FAQs about Hurricanes

15. What is the first story of a hurricane?

Christopher Columbus, in the troubled return of his first voyage, in which he suffered two weeks of severe storms and severe dangers, describes in the logbook, that on Monday, February 18, 1493, at dawn, they could approach the island of Santa Maria of the Azores. He cast anchor and sent a boat ashore. When their sailors contacted the people, they told them that they had never seen such a storm as the last fifteen days and were amazed how the caravel “La Niña” had escaped from a hopeless sinking. They thanked God and said that they were very happy, for they do not know how they were aware that the Admiral had arrived on a new route to the Indies.

Columbus never named the word hurricane, but in a narration of Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, on the fourth voyage of Columbus, in 1502, when he had already lost the favor of the kings, in addition to expressly forbidden to enter Santo Domingo, he narrates a storm that could not be anything but a powerful hurricane, although the friar does not use the name “hurricane”. The Admiral, seeing that he was not allowed to enter port, and knowing that the 31 ships that Ovando had brought had been about to leave, he sends to advice to new governor not to let them out in the next eight days, that there would be a huge storm. But no one believed his words, “the sailors and pilots, some made fun of it and perhaps of him; others had him as a fortuneteller; others mocking, by prophet … “. Ignoring that, they embarked: “Commander Bobadilla and many other people … they also put there onehundred thousand “castellanos” of gold of the king (…) and another hundred thousand of the passengers (…), these two hundred thousand pesos more were estimated, according to the shortage that there was money then in Spain (…). So at the beginning of July, our fleet of 30 or 31 ships (…) and from 30 or 40 hours came so strange a storm and so angry that many years ago there were men in the sea of Spain or other seas, so much nor so sad nor had they experienced. The twenty sailboats perished with them, without man, boy or great of them escaping, neither alive nor dead was found. There was the end of Commander Bobadilla (…), there sank all that 200 thousand pesos of gold (…) “. The gigantic storm, in addition to damage to the fleet, destroyed the fragile buildings of the city of Santo Domingo. Due to this, among the first steps of Ovando would be the transfer of the city to the other shore of the Ozama river and the construction of more solid buildings, wider streets and better traced.

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