Lockdown Diaries II, Day 2: Written Like A Ship’s Log

Today’s lockdown diary entry takes a ship’s log as inspiration. (We’ve got to have some variety!)

Date: Fri, 6 November 2020
Location: 51°30’35” N, 0°7’5” W
Course: Uncertain, subject to wind direction
Speed: Drifting without power
Weather Conditions: Major depression over the British Isles

0900 Underway. Visiting heads. 0915 Crew exercise (daily walk on deck). 0940 Changing course to galley. 1000 Changing course to captain’s cabin, attending to paperwork. 1120 Taking call from friendly ship, anchored in nearby waters under a quarantine flag (epidemic on board). Offered to help with logistics and distance training, which was gratefully accepted. 1300 working lunch, followed by galley duty in the absence of lower ranked crew (participating in training off ship).

Empty shelves in Sainsbury’s 6 November 2020 (London)

1400 Underway to the nearby island of Sainsbury’s to procure some luxury provisions (Coke) which was not delivered by our supply ship this morning.  1425 Landed at Sainsbury’s. Island already stripped of most things edible or useful. 1430 Suffered a surprise physical attack by an uncivilised and hostile native; escaped without injuries but with a bruised spirit. 1435 Successfully evacuated Sainsbury’s in the company of one 6-pack Coke cans without further incidents. Arriving on board ship at 1500, informing crew that local natives are now on the war path.

1530 Contacting admiralty to investigate whether Admiral B. Johnson has the slightest idea where we’re supposed to be heading. All information classified; much gossip from the admiralty offices but no facts. Suspect admiral hasn’t got the slightest f***ing clue. The admiralty is not aware of any supply  shortages, nor that this has resulted in local middle class tribes becoming aggressive…  

And now we’re handing over to Christopher Columbus whose encounter with the natives on this day in 1492 was much more peaceful…

Christopher Columbus (1451-1506)

Tuesday 6 November [1492]

Yesterday evening, says the Admiral, the two men he had sent out to investigate the interior returned and described how they had walked the 12 leagues to a village of 50 houses, where he says that there must have been 1000 people because many live together in one house. These houses are like very large tents. They said that they had been received with great solemnity after their custom, and they all, men and women alike, came to see them and put them up in the best houses. The people touched them and kissed their hands and feet and marvelled at them, believing that they had come from heaven and that is what they gave them to understand. They gave them things to eat from what they had. They said that when they arrived, the most honourable men of the village carried them on their shoulders to the main house and gave them two seats on which to sit, and they all sat on the floor around them. The Indian who accompanied them told them how the Christians lived and how they were good people. Then the men went out and the women came in and sat around them in the same way, kissing their hands and feet, touching them to see if they were of flesh and blood like them. They asked them to stay there with them for at least five days.

They showed them the cinnamon and the pepper and other spices which the Admiral had given them, and the people said in sign language that there was a lot of it nearby to the SE, but that they did not know if there was any thereabouts. When they found no indication of any city, they returned, and if they had allowed all those who wanted to do so, more than 500 men and women would have come with them, because they thought that they were returning to heaven. However, one of the elders of the village came with them with his son and a manservant.

The Admiral spoke with them, paid them many courtesies, and he pointed out many lands and islands which there were in that region. The Admiral thought about bringing him back to the Monarchs, and says that he did not know what came over him but apparently out of fear and the dark night he wanted to go ashore. And the Admiral says that because the flagship was on dry land, not wishing to upset him he let him go. The Indian said that in the morning he would return; but he never came back.

The two Christians found many people, men and women, on their journey who were on their way to their villages carrying a smouldering brand of herbs which they are accustomed to smoke. They found no village on the way with more than five houses, and all treated them with the same respect. They saw many kinds of trees and plants and fragrant flowers. They saw birds of many kinds, different from those of Spain, except partridges and nightingales which sang, and geese, of which there are a great many. They saw no four-legged animals except dogs which did not bark. The land was very fertile and cultivated with those ‘niames’ and kidney beans and broad beans all very unlike our own; likewise, Indian corn and a great quantity of cotton, picked and spun and woven; in a single house they had seen more than 500 arrobas, and 4000 quintales a year could be obtained there.

The Admiral says that it seemed to him that they did not cultivate it and that it fruits all year round. It is very fine and produces large bolls. He says that everything those people had they gave for a very low price, and that they would give a great basket of cotton for the end of a leather thong or whatever else they are given. They are people, says the Admiral, completely without evil or aggression, naked every one of them, men and women, as the day they were born. It is true that the women wear only a cotton garment, large enough to cover their genitals, but no more. They are very good looking, not very black, rather less so than the Canary Islanders.

Most Serene Princes (says the Admiral at this point), I hold that once dedicated and religious people knew their language and put it to use, they would all become Christians. And so I hope in Our Lord that Your Highnesses will determine with all speed to bring such great peoples to the Church and convert them, just as you have destroyed those who refused to confess the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost; and at the end of your days, for we are all mortal, you will leave your kingdoms in tranquillity, free from heresy and evil, and will be well received before the Eternal Creator, whom it may please to grant you long life and great increase of your many kingdoms and possessions, and the will and the inclination to spread the holy Christian religion as you have done hitherto. Amen.

Today I will refloat the flagship and I am readying myself to set out on Thursday in the name of God to go SE and seek the gold and spices and discover land. These are all the words of the Admiral, who planned to leave on Thursday, but because the wind was against him, could not depart until the twelfth day of November.

(Diary of Christopher Columbus, First Voyage)

Further Reading / Lectura recomendada:
Diary of Christopher Columbus (First Voyage)
Los cuatro viajes del almirante y su testamento (Cristóbal Colón)
More about ships' watches!

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