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Ponce de Leon

Ponce de Leon

Ponce de Leon:   Ponce de Leons Search for the
Elusive Fountain Ponce de Leons quest for the fountain
of youth led to the discovery of Florida and many other
unexpected yet significant discoveries

[Paper Title]:
Ponce de Leon
Ponce de Leons Search for the Elusive Fountain
Ponce de Leons quest for the fountain of youth led to the discovery of
and many other unexpected yet significant discoveries. His discoveries helped
him to
become a rich man and a brave conquistador.
On March 3, 1513, Juan Ponce de Leon sailed from the island of Puerto Rico
three ships. After asking King Ferdinand of Spain permission to conquer and
settle the
island of Bimini, Ponce de Leon set sail on a quest for a mythical fountain
of youth. The
thought of a mythical fountain that was said to give eternal youth to
whomever drank
from it, allured the king. Perhaps this was one of the ways Ponce de Leon
persuaded the
king into letting him sail on this voyage. Maybe by alluring the king into
thinking the
fountain existed, Ponce was able to explore North America. It is very hard to
believe for
many people that such an incredible fountain existed. King Ferdinand and
Ponce believed
in such a fountain. There are many versions of the legend that refer to this
mystical spring,
pool, stream, or river. If one bathed in this water, ones youth was
restored. If a whole
new world could be revealed, why not a fountain of youth? After Christopher
had sailed to many undiscovered places, it is very easy to see why many
believed that there were places that held unknown phenomenons like the
fountain out
there somewhere. This was a European tale that neither Ponce de Leon nor King
Ferdinand could resist.1
The first specific indication that Ponce aimed on exploring the Bahamas was a
letter about the fountain of youth. It was a 1514 letter from Pictro Martire
dAnghiera to
Pope Leo X. DAngheria was a diplomat who represented the Pope in the
Spanish royal
court. The letter that dAngheria wrote provided Pope Leo with a brief
account of
Ponces amazing explorations in the Bahamas, which had taken place in the

d Anghiera wrote: Ponce explored and investigated among the farthest
an island called /by us [Bimini] ; there is a fountain continuing throughout
the year that is
so remarkable, that the water of this fountain being drunk makes old men
young, Still, it
is not certain whether this fountain was originally one of the objects of
Ponces search and
thus a reason for his expedition, or whether he heard of the phenomenon in
the course of
his voyage and reported its purposed existence afterward to his king.3
Juan Ponce de Leon was born in San Campos, Leon, in the year of 1460. His
mother was a daughter of Don Rodrigo Ponce de Leon, one of the heroes of the
wars to
expel the Moors. Ponce de Leon is said to have resembled his grandfather in
appearance and courage.4

