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A thrilling logbook

500 years ago, an expedition with five ships departed from Seville with the aim of getting to the Moluca islands, navigating to the West. After the discovery of America 27 years before, we get to the conclusion that the Earth was round; and therefore our objective was to navigate further than the Americas and explore what was beyond the West and reach the eastern India.

The expedition was directed by the Crown of Castile. The emperor Carlos l ordered Ferdinand Magellan as the captain of the fleet, with the aim of finding a way to cross to the South Sea through South America. If he found the way, he was ordered to navigate through the unknown sea until de Moluca Islands, where the species were produced.

 
 

Statue of Juan Sebastian Elcano located in his hometown Getaria (Basque Country, Spain).

Once having discovered the passage to the South Sea, the fleet crossed the new Sea and reached Asia. Magellan died in a battle in Philippines; the expedition was depleted of men and ships. At the end, it was only one ship left – La Victoria – headed up by the Basque Juan Sebastián Elcano. This man decided to do the return voyage (tornaviaje) continuing through the West instead of doing it through the Pacific Sea. Avoiding going ashore so that they didn’t get arrested by the Portuguese; the expedition got to Sevile the 8th September 1522, three years after, with 18 crewmen, three Indians from Moluca Islands and only one ship.

Two men put this journey on record; both of them survive and got back to Sevile. Antonio Pigafetta from Vicenza (Italy) got into the fleet as a supernumerary and worked as translator and cartographer. He gathered all the details of the route in his work Primo Viaggio intorno al Globo Terracqueo; published in English as The First Voyage Round the World.

The other man was the boatswain and the navigator Francisco Albo, from Quios Island in Greece. He wrote Derrotero del viaje de Magallanes en demanda del Estrecho, desde el paraje del Cabo San Agustín, written in a Logbook style, the book reflected all the astronomic and navigation remarks of the journey.

However, even if Juan Sebastián Elcano was the one leading the expedition back to Seville, he was eclipsed by Magellan’s figure. The Basque Institute of Geography wants to pay tribute to this basque seaman and sailor, born in the coastal village of Getaria, reclaiming his geniality through this Logbook blog.

The texts written by Pigafetta and Albo will be used to recreate what happened 500 years ago in this trip, reporting what happened the concrete date. This way, the 10th August, the blog will have a new post, with the texts Pigafetta wrote the 10th August 1519, the day the fleet set sail to Sanlúcar.

We hope you enjoy this Logbook blog during the three years the trip will last.

Sources:

Pigafetta’s book Primo Viaggio intorno al Globo Terracqueo. In Spanish, it was used the translation edited by Federico Ruiz Morcuende in 1922. In English, the work The First Voyage Round the World, translated by Lord Stanley of Adlerley in 1874. In Basque, it was translated by the Basque Institute of Geography.

Derrotero de Albo. The original version in Spanish is in Archives of Indies in Seville and the authors of the blog used the transliteration of Cristóbal Bernal. In English and Basque it was translated by the Basque Institute of Geography.

Map. Altruistically released by Tomás Mazón Serrano, author of the webpage rutaelcano.com, to who we thank his collaboration.

 
 

However, even if Juan Sebastián Elcano was the one leading the expedition back to Seville, he was eclipsed by Magellan’s figure. The Basque Institute of Geography wants to pay tribute to this basque seaman and sailor, born in the coastal village of Getaria, reclaiming his geniality through this Logbook blog.

The texts written by Pigafetta and Albo will be used to recreate what happened 500 years ago in this trip, reporting what happened the concrete date. This way, the 10th August, the blog will have a new post, with the texts Pigafetta wrote the 10th August 1519, the day the fleet set sail to Sanlúcar.

We hope you enjoy this Logbook blog during the three years the trip will last.

Sources:

Pigafetta’s book Primo Viaggio intorno al Globo Terracqueo. In Spanish, it was used the translation edited by Federico Ruiz Morcuende in 1922. In English, the work The First Voyage Round the World, translated by Lord Stanley of Adlerley in 1874. In Basque, it was translated by the Basque Institute of Geography.

Derrotero de Albo. The original version in Spanish is in Archives of Indies in Seville and the authors of the blog used the transliteration of Cristóbal Bernal. In English and Basque it was translated by the Basque Institute of Geography.

Map. Altruistically released by Tomás Mazón Serrano, author of the webpage rutaelcano.com, to who we thank his collaboration.

