Narrative of the Voyage
Undertaken by the Fleet
Commanded by the Commander
Garcia Jofre de Loaysa

Andres de Urdaneta

The author, a friend of Juan Sebastian del Cano, joined the expedition at the age of 26.

This page provides an account of the voyage from the time the ships left Coruña in Spain until the deaths of Loaysa and del Cano shortly after entering the Pacific Ocean.

The narrative which Andres de Urdaneta submits to your Majesty of the fleet which your Majesty despatched to the Spice Islands under the Comendador Loaysa,* in the year 1525, is as follows:

* A native of Ciudad Read and Knight Comendador. His orders were to proceed to the Malucos, but not to trespass on Portuguese territory, the limit of which was not stated.

We sailed from the city of Coruna with seven ships, on the eve of the blessed Lord St. James,* and shaped a course for the Canary Islands. We anchored off the island of Gomera on the seventh or eighth day after leaving Coruna, where we were take on board things necessary for the fleet until the 14th of August.

* 24 July 1525.

On the 14th of August, the eve of our Lady, we departed from the island of Gomera and after a month and a half, a little more or less,* we met with a Porgugues ship on the equinoctial line. The Captain General sent Santiago de Guevara, Captain of the pinnace, to see what vessel she was. Guevara obeyed the order and the Portuguese shortened sail. In returning with the pinnace, Don Rodrigo de Acuña, in the ship San Gabriel, ordered a shot to be fired. This seemed to the Captain of the pinnace to be wrong, and there were some words between him and Don Rodrigo. The Portuguese ship came to our capitana and the Captain General die much honour to the Portuguese, sending letters by their vessel to Spain. So we parted with the Portugues and continued our voyage, encountering foul winds and calms until nearly the middle of October. We had sighted one island called San Mateo,† which is about 3 S. of the equinoctial line. At this island we took in water, and killed many birds, called boobies, with sticks. There was good fishing. The Captain General and other captains and officers partook of a large and excellent fish. The others, who ate the fish, had very bad attacks of diarrhœa so that we thought they would not recover, but after many days they were well again.

* Following the track of Magellan they kept near the African coast and were delayed by calms.

† St Matthew Island is mentioned as having been discovered by the Portuguese in Peckham's Western Planting published by Hakluyt. Its position is given in the Index Georgraphicus 21.10 W. and 1.50 S. It was still on the charts in Admiral Burney's time (1803) in 1.24 S. In 1817 Sir James Yeo and Captain Jenkin Jones, R.N. searched for it and went over the position given to it. There was no land. It may have been the island of Anno Bona which is in 1.25 S. but a very different longitude. St Matthew was removed from the charts in 1820.

At this island the Captain General ordered an enquiry into what had passed between Don Rodrigo, Captain of the ship San Gabriel, and Santiago de Guevara, Captain of the pinnace. After the investigation Don Rodrigo was ordered to come on board the capitana, and Martin de Valencia was appointed Captain of the San Gabriel. We were at this island for about ten days.

The seven vessels sailed from St Matthew Island in company, crossed to the coast of Brazil, and sailed along it. At the end of many days, and after we had passed the rive Plate, there was such a storm that the fleet was scattered. In a few days six had again joined company, but the capitana was not in sight, and we steered in one direction, then in another, but we were never able to get a sight of her. We went on our way to the strait, and at the end of four or five days Martin de Valencia, with the ship San Gabriel, was out of sight. The other five vessels were still together. On reaching the entrance to the river of Santa Cruz, the Captain Juan Sebastian del Cano spoke with the captains of the other ships, and told them that it would be well to enter the river and wait there for the Captain General and Martin de Valencia. Pedro de Vera,* Francisco de Hozes,† and Jorge Manrique,‡ captains, and Diego de Covarrubias, general agent, answered that it would be advisable for all the captains and officers, as well those of His Majesty as those of the ships, to meet on board the ship of Juan Sebastian to decide what should be done. Accordingly they all met. They concluded that it would be late for passing through the strait, if they waited in Santa Cruz, and that it would be better for the pinnace only to enter the river, and deposit a letter under a cross, on a small island near the mouth, If the Captain General should come, he would learn from the letter that the ships hade gone up the strait to the port of Sardinas, to refit and get in wood and water, and there to wait until his arrival. According to this agreement the pinnace entered the river of Santa Cruz, and the other four ships made for the strait.

