Chapter 11

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The Portuguese navigators made their voyages in progressive stages:

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Portuguese fisherman on the Grand Banks

Discovery was the first step taken to find a new island or continent and report back to Prince Henry or the King of Portugal. Exploration confirmed the discovery and studied the conditions for settlement. Colonization began by leaving domestic animals on the new lands to be followed by men and women settlers. 

After the discoveries of Porto Santo (1419) Madeira (1420), and the Azores Islands (1431- 1439) — exploration revealed that they were never inhabited, but had excellent pasture lands. With that information, Prince Henry ordered to be taken to those islands, a variety of domestic animals, such as, cattle, hogs, sheep, horses, and goats (1432). This measure of casting domestic animals on the various islands of the Atlantic proved to be an intelligent step towards colonization. 

All the animals multiplied and grew in great numbers because of the climate and abundance of pasture. Soon the Azores Islands be came the “refueling” and trading stations of the navigators, when port of calls were made to obtain fresh water, milk, fruits, and meats. Because of its excellent natural harbor at Angra, the Island of Terceira became the “inter planetary station” for the navigators returning to Lisbon from America, Africa, or India. (Azores Arc of Navigation).   

153.jpg (28980 bytes)The Portuguese policy of populating the North Atlantic islands with domestic animals before colonization, was repeated in other islands and lands in Africa, Brazil, and North America.

 NOT THE LAST: Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real were not the first Portuguese navigators to explore North America. Neither were they the last to come. The Corte Real brothers were not making voyages of discovery, but of exploration in preparation for the third stage: Colonization. 

The discovery of North America had al ready been made by their father in 1472, twenty years before Columbus arrived at the West Indies. Vasqueanes Corte Real, the oldest brother of Gaspar and Miguel Corte Real asked permission from King Manuel I to go in search of his two lost brothers, but he was denied a charter. However, João Alves Fagundes and Manuel Corte Real, son of Vasqueanes obtained a charter from King Manuel I (1520) to establish settlements in Newfoundland. 

LAND OF BACALHAUS (CODFISH): We have seen in the Cantino map (1502) that the territory of Newfoundland was shown to be on the eastern side of the Tordesillas  demarcation line, that is, within the Portuguese hemisphere of discovery. Because of this, the Portuguese explored and colonized the north eastern coast of America for almost a century. Furthermore, it is evident from the decree of 1506 issued by King Manuel I and establishing a 10 percent (Dízimo) import tax on the codfish brought back from Newfoundland, that the voyages of the Portuguese to the Grand Banks were by then a long established practice. 

For thousands of years the sediment of the cold Labrador Current and the warm Gulf Stream formed very large submarine sand beds or banks, now called the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. The Grand Banks are a five hundred mile stretch of shallow water off the southeast coast of Newfoundland. They begin about 100 miles from Cape Race at the south eastern tip of Newfoundland. They extend as far as 300 miles out into the Atlantic Ocean. 

They are known as one of the best fishing grounds in the world. Thousands of sea birds circle over the waters abounding with fish. The navigators knew very well that great flocks of sea birds were the best guide for locating schools of fish. We should note that the distance from the Azores (Santa Maria) to Lisbon (800 miles) is the same distance from the Azores (Flores) to the Grand Banks. 

COD OR BACALHAUS: Cod is one of the most important food fishes found in the northeastern shores of America. Because of its abundance, it gave its name to Cape Cod and to Newfoundland, once called the Land of Bacalhaus. The seal of colonial Massachusetts had on it a codfish, and today a gilded representation of a codfish hangs in the Massachusetts House of Representatives, (Resolution of March 17. l784).  Codfish prefer the Grand Banks because of the ideal water temperature (40 - 50°F.) water depth (6-300 feet) . and the abundance of food supply (Crustaceans, Mollusks, and sea weed) provided by the Gulf Stream and Labrador Current. 

      154.jpg (42798 bytes)155.jpg (33395 bytes)SABLE ISLAND: The sedimentation resulting from the con verging of the Labrador Current and the Gulf Stream formed, over the ages, a sand bank (Nova Scotian bank) from which emerged Sable Island. This island of sand is located (40°N. and 60°W) near the edge of the  continental shelf, 100 miles from the Nova Scotian coast. It has the shape of a crescent moon, about 20 miles long and 1 mile wide. The island is composed of white sand dunes, with several fresh water ponds filled by the rain formed by the condensation of the warm atmosphere of the Gulf Stream with the cold air of the Labrador Currents. Fresh water can be found any where in the sand by digging to the depth of two feet. No trees or shrubs grow there, but it has an abundance of knee-deep grass. 

