Examination of Elcano,
Alvo the Pilot,
and Bustamente
at Valladolid, October 18th, 1522*


* Archivo General de Indias, Patronato Simancas.–1–21/1.

Since Elcano's answers are in the third person, the text appears to be not a transcript of the inquiry, but someone else's account of it. This may be del Cano biographer Mairin Mitchell's interpretation/translation of the original document, or that document itself.

In Mitchell's book, the thirteen questions are printed sequentially, with Elcano's answers following the final question. For ease of online reading, each answer appears here immediately after the question. For the three “See p. x” footnotes within these answers, the relevant text from the cited page is inserted immediately below the footnote.

On October 18th, 1622, before the Mayor of Vallodolid, the following questions were put to Juan Sebastian de Elcano, Francisco Alvo, and Hernando de Bustamente:

The three witnesses were kept apart and were questioned separately. The replies of Elcano, who was the first to appear, were as follows:§

§ In the printed edition, the first sentence above appears before the questions, and the second appears before Elcano's answers.

  1. What was the cause of the dissension between Magellan and Cartagena and other officers of the expedtion?
    • That Juan de Cartagena, veedor [Inspector-General], held joint command with Magellan by Royal order, and that therefore all decisions were to be made jointly, but that Magellan never consulted the veedor. That when they lay off the coast of Guinea, Magellan said he knew of no such undertaking. That same day, Elcano continued, Magellan deprived Cartagena of his captaincy and his position as veedor. He wanted to put him ashore then and there on the Guinea coast, but at the request of the other captains refrained from doing this at the time. That he gave Cartagena over into the charge of Quesada.* In place of Cartagena he appointed his cousin, Mesquita, as captain of the San Antonio. Later, after he had banished Cartagena and a priest on the coast of Patagonia, the other captains asked Magellan to take counsel with his officers, and to tell them the route by which they were going. They also asked him not to make port for the whole winter, and in that way use up all the provisions. And they urged that they should proceed to some region where they could endure the cold.

      * Actually it was Mendoza. See the Visconde de Lagos: Fernão de Magalhãis, Vol. II, p. 20, note 2. (Lisbon, 1938).

      All the other captains and the crew, Elcano stated, were afraid that Magellan would take them prisoner, owing to the number of Portuguese and other foreigners in the Armada. That Captains Cartagena and Quesada, asked Elcano as master that he should be loyal to the commands of the King, and that he should help them to fulfil the royal directions. That he, Elcano, said that he would obey them, and was ready to carry out the King's orders. That the Captains Cartagena and Quesada gave orders to Elcano and other members of his ship that a boat should put out to the San Antonio to seize Mesquita, so that there should not be a mutiny in the fleet. A petition was to be sent to Magellan, asking him to take counsel with his officers before making any decisions. Elcano declared that Magellan said that he did not wish to comply with this request, nor to carry out the instructions entrusted to him by His Majesty.

  2. Why did Magellan order the seizure and killing of Mendoza, and did he bribe Espinosa, master-at-arms, to undertake this?
    • That the reason why Magellan ordered the seizure of Captain Mendoza was due to the petition. That Magellan sent five men with Espinosa to seize Mendoza. That Espinosa had stabbed Mendoza and killed him. And for that Magellan had given Espinosa twelve ducats and to the other men six ducats for their part in this.

      (Elcano was asked how he knew about the foregoing, and said: That he saw it, and was present when it happened.)*

      * Unless his memory is to blame, there would seem to be some doubt about Elcano's veracity here, assuming that this is what he really did say. (It is possible that his actual words at the Enquiry referred to what he heard, not to what he saw.) At the time when Espinosa stabbed Mendoza in the Victoria, Elcano was in the San Antonio, to the command of which he had just been appointed by the mutinous captain, Quesada.§ Elcano therefore could not have been present at the death of Mendoza. Nor could he have seen the alleged payment by Magellan to Espinosa, since both these officers were in the Trinidad.

      § Mitchell's source for this statement is unknown and as noted above, del Cano stated that Mesquita replaced Cartagena as captain of the San Antonio. He says nothing about himself being appointed captain, if only for the brief interval between the death of Cartegena and the appointment of Mesquita.

  3. Why did Magellan banish ashore Juan de Cartagena and the priest, and pronounce judgment on Quesada and others?
    • That the reason why Cartagena and the cleric were banished, and Quesada and Mendoza were killed, was the reason already stated in Elcano's answer to the first question, and in order that Magellan might have, for his captains, Mesquita and Duarte Barbosa. And also, because Magellan said that the Spanish captains had stirred up the crew and sent the above-mentioned petition. That Duarte Barbosa and Mesquita had continually urged Magellan to give the captaincy of the other ships to Portuguese, as in that way he would have the whole crew under his command.

  4. Were these sentences ordered by Magellan so that he could replace Castilians by his own relatives and other Portuguese?
    • That he would refer his questioners to his foregoing answers.

  5. Why did Magellan spend so much time in the ports, in one case eight or nine months, thus reducing the provisions, and also losing time for navigation?
    • That Magellan wanted to make his relatives captains, and to make the whole company do just what he wished.

  6. If he got gold so readily in these ports, giving only an axe for ten or twelve pesos of gold, or a bit of iron for three or four pesos, why then did he not redeem the goods of the armada? And why did he not procure a vast amount of gold and get rid of the baubles for barter, of which they were carrying too many?
    • That Magellan had ordered that when they arrived at the islands containing gold, no one should dare, under penalty of death, to barter this, nor to take gold, because he wanted it to appear that they held it of little account. That after the death of the Admiral they fled from the island where the natives had killed twenty-seven of their men and three captains, through the treachery of a slave of Magellan. And that they had gone to other islands where they did not find gold. That the cause of the slave's treason was that Duarte Barbosa had called him a dog.

