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The Early Explorer’s Journals Essay

Christopher Columbus and Samuel de Champlain were two of the most influential explorers in the history of the Americas. Columbus “discovered” the area near Caribbean Islands while Champlain explored the St. Lawrence Seaway. Their journals were very similar in the way they described what the two explorers saw. Yet they have some differences as well.

There are some small differences that these two works carry. Columbus starts out each entry with the day that it began on. Like in the following passage, Monday Nov. 12th. They sailed from the port of the river… (114). Champlain did not do it this way he simply stated facts from day to day. The way he writes it is like he is telling a story while Columbus is giving detailed information. The reason this was done may have something to do with the rulers that these two men were under. Columbus had to keep a detailed record for the ruler of Spain at the time. Champlain may not have had to do this being as Jacques Cartier had led an expedition through the same area for the French a few years earlier. The background of these two explorers definitely showed up in these journals.

The two different time periods that Columbus and Champlain lived in also had an effect on their style of writing. Columbus’ expedition was around the time of 1492-1493, while Champlain’s was almost two hundred years later in 1608-1612. Columbus had to deal with a lot of natives in the “West Indies” that could not speak their native language. These natives also looked as the men of Columbus’ crew as gods sent from heaven. Champlain did not have it so easy. He had to deal with the Native American tribes of the great lakes area. These tribes, such as the Iroquois and the Huron, were sometimes not the best people to have to deal with. The Iroquois especially were not very friendly to the members of Champlain’s group. They were enemies of the Huron and the Huron were allies of the French.

Before Champlain had to do battle with the Iroquois Columbus was worshiped by the natives of what is now present-day Cuba. He was able to give them glass beads in exchange for some very important items for his expedition. He was able to get water and spices for the small glass beads. He was of course looking for what every Spanish explorer who sought out the natives of present day South America was looking for, gold.

These two different journals were not all different however. They did have some similarities. In fact they have more in common than they have different from each other.

The way nature is described in each journal is very similar. Columbus uses a very poetic style to describe the flora and fauna that he saw on his travels. Columbus describes the birds and trees that he sees in the tropical region very eloquently. Champlain uses this style as well to describe the nature that he saw along the St. Lawrence. He uses the same style in describing the forests and the deer that he encountered on his trip. This is just one of the many similarities that each journal has though.

Besides the obvious comparison of sharing chronological time they share a same purpose. They were both meant to tell of their journeys. They tell them in a different way, but regardless they still tell of them. Columbus tells of his journeys through the Americas so that we may have an understanding of what he and his crew did during 1492. Champlain kept his for basically the same reason. These stories obviously became and vital piece of history.

These stories also had another aspect in common; each man shared in some kind of a hardship. Columbus, in the Narrative of the Third Voyage talks about having a hard time getting to America. Champlain had an even rougher time in his second story. Champlain talks about being lost in the woods after hunting a bird that he followed. He gets lost and has to go through quite an ordeal to get back. Columbus also had many hardships to go through. He describes being stuck in a terrible place to be caught while sailing. The place he describes has not very much wind, it was very hot, and full of seaweed. These two definitely went through some tough times.

Samuel de Champlain and Christopher Columbus wrote two very spectacular journals. They kept them perfectly and help the world see what exactly they went through in their travels. Each of these men was an obviously very important figure, without Columbus who knows what would have happened in the Americas. Champlain also helped chart the area around the great lakes that was dominated by Native Americans at the time. Their journals should obviously be considered a vital piece of American Literature.

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