Ponce de Leon was the first explorer to claim a part of North Americas
for Spain. On his first voyage to the New World, he was accompanied by
Columbus. Ponce de Leon soon became a soldier in the Spanish settlement of
in the West Indies. From approximately 1502-1504, he led Spanish forces
against the
brutal Indians in Higuey, the eastern province of Hispaniola. After they
conquered them,
Juan Ponce de Leon was appointed governor as his reward. He left the island
Hispaniola in 1508 to explore Puerto Rico and found gold on the island;
furthermore, he
conquered the island within a year. Ponce de Leon became governor in 1509 and
rose to be a very wealthy and powerful man. He governed Puerto Rico for about
years. Political rivals removed him from office in 1512. This is when he
permission from King Ferdinand to colonize the island of Bimini. In 1513, he
led an
expedition to the various different areas of the Bahamas and other several
islands. In April of 1513, Ponce de Leon found Florida. He claimed Florida
part of Spain
and continued to explore the coast and the tip of Florida. This is where he
searched for
the fountain of youth. On the west coast of Florida, he looked for the
fountain only to
come to the disappointment that it didnt exist.5
Along the southeast coast of Florida near the Indian River, Ponce de Leon and
crew encountered a group of Indians. This group of Indians were the Ais
Indians. They
called out to Ponce de Leon, so he went ashore. They tried to steal a boat
from the
Spanish, but Ponce was not going to retreat so easily. They then fought the
Indians in a
ferocious battle; an Indian clubbed a Spaniard in the head. They then
captured an Indian
and took him aboard their ship. From a captured Indian, the crew learned that
the land
was called Cautio by the Ais. Of course, the Indian told stories of an
elusive fountain, and
Ponce believed the man and spared his life.6
The ships set a course through the Bahamas. One day, less than a month after
visiting the island of Cautio, the fleet of three ships anchored in eight
fathoms of water off
a previously uncharted coast. The next day, Ponce rowed ashore to take
possession of
this land for Spain. When Ponce went on this land, he discovered the true
beauty of this
country. Lush groves of gray cypress, tulip, ash and magnolia trees, backed
by tall palms
and broom pines, exuded a delightful surprise. It was an unexpected surprise
by Ponce
and his crew, and they were struck in awe by this new land. Many plants such
as azaleas,
oranges, and jasmines were in bloom, and the woods were alive with insects
and the calls
of hummingbirds, loons, and wild turkeys. Ponce de Leon had made his
discovery during
the season of Easter, which the Spanish called Pascua Florida, or Feast of
Flowers. He
called this new land Florida. In the event of his landing, Ponce became the
first European
to set foot on the continent of North America. Ponce de Leon believed that
this peninsula,
Florida, was an island.7
On April 8, the three ships set sail once again. They originally ventured
north but
altered their direction and traveled south along the coast. The men
maintained an
adequate supply of food and water. They had killed many animals on this newly
discovered land called Florida. Two weeks later, the Spaniards spotted some
huts which
was the first sign they had seen of Indians. An important discovery,
unrecognized by
Ponce de Leon, was the existence of a river called the Gulf Stream. Although
men had wind on their side, the powerful Gulf Stream pushed them back. The
two ships
anchored, but one was carried away. When the two ships closest to shore
dropped anchor,
the sailors noticed that they were defenseless against the current. They
drifted off and
were lost to their sister vessel for two days. The pilot, Anton de Alaminos,
proved his
theory by bringing treasure from Mexico to the King of Spain using the Gulf
Stream. This
became an important route that allowed many future treasure ships to carry
back gold
from the nearby islands. Although Ponce had no way of knowing at the time
this current
was the Gulf Stream, it was an extremely significant discovery. The stream
through the Straits of Florida and shot up the southeastern coast of the
United States until
it meets a cold current by North Carolina. The stream then flowed
northeastward into the
Atlantic Ocean.8
The Calusa Indians that Ponce met on this island were even more interesting
the land they had discovered. The Spaniards were very interested in the
Indians who had
appeared and were motioning them ashore. When Ponce complied with the
Indians, they
wounded two of his men with bone-tipped arrows and tried to seize his
longboat. The
Spaniards retreated and sailed south to a river that was probably somewhere
near Jupiter
Inlet. While the Spaniards gathered wood and water and waited for another
party, the
Indians attacked. This time, the explorers fared a little better in the
fight, and Ponce
captured one of the attackers to train as an interpreter and guide.9