* Captain of the Annunciada.

† Of Lesmes.

‡ Of the Parrel.

On Sunday morning, thinking we were entering the strait, the ships found themselves at the entrance of a river 5 or 6 leagues from the strait, where we were all in danger of being lost. As we were being embayed, Juan Sebastian sent his skiff, with men,* to see if it was the strait; and before these men could return, the tide rose and the ships went out to sea. As we found that the skiff [was] delayed, we sailed along the coast, and recognized the Cape of 11,000 Virgins, which is in the strait.† It was late before we anchored within that cape. Being there, such a violent storm arose that all the ships dragtged their anchors until they were near the shore. The wind continued to increase in violence, and the ship of Juan Sebastian del Cano, where I was, drove broadside on to the beach. In reaching the land nine men lost their lives, and the rest were half drowned.

* Roldan, Bustamante, and the chaplain Arreizage were in the ship (Herrara). These men rejoined their ship by a march overland, abandoning the skiff. They must have been at the mouth of the Gallego river.

† Burney says that Cape Buon Tiempo, the north cape at the mouth of the Gallego river, might be taken for Cape Virgins, without any impeachment of the ability of del Cano. SEixas y Lovera (p. 60) says—“Costa del Rio de Gallegos de mar en fuera pareae la de Cabo de las Virgenes.

Next day there was such a furious gale that the ship was broken up, many casks of wine and bales of merchandize being lost, as well as all the bread.

When the wind went down, about the middle of January, Juan Sebastian went of board the ship of Pedro de Vera,* to look after the ships which remained within the strait, I and others going with him. Before we could take shelter a furious contrary wind sprang up. It was on the following Thursda. We thought we should be wrecked; all three ships lost their boats, and the ship of Pedro de Vera got out to sea.

* The Annunciada.

On the following Friday the weather was finer, the wind went down, and we again entered the strait, passing further up than the first occasion, and found an anchorage with a length equal to a cannon shot's flight, and a width equal to two stone's throws. To the N.E. we saw the caravels anchored in a bay in that direction. It gave us great pleasure to see the caravels, as we had given them up for lost. On shore we saw people who were Patagonians. When we arrived where the caravels were at anchor, they sent the skiff of the ship of Pedro de Vera on shore, and they brought back a Patagonian. He was given food an wine, and presented with some small things which pleased him much, especially a looking-glass. When he saw his reflection he was so astonished that the things he did were worth seeing. They showed him gold and silver, but such things did not surprise him at all. He was a large man and ugly, wearing the skin of a zebra,* and sandals on his feet. When he saw that it was nightfull, he made signs to be taken on shore.

* Guanaco.

Next day they sent me on shore with five companions to where Diego de Covarrubias, the general agent, was, with the crew of the lost ship. they were to collect all the merchandize, wine, munitions, artillery and rigging, to have it ready when the caravels should send for it and for the crew. When we landed, presently the Patagonians came to us and asked, by signs, for something to eat and drink. We gave them some of what we had in our knapsacks, and then went to see their settlement. In consisted of huts made of the skins of zebras* where they had their wives and children. When they want to go somewhere else, they take up their huts and put them on the backs of their women, while they march only with bows and arrows. About ten of them followed us for a day and a half, but when they saw that our knapsacks were getting empty, they turned back. We remained at the place where the ship was wrecked for four days, though we were nearly dying of thirst of the third day.

* Guanacos.

On the same day that I arrived at the place where the people of the wrecked ship were, there entered round the Cape of 11,000 Virgins the capitana, the San Gabriel and the pinnace. God knows what pleasure we received from the sight of them, for we thought that all were lost, except the pinnace.