 

Monday, the day of St. Laurence, the 10th of August, in the year above mentioned, the fleet, provided with what was necessary for it, and carrying crews of different nations, to the number of two hundred and thirty-seven men in all the five ships, was ready to set sail from the mole of Seville; and firing all the artillery, we made sail only on the foremast, and came to the end of a river named Betis, which is now called Guadalcavir. In going along this river we passed by a place named Gioan de Farax, where there was a large population of Moors, and there was a bridge over the river by which one went to Seville. This bridge was ruined, however there had remained two columns which are at the bottom of the water, on which account it is necessary to have people of the country of experience and knowledge to point out the convenient spot for safely passing between these two columns, from fear of striking against them. Besides that, it is necessary in order to pass safely by this bridge and by other places on this river, that the water should be rather high. After having passed the two columns we came to another place named Coria, and passing by many little villages lying along the said river, at last we arrived at a castle, which belongs to the Duke of Medina Sidonia, named St. Lucar, where there is a port from which to enter the ocean sea. It is entered by the east wind and you go out by the west wind. Near there is the cape of St. Vincent, which, according to cosmography, is in thirty-seven degrees of latitude, at twenty miles distance from the said port; and from the aforesaid town to this port by the river there are thirty-five or forty miles. A few days afterwards the captain-general came along the said river with his boat, and the masters of the other ships with him, and we remained some days in this port to supply the fleet with some necessary things. We went every day to hear mass on shore, at a church named Our Lady of Barrameda, towards St. Lucar. There the captain commanded that all the men of the fleet should confess before going on any further, in which he himself showed the way to the others. Besides he did not choose that anyone should bring any married woman, or others to the ships, for several good considerations.

Tuesday, the 20th September of the said year, we set sail from St. Lucar, making the course of the south-west otherwise named Labeiche; (...)

(…) and on the twenty-sixth of the said month we arrived at an island of great Canaria, named Teneriphe, which is in twenty-eight degrees latitude; there we remained three days and a half to take in provisions and other things which were wanted. After that we set sail thence and came to a port named Monterose, where we sojourned two days to supply ourselves with pitch, which is a thing necessary for ships. It is to be known that among the other isles which are at the said great Canaria, there is one, where not a drop of water is to be found proceeding from a fountain or a river, only once a day at the hour of midday, there descends a cloud from the sky which envelops a large tree which is in this island, and it falls upon the leaves of the tree, and a great abundance of water distils from these leaves, so that at the foot of the tree there is so large a quantity of water that it seems as if there was an ever-running fountain. The men who inhabit this place are satisfied with this water; also the animals, both domestic and wild, drink of it.

Monday, the third of October of the said year, at the hour of midnight, we set sail, making the course auster, which the levantine mariners call Siroc,  entering into the ocean sea. We passed the Cape Verd and the neighbouring islands in fourteen-and-a-half degrees, and we navigated for several days by the coast of Guinea or Ethiopia; where there is a mountain called Sierra Leona, which is in eight degrees latitude according to the art and science of cosmography and astrology. Sometimes we had the wind contrary and at other times sufficiently good, and rains without wind. In this manner we navigated with rain for the space of sixty days until the equinoctial line, which was a thing very strange and unaccustomed to be seen, according to the saying of some old men and those who had navigated here several times. Nevertheless, before reaching this equinoctial line we had in fourteen degrees a variety of weather and bad winds, as much on account of squalls as for the head winds and currents which came in such a manner that we could no longer advance. In order that our ships might not perish nor broach to  (as it often happens when the squalls come together), we struck our sails, and in that manner we went about the sea hither and thither until the fair weather came. During the calm there came large fishes near the ships which they called Tiburoni (sharks), which have teeth of a terrible kind, and eat people when they find them in the sea either alive or dead. These fishes are caught with a device which the mariners call hamc, which is a hook of iron. Of these, some were caught by our men. However, they are worth nothing to eat when they are large; and even the small ones are worth but little. During these storms the body of St. Anselme appeared to us several times; amongst others, one night that it was very dark on account of the bad weather, the said saint appeared in the form of a fire lighted at the summit of the mainmast,  and remained there near two hours and a half, which comforted us greatly, for we were in tears, only expecting the hour of perishing; and when that holy light was going away from us it gave out so great a brilliancy in the eyes of each, that we were near a quarter-of-an-hour like people blinded, and calling out for mercy. For without any doubt nobody hoped to escape from that storm. It is to be noted that all and as many times as that light which represents the said St. Anselme shows itself and descends upon a vessel which is in a storm at sea, that vessel never is lost. Immediately that this light had departed the sea grew calmer, and then we saw divers sorts of birds, amongst others there were some which had no fundament.  There is also another kind of bird of such a nature that when the female wishes to lay her eggs she goes and lays them on the back of the male, and there it is that the eggs are hatched. This last kind have no feet and are always in the sea. There is another kind of bird which only lives on the droppings of the other birds, this is a true thing, and they are named Cagaselo, for I have seen them follow the other birds until they had done what nature ordered them to do; and after it has eat this dirty diet it does not follow any other bird until hunger returns to it; it always does the same thing.  There are also fish which fly, and we saw a great quantity of them together, so many that it seemed that it was an island in the sea.

