The Log

I’ve been trying to write this for three days, but the words have been elusive.

It’s not writer’s block, or even blighter’s rock, but merely lack of that effervescent potion—time. When everything presses down, time just sublimates. As if on cue, my computer suddenly shut down, demonstrating that when the gods are stacked against you, the only recourse is to stick to your guns.

My plan was to travel to Baiona this weekend, but that never happened—too many other things to do, so my trip to the town where Martin Pinzon docked fell by the wayside. There’s a mock-up of the Pinta in the harbor, but I doubt it has a lot to see.

The fact is Pinzon’s return is scarcely documented—he got to Spain before Columbus, whose landing in Portugal generated much nonsense about the admiral’s service to the Portuguese crown. Pinzon was half dead when he landed, and by the time he arrived in Palos he had only days to live.

The courtyard of Pinzon's house in Palos de la Frontera.

The courtyard of Pinzon’s house in Palos de la Frontera.

I’m not even sure whether Pinzon sailed from Baiona to Palos, or whether he traveled overland. My gut feeling is the former, because the crew would have wanted to bring the ship home—after all the owner was aboard—and yet there’s no mention of the caravel returning to Andalucia.

I have visions of a dying man being transported on a cart down the rickety and winding roads of Castille, south into the Extremadura, and finally into Andalucia. But there’s a large book on my nightstand, written by a ‘Catedrático’ from Seville, a history of the Pinzon brothers, and maybe that holds the key.

However, it’s odd that in the house of the celebrated mariner, now turned into a museum, there’s absolutely no mention of the ship’s return—not a single painting of Martin, whereas Columbus has been the object of much brushwork. The museum shows a purposeful-looking man, with the long hair and cap typical of the period,  but it emphasizes that this is a mere artist’s impression.

The only known image of Martin Alonso Pinzon. There are no actual portraits of either Martin or his younger brother Vicente Yanez.

The only known image of Martin Alonso Pinzon. There are no actual portraits of either Martin or his younger brother Vicente Yanez.

No log book, no chronicle—most bizarre. The only log, delivered by Columbus, is a messy document, when compared to the diary of Álvaro Velho, who described Vasco da Gama’s journey to India with great accuracy.

Pinzon was a pirate, contrary to what modern-day Spanish history would have you think. As a consequence, a ship’s diary seems improbable, particularly given the deteriorating health of the captain.

Nevertheless, it is strange that the Pinta’s return from the Caribbean, after its separation from the Nina, should be completely undocumented. This is particularly odd given the ‘pleitos colombinos’, a string of lawsuits that presented evidence that Pinzon, and not Columbus, was the true discoverer of the indies.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

Atmos Fear and The India Road. Quick links for smartphones and tablets.

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