Hispaniola.
On Sunday, January 6, 1493, Columbus included the following in his journal entry for that day:
He [The Admiral] also says that he knew of another great island, to the south of the island of Juana, in which there is more gold than in this island, so that they collect it in bits the size of beans, while in Espanola they find the pieces the size of grains of wheat. They call that island Yamaye.
“Yamaye” being referred to here is Jamaica. This information was conveyed to Columbus by the Admiral of the crew, who gathered the intelligence from the Tainos.
Columbus left Hispaniola and returned to Spain a hero in March 1493.
Columbus Journeys to Jamaica
Columbus returned to Hispaniola in 1493 to begin his second voyage in the Caribbean. From Hispaniola he sailed to Cuba, then referred to as Juana, where he again learnt of Jamaica’s existence. The Indians there described Jamaica as the source of “the blessed gold,” which grabbed Columbus’ attention to try and locate the island as quickly as possible.
He set sail for Jamaica on May 3, 1494 and landed at St. Ann’s Bay on May 5, 1494.
The following is an account of the Spaniards’ first introduction to Jamaica, written by Andrés Bernáldez:
And the island is the most lovely that eyes have seen. It is not mountainous, and the country seems to rise towards the sky. It is very large, greater than Sicily, having a circumference of eight hundred leagues – I mean, miles – ad all full of valleys and fields and plains. It is a very mighty land, and beyond measure populous, so that even on the sea-shore as well as inland, every part is filled with villages and those very large and very near one another, at four leagues’ distance. They have more canoes than in any other part of those regions, and the largest that have yet been seen, all, as has been said, made each from a single tree trunk. In all those parts, every cacique has a great canoe, of which he is proud, and which is for his service, as here a caballero prides himself on possessing a great and beautiful ship. So they have them decorated at the bow and stern with metal bands and with paintings, so that their beauty is wonderful. One of these large canoes which the admiral measured was ninety-six feet long and eight feet broad.
Columbus was now in Jamaica. But what was the reception like from the Tainos to his arrival/intrusion? Find out when we next take a tour of the Discovery of Jamaica.
Black, Clinton V. (1983) History of Jamaica. UK: Longman Caribbean Publishing.
Bourne, E.G. (1906) The Northmen, Columbus and Cabot 985-1503. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons.
Jane, Cecil (1929), Select Documents Illustrating the Four Voyages of Columbus.Vol. 1. London: The Hakluyt Society.