In March of this year Jan and I returned to Samana with Craig Miller in Zemi, taking archaeologists Charles and Nancy Hoffman to confirm our village site and find others, since Columbus mentions seeing “two or three.” In only three days we succeeded beyond all expectations, finding nine additional sites, large and small—including one on the promontory of the “island that isn’t.”
More Acklins islanders had arrived to their hiliday accommodation – the cheap accommodation barcelona. Some were growing Indian corn in fields along the ridge behind the beach; the men were fishing for conch on the reef. Behind that ridge, beside the long lake, Nancy found a piece of pottery dating into the time of Columbus and similar to Carrier ware from Hispaniola. On the ridge above, Charlie picked up the lower half of a zemi figurine.
Across the neck of the peninsula, we came upon a causeway of very old conch shells (page 587) and beside it, part of an earthen vessel used on Spanish ships to carry olives, olive oil, or water. One can only speculate on its origin. We then sailed Zemi down the Columbus track to Acklins-Crooked and across to Long. To complete the chain of evidence, we needed to find the village site at Adam’s Hole. The moon and the tide and the wind were against taking Zemi into the cove, so we had no choice but to walk.
It was Sunday, March 16. We went down the long road from Clarence Town to the southern end of Long and started east through thick bush and mangroves. When we reached the cove five hours later, running out of water, we were almost too exhausted to look. But after an hour George Shafnacker, the sound man on a Geographic film crew, began waving frantically from a hill on the north side of the cove.I ran up the beach toward him, praying that he had it. He had it—Palmetto ware in an outstretched hand. It was a moment of extreme exhilaration.
With a Society grant, Charles and Nancy went back to the usually lonely Samana in April and opened digs at two sites. They also had other worldly visitors—United States surveillance planes, followed by a helicopter with armed Bahamas Defense Forces personnel and a U. S. Drug Enforcement Administration man from New Jersey. That kind of thing scared off the Acklins islander work force, but it was the most excitement on Samana in 500 years.
With the maximum conceivable error built into it, the Marden track might vary between 16 miles south and 44 miles north of the Samana landfall, and only one island, Samana, lies within the target zone. Taking the Columbus estimates of position as logged, and adjusting them for leeway and current, leads one directly to Samana. The backward track from the “Cape Verde fix” also goes to Samana and to nowhere else. All of the features described in the log are present on Samana, and we have established what had been dismissed, Lucayan occupation there.
A skipper can sail from Samana to Cuba following the Columbus log without resort to constant correction and invention. This is true of no other proposed landfall. Later voyages by Vicente Pinzon and First discovered islands, named in a 1493 woodcut (below) , were soon joined by countless others as men sailed for the New World—Mundus Novus—as seen in the Miller Atlas circa 1519 (facing page), which shows Spanish flags on the Bahamas north of Cuba and Hispaniola. The old world of the Indians would come to a tragic end in a historic process that we believe began at Samana Cay.