Account of Samuel Champlain. Unpublished manuscript dated c. 1603. Narrative of a Voyage to the West Indies and Mexico in the Years 1599-1602. Translated by A. Wilmere. Edited by N. Shaw The Hakluyt Society. Series One, Number 23. London: The Hakluyt Society, 1859.
[At Guadaloupe] … is very mountainous and inhabited by savages … we landed … we returned to our ships after having taken in some water and refreshments, such as cabbages and fruits of pleasant taste (pp. 6-7).
[Island of La Marguerite] The isle is very fertile in corn and fruits (p. 7).
[St. Juan de Porto-rico] very desolate … we found still in the town quantities of sugar, hides, honey of cane [molasses?] and preserves of ginger … The said Island of Porto-rico is pretty agreeable, although it is a little mountainous … it is filled with quantities of fine trees, such as cedars, palms, firs, palmettoes, and another kind of tree which is called sombrade [Ficus americana maxima], from which, as it grows, the tops of its branches, falling to earth, take root immediately, and produce other branches which fall and take root in the same way … It bears no fruit, but is very agreeable, having a leaf like that of a laurel and a little more tender … There are also, in the said island, quantities of good fruits, such as plantes [plantano: a species of banana], oranges, lemons of strange size, ground gourds, which are very good, algarobes [?], pappittes [Curica pappaia or papaw], and a fruit named coraçon [Anona muricata], because it is in the form of a heart, of the size of the fist, and of a yellow and red colour; the skin [is] very delicate, and when it is pressed, it gives out an odoriferous humour; and that which is good in this fruit is like thick milk, and has a taste like sugared cream. There are many other fruits which are not much esteemed, although they are good; there is also a root called cassave which the Indians eat instead of bread. There grows neither corn [i.e. wheat] or wine [vine grapes] in all this island … The best merchandise in the island is sugar, ginger, canifiste, honey of canes, tobacco, quantity of hides of oxen, cows, and sheep (pp. 7-12).
[Island of St. Domingo] is large … very fertile in fruits, cattle, and good merchandise, such as sugar, canifiste, ginger, honey of canes, cotton, hides of oxen, and some furs (p. 17).
[Cayman Islands] I walked about a league inland, through very thick woods, and caught some rabbits … we brought away some very good fruits, and there were such quantities of birds, that at our landing there rose so great a number, that for more than two hours after the air was filled with them: and there were others, which could not fly, so that we took them pretty easily; these are of the size of a goose, the head very large, the beak very wide, low on their legs, the feet like those of a water hen. When these birds are plucked, there is not more flesh on them than on a dove, and it has a very bad taste (pp. 18-19).
The next day, about three o-clock in the afternoon, we arrived at a place called La Sonde … and the sailors cast out their lines to catch fish, of which they took so large a quantity, that they could not find room enough for them on board the ships. This fish is of the size of a dorade, of a red colour, and very good if eaten fresh, for it will not keep, or salt, but becomes putrid shortly (p. 19).
[Eight days afterwards] we arrived at St. Jean de Luz [castle of San Juan d’Ulloa, at the mouth of the Lama river or Rio del Norte] which is the first port of New Spain, where the galleons of the king of Spain go every year to be laden with gold, silver, precious stones, and cochineal, to take to Spain (p. 20).
On the other side of the castle, and about two thousand paces from it, on terra firma, there is a small, but very trading town, called Bouteron. At four leagues from the said Bouteron, there is also another town, named Vera-Crux (p. 21).
[Visit to Mechique: Mexico]; It is impossible to see or desire a more beautiful country than this kingdom of New Spain, which is three hundred leagues in length, and two hundred in breadth … I admired the fine forests, filled with the most beautiful trees that one could wish to see, such as palms, cedars, laurel, orange, and lemon trees. Palmistes, gouiave, accoiates, good Bresil, and Campesche wood … with the quantities of birds of diverse plumage … Next are met large level plains as far as the eye can see, with immense flocks of cattle, such as horses, mules, oxen, cows, sheep, and goats, which have pastures always fresh in every season, there being no winter, but an air very temperate, neither hot nor cold … The land is very fertile, producing corn [wheat] twice in the year, and in as great abundance as can be desired, and, whatever season it may be, there are always very good and fresh fruits on the trees; for when one fruit arrives at maturity, others come, and thus succeed one to the other; and the trees are never devoid of fruit, and are always green. If the king of Spain would permit vines to be planted in this kingdom, they would fructify like the corn; for I have seen grapes produced from a stock which someone had planted for pleasure, of which every grain was as large as a plum, as long as half the thumb, and much better than those of Spain … [then] I beheld that beautiful city of Mechique … there in the said city, twelve thousand to fifteen thousand Spanish inhabitants, and six times as many Indians, who are Christians, dwelling there, besides a great number of negro slaves. This city is surrounded almost on every side by a lake … along [the River of Mechique] in which great quantities of fish are caught … are a great number of fine gardens, and much arable land, very fertile (pp. 22-25).
