Cuba's importance to the Spanish colonial empire was its strategic location, providing a haven for the assembling of the Spanish ships in the Havana harbor, as the fleet prepared for its return voyage to Spain. Upon departing Cuba, the fleet sailed north along Florida's eastern coast, utilizing the strong Gulf Stream current.
Nicolas Bellin, a French chart maker and the best hydrographer of the time, was the compiler of this chart. As a navigational aid, the chart delineates several sea routes around the islands, symbolizes shallow areas with a stippling pattern in order to identify dangerous sailing conditions, and positions three compass roses on the chart to assist sailors in plotting their courses. In contrast to these utilitarian intentions and its scientific appearance, the chart also includes an elaborate title cartouche symbolizing the tropical nature of the island with its palm trees and reptiles, including a crocodile, which some suggest resembles the shape of Cuba.
Cataloging, conservation, and digitization made possible in part by The National Endowment for the Humanities: Exploring the human endeavor.