  7. Were they acting in a regular manner in taking the Chinese junks with merchandise?
    • That the goods which the junks from China were carrying were materials of c otton and silk, and hatchets and knives, and porcelain, and that whatever else the captains of His Majesty obtained was entered in the contador's book of the fleet.

  8. It is said that in one of the junks which they seized there was a king, who ransomed himself with gold ornaments, gold necklaces, and gold bars, given to Carvalho and others. How was it nothing was seen of these, on the return of the Victoria, and no account was given?
    • That he, Elcano, had heard the crews of the ships say that Juan Carvalho received certain ransom in gold from the king in one of the junks, but that he, Elcano, did not know what Carvalho received, nor what occurred, because he himself was in Borneo.

  9. In what way were the trade undertakings made, and were they all entered correctly in the ship's book?
    • That everything had been entered in the book of the contador from the time when he, Elcano, was captain. And he would give account of that. But of what went before, he knew nothing. That Magellan and Carvalho had each done what they liked in their time, and that, after the death of Magellan, Carvalho had just gone his own way. That afterwards they had taken proceedings against Carvalho and deprived him of his captaincy, for the disservice he had done His Majesty. That they had elected then, for their captain,* this witness [Elcano], and that he took the route for the Moluccas in accordance with the books of the Regimentos. That Magellan and Carvalho had never wished to give such a course, although the witness, being a pilot in his ship, had asked them for this.†

      * Elcano was only elected captain of the Victoria; it was Espinosa who became Captain-General after the deposition of Carvalho.

      † See p. 97.

      p. 97: “A statement made by Elcano at this stage is curious. He declares that neither Magellan nor Carvalho ever wished to give the derrota, the sailing route, when they were in command, although required to do so by Elcano as a pilot in his ship.”

  10. If the cloves were weighed when procured, and the weight was found to be in order, how was it that it had lost so much compared with the 600 quintals entered in the ship's books at the time the cloves were obtained?
    • That they received the cloves by weight from the Moors, and that it was well weighed, and that they themselves were very well used to this proceeding. And that he had brought that cargo to Seville so that the officials of His Majesty could compare the weight on arrival with that recorded in the book of the contador at the time they obtained the cargo.

      In reply to the question as to how it was they brought back less than the amount recorded in the ship's book, Elcano said that they had received the cloves fresh from the tree, and that, owing to the length of time given to the drying of the spice, it weighed less later. That it had come dry and in good condition, and that from this ship, the Victoria, they only left three quintals in Cabo Verde,* in order to buy victuals, of which they had none.

      * See p. 83.

      p. 83: “Elcano admits that ‘they left three quintals (300 lb.) of cloves in Cabo Verde in order to buy victuals of which they had none.’ ”

  11. What amount of cloves did they stow away in Cabo Verde, or any other region on the voyage, or in San Lucar, or in going along the river to Seville, discharging?
    • That part of the answer to this question was contained in his answer to (10). And that they had not deposited cloves elsewhere by day or by night on the way to Seville.

  12. If Magellan was killed by natives, why was it that some of those who had returned in the Victoria said that he was killed by other means?
    • That Magellan went to war and set fire to houses in Mactan in order to make the King of Mactan tender homage to the King of Cebú, and also because the King of Mactan had not sent a measure of rice and a goat as a tribute to Magellan. The natives killed Magellan and seven others, and twenty-seven were wounded.§

      § Note that the question offers a clue to Correa's account of the incident. In his interviews with returning crew members, he may have been (mis-)informed that Magellan was killed at a banquet. As for Elcano's answer, it's just a re-telling of Magellan's death, and does not answer the question put to him.

  13. It had been said by some who returned with this ship that those who stayed with Magellan at the time he was killed on Mactan could have escaped. If this is so, why did they stay to suffer, and who were they?
    • That he, Elcano, did not know, because at that time he was sick and was not there. That those who were there would relate what they knew about it.

• • • • •

Elcano was asked to declare all that was done on the voyage to the disservice of His Majesty and to defraud him of his property.

He replied that, while Magellan was alive, he, Elcano, had written nothing, because he dared not do so. That after he himself was elected captain and treasurer, whatever transactions did take place were recorded. That his replies to the previous questions showed the disservice of Magellan to His Majesty, and the detriment to his armada, and that Magellan had left the armada to its fate.* That he had given away bales of stuff, the property of His Majesty. That he, Elcano, did not know if this was entered. That he saw that Carvalho sent ransom by one of his cousins, for his own son in Borneo, out of the merchandise of His Majesty. That these two relatives of Carvalho had remained there.

* See p. 98.

p. 98: “At the conclusion of the Enquiry Elcano is asked to declare all that was done on the voyage to the disservice of His Majesty and to defraud him of his property. Juan Sebastian's replies contain certain accusations against Magellan which remain unproved, and of of which indeed seems unfounded. He states that Magellan had ‘left the armada to its fate.’

That in the proceedings against Carvalho many more things had come to light that he had done. That afterwards, he, Elcano, became captain and treasurer, and that he would give account of all that he had done. And that if any wrong had been done, the witnesses would say so. That this was all that he knew, and he signed his name accordingly:

“Capitán Juan Sebastian Delcano.”