A great quantity of cochineal is gathered in this country, which grows in the fields as peas do elsewhere. It comes from a fruit the size of a walnut which is full of seeds within [Opuntia cactus] … It is left to come to maturity until the said seeds are dry, and then it is cut like corn and beaten to have the seed … it is the king of Spain alone who has the said cochineal sown and collected (p. 25-26).
There is a tree in the said country which is cut like the vine, and from the place where it is cut there distils an oil, which is a kind of balm, called oil of canima … This is a singular oil for all sorts of wounds and cuts, and for removing pains, principally of gout (p. 26).
There is another tree, which is called cacou, the fruit of which is very good and useful for many things, and even serves for money among the Indians, who give sixty for one [Spanish] real; each fruit is of the size of a pine-seed, and of the same shape; but the shell is not so hard; the older it is the better; and to buy provisions, such as bread, meat, fish, or herbs, this money may serve for five or six objects … When this fruit is desired to be made use of, it is reduced to powder, then a paste is made, which is steeped in hot water, in which honey, which comes from the same tree, is mixed, and a little spice; then the whole being boiled together, it is drunk in the morning, warm, as our sailors drink brandy, and they find themselves so well after having drunk of it, that they can pass a whole day without eating or having great appetite (pp. 26-27).
From the bark of this tree [cacao tree] vinegar is made, as strong as that from wine; and taking the heart of this tree, and pressing it, there comes out very good honey: then drying the pith thus pressed in the sun, it serves to light fires. Moreover, in pressing the leaves of this tree, which are like those of the olive tree, there proceeds from them a juice, of which the Indians make a beverage. This tree is of the size of an olive tree (p. 28).
I have before spoken of a tree which is called gouiave [Psidium], which grows very commonly in this country, and bears a fruit also called Gouiave, of the size of an apple of Capendu [locality in Normandy], of a yellow colour, and the inside like to that of green figs; the juice is pretty good. This fruit has the property, that if a person should have a flux of the belly, and should eat of the said fruit, without the skin, he would be cured in two hours; and on the contrary, if a man be constipated, and eat the skin only, without the inside of the fruit, it would incontinently loosen his bowels, without need of other medicines (p. 28).
There is also another fruit called accoiates [avocado], of the size of large winter pears, very green outside: and when the skin is taken off, a very thick flesh is found, which is eaten with salt, and has the taste of kernels or green walnuts; there is a stone in it, of the size of a walnut, of which the inside is bitter (pp. 28-29).
Also there is a fruit, which is called algarobe, of the size of plums of Apt, and as long as bean-pods; the shell of it is harder than that of cassia, and is of a chestnut colour; a small fruit like a large green bean is found in it, which has a kernel, and is very good (p. 29).
I saw also another fruit called carreau, of the size of a fist [Opuntia cactus fruit]: the skin is very tender, and of an orange colour; the inside is red as blood, and the flesh like that of plums; it stains where it touches, like mulberries: the taste is very good, and it is said to be excellent for curing the bite of venomous creatures (pp. 29-30).
There is also another fruit, which is named serolles [plum], of the size of the plum, very yellow, and has the taste of muscatel pears (p. 30).
I have also spoken of a tree named palmist … the outside is as soft as a cabbage, and the inside full of marrowy-pith, which is very good, and firmer than the rest of the tree: it has the taste of sugar, as sweet, and better. The Indians make a drink of it, mixed with water, which is very good (p. 30).
I saw also another fruit, called cocques, of the size of an Indian nut … when first plucked, this fruit is not good to eat; they let it dry, and make like little cups and bottles of it, as of Indian nuts, which come from the palm (pp. 30-31).
I have spoken of the [coconut] palm [Cocos nucifera] … its fruit, which is called Indian nut grows quite on the top of the tree, and is as large as the head of a man; and there is a thick green bark on the said nut, which bark being removed, the nut is found, about the size of two fists; that which is inside is very good to eat, and has the taste of young walnuts; there comes from it a water, which serves as a cosmetic for the ladies (p. 31).
There is another fruit called ‘plante’ [plantain] … There grows a root from the said tree, on which are a quantity of the plantes each of which is as thick as the arm, and a foot and a half long, of a yellow and green colour, of very good taste, and so wholesome, that a man can eat as much as he likes, without its doing any harm (p. 31).
