Columbus interpreted conversations with Samanáns aboard the Niña as indicating that islands named Matininó and Carib lay to the east and that Matininó was inhabited only by women and Carib only by men. The Tainos’ oral history included an ancestral hero, Guahayona, who had journeyed to Matininó and found that it was inhabited only by women.
After three months of exploration, Columbus remained exasperated that he hadn’t found a single city with golden temples as proof of reaching the kingdoms of Cathay or Japan—as described by Marco Polo in the thirteenth century. But Marco Polo had described two islands, one where men lived alone and the other where women lived alone, the so-called “Islands of Males and Females.”
Columbus likely suspected that Matininó and Carib were Marco Polo’s Islands of Males and Females and could serve as a proof of reaching the Indies. Before departing Española, Columbus took four male Samanáns captive to guide him to these islands and, on January 16, he sailed southeast into the Atlantic to find both islands.
But the crews were fed up with exploring—the ships were leaking, the journey far and unknown, and the provisions low. Columbus quickly realized his sailors wouldn’t tolerate further exploration, and he redirected the ships on a northeasterly course, homeward bound. But he did record in the Journal that the ships couldn’t have passed far from these islands.