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Columbus Landing

Tappan Monument (Heloise marker)


San Salvador Island /  Tappan Monument (Heloise marker)


A cairnlike stone pillar, the Tappan Monument (also called the Heloise Marker) sits on the beach at Fernandez Bay (Mile Marker No. 5, south of Cockburn Town). It was put there on 25 February 1951 by the yawl Heloise while on an around-the-world cruise. This expedition was financed by the Tappan gas company.


Bronze plaque at the base of the monument:

Christopher Columbus
made the first recorded landing
in the New World on this beach
Oct. 12, 1492
Yawl HELOISE Feb. 25, 1951


The next monument to spring up on this limestone island was built in 1951 by Mr. and Mrs. Paul Tappan, who had cruised the islands for years in their yacht Heloise. Paul Tappan, like many mariners, was dubious of the Chicago Herald's location and decided to rectify their mistake by building his own monument to Columbus. Except for the actual landing site, he supported Samuel Eliot Morison's argument: "The exact spot of Columbus' landing has aroused almost as much controversy as the identity of the island. The Chicago Herald Expedition in 1891 approached San Salvador from the eastward, selected the first land they sighted, a hill on the NE side of the island, and erected a monument there as the landing place. But no seaman in his senses would have anchored off a lee-shore with a sea running, nor could the ship's boats have got over the reef."
Morison claimed Columbus came around the southwest point of the island and entered what is now Fernandez Bay on the west side, through the first gap in the reef, which is about 5 miles north of Sandy Point. He was supposed to have anchored in 5 fathoms; this depth would have placed his ships a mile or so from shore, and he would have had to look out for large coral heads dotted throughout the area. The brown masses of heads are plainly visible in the clear, ginlike water on a sunny day but not easily navigated in an unwieldy ship.
About a mile further north, just south of Cockburn Town dock, the blue-black, 10,000-foot-deep water comes closer to shore than anywhere else on the island. There are no reefs, nor coral heads. The bottom starts at the drop-off, at about 70 feet, where there is a fantastic garden of colored corals and bright, darting fish. Then it presents a gently sloping, white sandy bottom right up to the water's edge on the beach--a shel- tered anchorage, with good holding ground, used by cruising yachts today.
It was here, on what was formerly called Sandy Ridge, now named Bamboo Point, that Paul Tappan built his monument on February 25, 1951. Rocks for the monument were chipped by the natives, and Mr. and Mrs. Tappan mixed the cement, brought from their boat.

Sources & Information


Location (N 24°1'26" - W 74°31'29")

Item Code: bs010; Added: 10 December 2006

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