The Indians use a kind of corn which they call mamaix [maize], which is of the size of a pea, yellow and red: and when they wish to eat it, they take a stone, hollowed like a mortar, and another, round, in the shape of a pestle: and after the said corn has been steeped for an hour, they grind and reduce it to flour in the said stone; then they knead and bake it in this manner. They take a plate of iron, or of stone, which they heat on the fire: and when quite hot, they take their paste, and spread it upon the plate rather thin, like tart-paste; and having thus cooked it, they eat it while hot, for it is good for nothing, cold, or kept (pp. 31-32).
They have also another root, which they name cassave, which they use for making bread: but if anyone should eat of it, unprepared, he would die (p. 32).
There is a gum called copal [Rhus copallinum – used for incense], which proceeds from a tree, which is like the pine-tree: this gum is very good for gout and pains (p. 32).
There is also a root which is named patate [sweet potato; yam], and which they cook like pears at the fire: it has a taste similar to that of chestnuts (p. 32).
In the said country, there are numbers of melons of strange size, which are very good; the flesh is quite orange-colour; and there is another sort, of which the flesh is white, but they are not of such good flavour as the others. There are also quantities of cucumbers, very good; artichokes, good lettuces, like those called with us romaines, cabages, and numerous other kitchen herbs; also pumpkins, which have red flesh, like the melons (pp. 32-33).
There are also apples, which are not very good, and pears, of tolerably good taste, which grow there naturally. I think that if anyone would take the trouble to plant these good fruit trees in our climate, they would succeed very well (p. 33).
Throughout New Spain, there is a kind of snake … at the end of the tail they have a rattle, which makes a noise as they glide along. They are very dangerous with their teeth … nevertheless, the Indians eat them (p. 33).
I have seen a lizard of such strange size [iguana] … their colour is greenish-brown, and greenish-yellow under the belly: they run very fast, and hiss in running…The Indians eat them, and find them very good (pp. 33-34).
I have also many times seen in that country, animals that they call caymans … They live in the lakes and marshes, and in the fresh-water rivers. The Indians eat them (p. 34).
I have also seen tortoises of marvelous size such that two horses would have difficulty in dragging one of them … They are fished in the sea. The flesh of them is very good and resembles beef (pp. 34-35).
There comes from Peru to New Spain a certain kind of sheep [llama or vicuña] which, like horses, carry burthens [sic.] of more than four hundred pounds for days together. They are of the size of an ass; the neck very long, the head middling; the wool very long, and which more resembles hair like that of a goat than wool. They have not horns like our sheep, and are very good to eat, but their flesh is not so delicate as that of our sheep (p. 35).
The country is much peopled with stags and hinds, roe-bucks, wild boars, foxes, hares, rabbits, and other animals which we have in our parts, and from which they are not at all different (p. 35).
There is another small kind of animal like a crawfish, excepting that they have the hinder parts devoid of shell; but they have this property — of seeking the empty shells of snails and lodging therein the part which is uncovered, dragging the shell always after them, and are only to be dislodged by force. The fishermen collect these little beasts in the woods, and make use of them for fishing; and when they wish to catch fish, having taken the little animals from the shell, they attach them by the middle of the body to their lines instead of hooks, then throw them into the sea, and when the fish think to swallow them, they seize the fish with their two powerful claws and will not let them go; and by these means, the fishermen catch fish of the weight even of five or six pounds (p. 36).
The brésil is a tree, very large compared with the ebony tree … [it] bears a kind of nut, which grows to about the size of gall-nuts which come on elm trees (p. 37).
[When the Indians eat, they] place themselves in a circle; those who have anything to eat, bring it, and they put all the provisions together in the midst of them and make the best cheer possible. After they are well satisfied, they all take each other by the hand, and begin dancing with loud and strange cries (pp. 37-38).
All these Indians are of a very melancholy humour, but have nevertheless very quick intelligence (p. 40).
[Cuba] The island, in which are the fort and city of Havanna [sic], is called Cuba, and is very mountainous … Neither corn [wheat] nor wine [grape vines] grows on the said island; that which is consumed [here] comes from New Spain, so that sometimes they are very dear. In this island there are quantities of very good fruits; among others one which is called pines [pineapple], which perfectly resembles in shape the pine cones with us. The skin is removed, then it is cut in half like apples; it has a very good taste, and is very sweet, like sugar. There is abundance of cattle, such as oxen, cows, and pigs, which are better meat than any other in this country, or in all the Indies (pp. 44-45).
[On way to Bermuda] we saw such quantities of flying-fish [Exocetus volitans] that it was marvelous. We took some which fell on board our ship. They have the shape like that of a herring; the fins much larger, and are very good to eat (p. 46).
I have spoken … of the land of Florida; I will also say that it is one of the best lands that can be desired; very fertile if it were cultivated, but the king of Spain does not care for it because there are no mines of gold or silver (p. 47).
[This trip] had occupied, since our leaving the river of Seville, as well on sea as on land, [three] years and two months (p. 48).