Unanswerable questions

  

Among many unanswerable questions about the Narváez expedition is an uncertainty about whether the ship the conquistador purchased on Hispaniola was a caravel.
      In his account, Cabeza de Vaca mentions that Narváez purchased an additional “ship” at the Santo Domingo port. The assumption is that it was a caravel, because that was a principal vessel in those days.
     If so, Narváez would have sailed six caravels to Cuba, lost two in a hurricane there, then sailed four to Florida, losing another one along the coast, leaving him with three caravels plus a brigantine he bought at Cuba.
     But it’s not definite whether the ship Narváez bought on Hispaniola was another caravel or a larger ship such as a galeón (galleon) or a carrack (better known as a nau or nao).
     A second question that can’t be answered with certainty is whether Narváez sailed south along the Florida coast and stopped at a small bay fifteen miles short of Tampa Bay’s entrance, or if he traveled north along the coast and his ship captains sailed across the mouth of much larger Tampa Bay without noticing it behind barrier islands. Either option seems possible.

 

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