When the Captain General saw the wreck on the beach, he sent the pinnace to finid out what it was. When he knew that the ship was lost, he did not wish to be detained, and proceeded up the strait to where the other ships were. Having arrived there, he sent Juan Sebastian del Cano with the two caravels, the pinnace, and the boat of the San Gabriel to where we were, to pick up the crew and all that had been saved from the wreck.

Directly Juan Sebastian arrived with those vessels, we began to get things on board, but when we had nearly finished it began to blow so hard that the caravels had to put to sea, leaving the pinnace and the boat in a creek. We came out into the strait with the caravel of Don Jorge Manrique,* and the other caravel of Francisco de Hozes† was driven out of the strait to the south as far as 55 S. They said, when they returned, that what they saw appeared to be the end of the land.‡

* The Parrel.

† The Lesmes.

‡ Eastern end of Staten Island, in 54.50 S. Brouwer was the first to saild round the east end of Staten Island. Previously it was believed to be part of the imaginary Antarctic Continent.

In this same gale the capitana was nearly lost, the Captain General and all the people landing, except the master and sailors. We, being anchored near the mouth of the strait, saw the ship of Pedro de Vera,* but in spite of our signals he did not wish to come to us, sailing out of the strait and never seen by us again.† The San Gabriel also sailed out, with Don Rodrigo on board, for the Captain General had reinstated him in his command. As he saw our signals he came and anchored where we were, in a good little port.

* The Anunciada.

† Pedro de Vera tried, for many days, to rejoin at the Santa Cruz river, but the wind prevented him. He then resolved to try and reach the Malucas by the Cape of Good Hope. The Anunciada was never heard of again.

Next day the capitana followed into the channel. Much heavy cargo had been thrown overboard, and most of the people landed, which lightened the ship and enabled her to float again. In this way the master and his sailors brought the ship out, and the Captain General embarked again with his people. The ship was anchored outside, and it was resolved to return to the river of Santa Cruz to repair and refit the capitana; for she had been much injured by bumping on shore, and she made much water. We, therefore, sailed past the Cape of 11,000 Virgins, leaving the San Gabriel's boat, the pinnace and another boat inside.

When 15 leagues from the Cape of 11,000 Virgins on our way to the river of Santa Cruz, the Captain [General] ordered Don Rodrigo de Acuña to go back to where the pinnace was, and to recover his boat, for it was fine weather. He was to tell the captain of the pinnace that we were going to Santa Cruz, and to go for the boat with as much despatch as possible. Don Rodrigo answered the Captain General that if he returned in such weather he would be lost. The Captain General replied that it was necessary to return and recover the boat, because boats were much needed. Don Rodrigo then asked the Captain General why he was ordered to go where he did not want to go. However he went and took the boat, which was handed over to him by the captain of the pinnace. He then went where he chose, for we never saw him again.*

* Rodrigo de Acuña also tried for several days to rejoin in the Santa Cruz river. He then went north for water and provisions, and fell in with some French cruisers. He went to them in a boat for news, and found that there was war with France. They would not let him return to his ship, but the crew refused to surrender and eventually got back to Spain. Acuña reached Pernambuco in an open boat, where he was badly treated by the Portuguese, but at length he also returned to Spain.

The pinnace came to the river of Santa Cruz after twenty days. We had very hard work in repairing the capitana as it was winter. We were working in the water, and we found three fathoms of her keel broken. We applied a remedy in the best way we could, first with boards, and then with sheets of lead. We had very convenient tides, rising five fathoms, so that we could repail the caravels and the pinnace, and we got in our wood and water. We also caught quantities of fish in this river with a net we had. Every day, when the tide began to ebb, many fish remained on land, and we took them.