Sable Island is known to sailors as the “Graveyard of the Atlantic”. It lies on the North Atlantic shipping lane between North America and Europe, and because of long sub merged sand bars surrounding the island, more than 500 vessels have been shipwrecked there. Dense fog and irregularities of currents and winds further endanger navigation.

Unimportant and treacherous as its seems today, Sable Island was chosen by the Portuguese navigators as a supply station. They placed on the Island the same type of domestic animals that they bred in the Azores.  The Portuguese observed that Sable Island had several advantages:

For these reasons, Sable Island became a supply station for the Portuguese navigators

RED BULLS: John Winthrop, the first Governor of Massachusetts Colony, in his “History of New England” (1630-1649) gives an account of John Rose’s description of Sable Island after he was forced to land there: 

The Island is 30 miles long, 2 miles broad in most places, a mere sand, yet full of fresh water ponds, etc. He (John Rose) saw about 800 cattle, small and great, all red. and the largest he ever saw - . .ª

 John Rose did not forward any theory as to the origin of those ‘‘800 cattle, small and great, all red, and the largest he ever saw”. But, he was not the first to note the existence of the red cattle on Sable Island. 

Samuel Champlain, the first French explorer of North America (1603) and founder and governor of Quebec (1633), reported in the first edition of his “Voyages” (1613) that: “The bullocks and cows (were) taken there (Sable Island) over 60 years ago by the Portuguese" i.e., prior to 1613 and therefore be fore 1553. 

However, before Champlain, an English man, Sir Humphrey Gilbert reported in con nection with his voyage to St. John in 1583 that: “Upon intelligence we had of a Portugal (during our abode in St. John) who was him self present, when the Portugal's (about 30 years past” i.e., before 1553) “did put into the same island both meat and swine, to breed, which were since exceedingly multiplied. This seemed unto us a very happy tidings to have on an island lying so near into the main, which we intend to plant upon, such store of cattle, whereby we might at all times conveniently be relieved of virtual, and served of store for breed”. Champlain and Gilbert clearly stated that the domestic animals on Sable Island were of Portuguese origin. The question now arises as to who brought these animals to Sable Island.

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Solar (manor) of Pinheiros in Barcelos (1448) Today it is a national monument.

BARCELOS FAMILY: Besides the Corte Reais there were several other families from the Island of Terceira who were interested in the exploration and colonization of Newfoundland. One of the most important was the Barcelos family which worked on colonization for three generations. 

Pedro Pinheiro, descendant of one of the most noble families of Barcelos (Town — North of Oporto) migrated to Terceira in the last quarter of the 15th Century. (Because of his name Pinheiro (Pine) his family coat of arms contained a pine tree and golden pinecones.) In Terceira he was nicknamed Barcelos which later became part of his name. 

Under a charter granted by King John II (1492), Pedro Pinheiro de Barcelos made his first voyage to Newfoundland with his partner, João Fernandes Labrador (who gave the name to Labrador). When Pedro Pinheiro died in 1507, his son Diogo Pinheiro de Barcelos obtained from King Manuel I a charter (1508) allowing him to continue with the colonization begun by his father. Dr. Baptista de Lima of the Historical Institute of the Island of Terceira, revealed at the first International Congress of the History of the Discoveries (1960) important findings concerning Diogo’s colonization of the Barcelona Island (Sable Island) — named after Barcelos family.

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Chart of Bartolomeu 1560. Arrow indicates Barcelona Island

Diogo had a brother, Afonso Pinheiro de Barcelos, who, according to the charter granted to them by the King, had equal rights (profits) and duties (expenses) in the colonization of the lands of Bacalhaus. However, because Afonso was not willing to participate in any of the expeditions, Diogo asked for a legal hearing on the matter so that he could obtain sole rights to the lands he had colonized. Five witnesses testified at that hearing (October 7, 1531) and all declared that they had seen on the Island of Barcelona: “Cattle, sheep, goats, and swine taken there by Diogo’s ships, and all animals were well fed and multiplied.” After the hearing, Afonso and his wife relinquished all the rights stated in the charter. 

In 1550, Manuel de Barcelos (son of Diogo, and grandson of Pedro de Barcelos) took with him more domestic animals and settlers to continue the colonization of the Barcelona Island. It is believed that this is the expedition referred to by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. 