Then, the expedition sailed south around the Florida keys and traveled up the
coast of Florida to an area near the present-day Sanibel Island. The crew
carefully to avoid scraping the coast with their huge ships. Ponce de Leon
posted a
lookout for changes in water color and heaved the anchor over to check for
depth. At
night, careful navigation was impossible, and the ships were forced to
anchor. While they
were there, Calusa Indians wearing palm-leaf loincloths canoed across the
inlet to trade
with the men on the ship. The Indians had many items to trade, such as animal
pelts and
guanin, a low-grade gold. There they encountered yet another battle with the
Indians, led by their chief, Cacigue Carlos. Again, there was an all day
fight which led to
the Spaniards retreat. Turning southward across the Gulf of Mexico, the ship
was losing
many supplies. There was a shortage of food and water. When the explorers
came across
a group of islands, they replenished their food supply with nearly
two-hundred sea turtles
that inhabited the islands. They also killed numerous seals and manatees
along with
thousands of gannets and pelicans. They named them the islands Tortugas,
after the
Although the explorers drank sweet water from the different islands of the
Ponce had not succeeded in locating the fountain of youth. He continued
south, and
Ponce de Leons ships reached Mexicos Yucatan Peninsula. From there,
Ponce de Leon
was carried through the Florida Straits and out to the Bahamas. One of his
took a ship and located an island that may have been Bimini. The lieutenant
encountered a
spring, but neither bathing in it nor drinking from it revealed any physical
effect on the
men of the expedition. From there, they returned to the Island of Cuba, then
again back to
the Bahamas and Puerto Rico seven months later. Ponce de Leon arrived back in
Rico on September 21, 1573.11
Despite the first unsuccessful search for the fountain, Ponce de Leon did
make a
second voyage. He felt that his efforts were not appreciated by the colonial
therefore, he reported to King Ferdinand. He brought five thousand gold pesos
made King Ferdinand more agreeable with his proposals. The king treated Ponce
courteously. The king gave Ponce the rights to colonize his discoveries if he
did it at his
own cost. Ponce de Leon then secured his claims to the lands he had
discovered, and now
he had the authority to colonize them and add to his fortune. He could be the
governor of
Puerto Rico but only under a certain conditions. Under King Ferdinands
terms, Ponce
was to attempt to convert the natives to Catholicism, but if they resisted,
he may make
war on them, capture them, and take them for slaves.12 Ponce would then
have sole
rights to profit from the slave trade and other money made from the island.
In order to
achieve these goals, Ponce de Leon would have to defeat the brutal Caribs of
south of Puerto Rico. The expedition against the Caribs was a failure; many
of Ponces
men were ambushed and slaughtered.13
Ponce de Leons second voyage was a very hasty voyage. It almost
followed his first Florida expedition. He was very eager to explore even
deeper into the
land he had discovered. Events popped up, though, that prevented him from
acting on his
settlement plan. There were many Carib raids on Ponces men which had been
trying to
colonize the land. Ponce was asked to put an end to these raids, so he served
commander. He had some success, but he was hardly making progress. He was
further delayed when King Ferdinand died in early 1516. As a result of this,
Ponce felt
expected to return to Spain and make sure his plans werent ruined.14
Ponce de Leon spent at least 18 months in Spain between 1516 and 1518.
According to some sources, he then married a woman named Juana Pineda.
Ponces first wife, Leonor, died sometime before the second trip to
Ponce de Leons two ships, which left Puerto Rico on February 1521, carried
somewhere around eighty and two hundred people. They were stocked well with
horses, livestock, and other equipment and supplies to establish a colony.16
His route was unknown, but Ponce made land somewhere on Floridas west
on Sanibel Island. Here he constructed a settlement, but disease and Indian
attacks quickly
made the group smaller. Although later European settlers in the region
reported the
Indians to be friendly, they were not anywhere near as peaceful as Ponce, now
a veteran
The Indians usually responded in battles against these men over their land.
was seriously wounded by an arrow in the thigh. Infection quickly set in his
body. Ponce de Leons men shipped him off for treatment to the nearby
island of Cuba,
where the nearest Spanish settlement was located. The wound was so bad by
this point,
and only so little could be done. Juan Ponce de Leon, a great and brave
died in July of 1521. 18
The poet, Juan de Castellanos, wrote his opinion of Ponce de Leon on the
explorers tombstone: Here rest the bones of a Lion/ mightier in deeds than
in name.19
Ponces quest for the elusive fountain of youth had come to an end, but the
of his discoveries continue to inspire travelers. Many questions are still
asked today about
whether the fountain of youth exists or not. His quest he made long ago led
to the
discovery of Florida and many unpredicted, yet significant discoveries.
Although Ponce
de Leon didnt find the fountain he was looking for, he accomplished so
many things
which are deemed as brave, courageous, and heroic. The legend of the fountain
of youth
is usually associated with the great explorer Juan Ponce de Leon, but in
reality, the
fountain of youth was Juan Ponce de Leon himself.

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