After that we had passed the equinoctial line, towards the south, we lost the star of the tramontana, and we navigated between the south and Garbin, which is the collateral wind [or point] between south and west; (…)

2019/11/29ALBO, 1519-11-29

Tuesday, 29 November, I began measuring the Sun's height, travelling along said journey and at the Cape of Saint Augustine, at an altitude [latitude] of 7o in the Southern part, and separated from said Cape by 27 leagues [1 sea league = 5555.55 m] to the Southwest.

(…) and we crossed as far as a country named Verzin, which is in twenty-four degrees and a half of the antarctic sky. This country is from the cape St. Augustine, which is in eight degrees in the antarctic sky. At this place we had refreshments of victuals, like fowls and meat of calves,  also a variety of fruits, called battate, pigne (pine-apples), sweet, of singular goodness, and many other things, which I have omitted mentioning, not to be too long. The people of the said place gave, in order to have a knife, or a hook  for catching fish, five or six fowls, and for a comb they gave two geese, and for a small mirror, or a pair of scissors, they gave so much fish that ten men could have eaten of it. And for a bell (or hawk's-bell)  they gave a full basket  of the fruit named battate; this has the taste of a chestnut, and is of the length of a shuttle.  For a king of cards, of that kind which they used to play with in Italy, they gave me five fowls, and thought they had cheated me. (…)

2019/11/30ALBO, 1519-11-30

Wednesday, 30 of said [month], I measured [the height of] the Sun at 76o with a declination of 22o 59’, and the height of the pole [latitude, separation from the equator] was 8o 59’ [With the quadrant or astrolabe, at midday, one takes the angle formed by the ray of sunshine that passes through two apertures or openings in the astrolabe's needle, graduated with the horizontal line of the ray's same vertical plane (76o). On the other hand, tables show the solar declination of each one of the 365 days of the year, with a value between +23o27’ and -23o27’ (solstices), reaching 0o twice (the equator, equinoxes). The latitude of a terrestrial point, or angle formed by the line that passes through that point and the centre of the earth, or the centre of the equatorial circle, with vertical projection of the same line on said circle, is equal to 90o + ang. Declination (table, 22o 59’) ang. Height of Sun (76o) = 8o 59’ = 8o 59’ southern lat.], and the course was toward the South-Southwest.

2019/12/01ALBO, 1519-12-01

The first day of December, Thursday, the Sun was 78o meridian height and 23o 4’ declination, and our distance [from the equinox or equator line, south latitude] 11o 4’, and the course was South-Southwest.

2019/12/02ALBO, 1519-12-09

Friday 9 of said month, I measured the sun at 88o with a declination of 23o 31’, and our distance from the Equinox Line for the Southern part was 21o 31’, and the course was South-Southwest. We awoke to the right of Santo Tomé, with a large mount and stones of a certain length of coast on the South-Southwest part, and on this coast, 4 leagues out to see, we measured sea depth of 25 fathoms, clean, and the mounts are pointy with many reefs around them. In the aforementioned Brazil and San Tomé, there are many rivers and ports, and 6 leagues along the coast, there are many shallows  2 leagues from land, and a 12-fathom depth, and 10 and 8, while the cost runs Northeast Southwest, to Cabo Frio, with many islands and rivers, and in Cabo Frio there is a very large river, and Northeast of it, 9 leagues away, there is a very high mountain peak and 3 islands. The cape is at 23o, and in said cape there are 9 islands, left on the outside. Entering in said cape, there is a very large bay and the mouth has a very low island, and inside it is very large [Isla Grande, Large Island], with many ports, and as it is elevated, it is 2 leagues from the (vessel) called the Bay of Saint Lucía [between Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo], and if you wish to enter, the island is to the left side, and is very narrow, yet there is a 7-fathom depth, and it is dirty, while outside there is a 20 and 25-fathom depth, and inside, , there are 18 fathoms. In said bay, there are a great deal of good people, and they are nude, and seek with hooks, mirrors and bells things to eat, and there is much brazilwood [tree used to dye flesh colour, amongst other uses] (…)

2019/12/02ALBO, 1519-12-02

Friday 2 of the same month, I measured the sun at 80o hardly, with a declination of 23o 9’. The height was precisely 13o, and the course was South-Southwest.

2019/12/03ALBO, 1519-12-03

Saturday 3 of the same month, I measured the Sun at 82o 25’, with a declination of 23o 13’, and our distance 14o 58’, and the course was South-Southwest.

2019/12/04ALBO, 1519-12-04

Sunday 4 of said month, the Sun's height was 83o and its declination 23o 17’, and our distance 16o 17’, and the course South-Southwest.