Samuel de Champlain refers to other Portuguese settlements at Ninganis (derived from Enganos, called today Ingonish) on Cape Briton Island, English Harbor (Louisburg) and the Tor Bay area, (from Torre-fort) all on Nova Scotia. At Louisburg, the same type of open-breech cannon was found that was uncovered at Ninigret Fort. At the same place was also found an old anchor. 

CARTOGRAPHY OF SABLE ISLAND: Sable Island appears for the first time with the name of San João (St. John) on a map drawn by Pedro Reinel in 1502. The name of San João appears again on the maps made by Joao Freire in 1546.  However, charts by Lopo Homem (1540 and 1554) called the Island, Fagunda Island (derived from Joao Fagundes) . The same name of Fagunda was adopted by the cartographers Andre Homem (1559) and Diogo Homem (1565). 

Some historians consider the Island of Santa Cruz on Pedro Reinel’s chart (1502) as the same Sable Island. In his later maps, Diogo Homem changed the name of Fagunda to Santa Cruz (1565) 

Today, we realize that it was no easy task for the early cartographers to accurately map the Northeastern Coast of America because of the many bays, harbors, and islands. To further complicate the work of cartographers, Sable Island varied in shape and size depending on the combined forces of the Labrador Current and Gulf Stream. Judging by John Rose’s description in 1633, Sable Island was wider and longer than it is today. 

Dr. Baptista de Lima found on Bartolomeu Velho’s chart a small island opposite the Nova Scotian coast with the name “Barcelona”. This island does not correspond to the of Sable Island. However, there are historical documents in Terceira referring to a colony on an island named “Barcelona” and such a name is found in the early cartography of Canada. Further attesting to the voyages of Barcelos family, we find in the early charts of Newfoundland: 

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Barcelos Red Bull, Mirandês type


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Red Bulls (Ramo Grande, or large type) on the island of Terceira


ORIGIN OF RED BULLS: Historical references clearly indicate that the cattle found on Sable Island are of Portuguese origin. To understand Rose’s amazement, we must now demonstrate that such un usually large, red bulls existed only in Portugal. 

Today if we visit the Island of Terceira, we will find large, red bulls (Ramo grande — “large type”) on the very land once owned by the Barcelos family. The breeding of this type of cattle is a specialty in this area of Terceira. 

This breed of cattle resulted from a hybrid obtained by crossing the red cattle, of Miranda (near Barcelos, Portugal), brought to Terceira by Pinheiro, and the red cattle of Alentejo  (center of Portugal) . Both parent stocks were brought to Terceira during the period of  colonization. This breed provided milk, meat, and farm tillage.

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Batalha da Salga or Battle of the Bulls (1581). Painting  ordered made by Philip II of Spain or Philip I of Portugal.



BATTLE OF THE BULLS: The red cattle has given the Island of Terceira a most unique page of its history. In 1580 Portugal lost her independence to Spain (until 1640) . In 1581 a Spanish fleet (2000 men) attempted to force the people of Terceira to obey the Spanish King. A native of the island gathered all the wild cattle and led them against the Spanish invaders, who were hurled into the sea at the horns of the Portuguese bulls. It was this remarkable Battle of the Bulls — Battle of Salga — which gave the origin to the Spanish proverb: Vienen  con ganado, ganado somos!” (“If they come with bulls, horned we are! “

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Tourada à Corda (Bull fighting with a cord) or street bull fighting on the island of Terceira


Of all the nine Azorean islands, it is only in Terceira that bull fighting is a favorite sport. Typically, bull fighting is done on the street by having a long rope tied around the bull’s neck. Usually the bulls used for the rope bull fighting are, of the Barcelos type. This is a most colorful and dangerous type of bull fighting 

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Wild ponies living today on Sable island


WILD PONIES OF SABLE ISLAND: Today Sable Island has a light house, a weather station, and 300 wild ponies. Recently an oil company has begun drilling on the island. The ponies are small, but hearty enough to resist the severity of the weather conditions. 

Mr. Buchanan in his “Early Canadian History” says: “They may be descendants of horses left there by the Portuguese.” We do not have any evidence that horses were brought to Sable Island by the Portuguese, but there is no indication that they were brought there by any other Europeans. The fact that it is certain the Portuguese brought cattle, sheep, and hogs to Sable Island leads us to conclude: That the wild ponies on Sable Island are of Portuguese origin until proven otherwise.

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