There is an island in this river on which the seals came every day to bask in the sun. When we saw them, 36 men, divided into six parties, six men for each seal, went to the island. On the beach along which we went to the seals, we found so many ducks without wings* that we could not break through them. Yet we got at the seals which were on the land, with hooks, clubs and lances to kill them. But we never were able to kill more than one which was above all the others asleep, and we broke all the weapons we brought with us. We opened the seal that we had killed, and we found several large stones in his stomach, as big as a fist and very smooth. This seal had as much meat as a bullock in the fore quarters, and very little in the hind parts. The hunters ate the liver, and most of us who ate it suffered from the head to the feet.§

* Penguins.

§ A similar ailment was reported by Alonso a decade later. However, liver—seal or otherwise—has a generally good nutrional value, so perhaps some other agent was a factor in the illness. Years later (1619), the de Nodal brothers' crew killed some penguins, and “…some partook of the livers boiled, and said they were very good.”

We departed from this river of Santa Cruz as soon as the ships were repaired,§ making for the strait, and entering as far as some islands which were beyond the place where the capitana got on shore. Being at anchor off an island, a caldron of pitch caught fire and began to burn the ship, and in a little time we should have been burnt with it. But with the help of God, and by our own diligence, we put out the fire. Beyond this island we got amongst a bed of seaweed, for we had mistaken the channel, but we soon recovered it again, the sea being quite smooth. From this point forward we found very good ports on the north side of the strait, and good anchorages. There are many very high mountains covered with snow. There are many trees, and among them there is one with a leaf like a laurel,* and its bark has the same smell as cinnamon. There are also mussels in great quantity containing pearls.† In this strait the agent Diego de Covarrubias died.

§ del Cano biographer Mairin Mitchell states the following(p. 141):

“According to Urdaneta it was March 23rd, according to the pilots Uriarte and de la Torre, and the chaplain, it was March 29th, 1526, when the squadron left the Rio Santa Cruz for the Strait.”
However, the above English translation follows the Spanish ms. (in Navarrete, vol. V, Núm. XXVI, p. 406) in giving no date for their departure. (“Partimos de este dicho rio de Santa Cruz, despues de aparejadas las naos, para el Estrecho, …”). Mitchell does not identify the source of his information.

* Probably Winter's Bark (Drimys Winteri).

† Aljofar.

We got out of the strait in the month of May 1526, the fleet now consisting of the capitana Santa Maria de la Victoria, the two caravels Parrel* and Lesmes† and the pinnace.‡ After a few days we encountered a great storm, in which we were all scattered, and never saw eacth other again. With the heave seas that struck her, the ship became leaky in many places and we were distressed by the quantity of water which we could not keep down with two pumps constantly going. Each day we expected the end to come. On the other hand we had to reduce the rations by reason of the number of additional men who had come on board from the ship that was wrecked. Thus while on the one side we worked hard, on the other we were insufficiently fed. We passed though such misery, and some perished.

* Santi Spiritus wrecked, Anunciada and San Gabriel deserted. The Parrel crossed the Pacific. Her fate is described by Urdaneta further on.

† The Lesmes was never heard of again. But the Spaniards of the Quiros expedition in 1606 saw an old cross on Chain Island, which may have been put up by the shipwreacked crew of the Lesmes.

‡ The pinnace Pataca eventually reached Mexico. The chaplain Arreizage appears to have been on board the Pataca. They reached the port of Tehuantepec, the captain Guevara and the priest proceeding thence to Mexico. (Herrera.)

On the 30th of July the Captain General died. On the production of a secret order of His Majesty, Juan Sebastian del Cano was sworn as Captain General. He appointed a nephew of the late Captain General Loaysa to be Accountant General, which post have become vacant, Martin Perez del Cano to be pilot, and Hernando de Bustamante to be Accountat of the ship, a post which had become vacant through the death of Iñigo Cortes de Perez.

On the 4th of August 1526 the Captain General Juan Sebastian del Cano died, and the nephew of the Comendador Loaysa, who had been appointed Accountant General, also died. We elected Toribio Alonso de Salazar to the command, by votes, and he appointed Martin Iñiguez de Carquisano to be Accountant General, and in his place, as chief Alguazil, Gonzalo de Campo was appointed. At the same time the Treasurer died, Gutierrez de Tunion being appointed in his place.