This interesting chronicle (that rather than biography) complements Morison's Ocean Sea. It delineates the complicated pattern of the coastal and insular explorations that followed Columbus' rather tentative and inconclusive probings. Primarily it recounts in detail the establishment on the isthmus of the first settlement of Tierra Firms, the improbable ""Darien"". The book is the story of Balboa to the extent that Darien rises, falls and dies with his fortunes. Balboa's strong and matter-of-fact character, his qualities as a settler experienced in the vicissitudes of the new world, come to the fore as he outstrips gentlemen fresh from Spain, appointed by Fernando to posts in the new settlement. Chosen by fellow colonists as mayor, over the head of the deputy governor, Balbon's brilliant career began. But his faculty for making enemies and his mishandling of neighboring Indian tribes, headed him for a fall. There's an amusing account of his taking possession of the Pacific -- the ""South Sea"" -- in the name of Spain. Then came a period of intrigues for control and Balboa's trusting nature allowed him to be trapped, tried and executed. And Darien followed soon after. The writing does not reach the imaginative heights of great historical exposition but it is solidly researched and the movement and mores of the people are revealed.