1588 - Cavendish (E)
I, Captain Thomas Cavendish
Commander of the Desire
was fortunate to fall in with the Spanish ship Santa Anna
on the last stage of our voyage around the world.
Out of her we took a vast treasure, then, before burning her,
we put ashore all men and women,
except the pilot whom I had the foresight to take with us.
This made it possible for us
to find the way to the small and isolated island of St. Helena
and, in doing so, reveal to all
what had been a closely kept secret of the Portuguese.
We stayed at the island for twelve days
and found there many fine buildings
one of which was a church
tiled and whitened on the outside
and with many pictures and images within.
On each side of the church there were houses with flat roofs
on which there grew vine
and through both of these houses
there runs a stream of sweet, fresh water.
A fair road, made up with stones,
reached onto a valley, the largest and finest low plot of all the island
where grew many pumpkins and melons
and was planted all over with marvellous sweet fruit trees and herbs.
There were fig trees with a fabulous plentitude of fruit
for they bear continually,
on every tree there being blossoms, green figs and ripe figs, all at once,
because the island stands so near the sun.
We saw also many lemon, orange and other trees,
that bore fruit as the fig did
and which had between them very pleasantly shaded walks.
And the stream of fresh water runs all through the valley .
The mountains and valleys are laboursome and dangerous
because of the highness and steepness of them
and there were many partridges
which were tame and in no real haste to fly away
but only ran into the cliffs.
They differed much from our partridges in England,
in bigness and in colour
for they were ash coloured, as big as a hen and lived in coveys of twelve or more.
Likewise there were pheasants
surpassing in bigness and fatness those in our country.
We found, too, Guinea fowl, which we call turkeys,
of black and white colour with red heads,
of much the same bigness as ours.
There were also on this island
a multitude of goats, which the Spanish call cabritos,
which were very wild and could be seen
in groups of one or two hundred together,
big as asses, manes like horses
and with beards hanging down to the ground.
Sometimes one saw them in herds, almost a mile long,
climbing the steep cliffs that man would think
a thing impossible for any living thing to do.
There were, too, many fat, wild swine of a wonderful bigness
that stayed together upon the mountains
and suffered no man to come upon them,
except by chance when they were asleep
or laid in the mire, in the way of their kind.
And the water is good, falling in great abundance from the mountains
by small channels into the sea, and in the sea,
it teemed with fishes of all sorts
which, when taken with a crooked nail, hung up and dried
was of such good taste and flavour as any fish I’ve ever tried.
We learned from a Javanese slave
that the East Indian fleet, five in number,
all laden with spices and Calicot cloth
and stores of treasoure of rich stones and pearls
were gone from the island,
where they find all things in plenty for their relief,
but twenty days and
we found on the island no Portuguese
except some very sick persons of their company,
whom they suspected would not live to reach home,
whom they left to refresh themselves
till the next year, should they live that long.
Having taken on wood and water
and such good things as we’d found
we cleaned our ship and set sail toward England.