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Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia

Alvaro De Mendana

page 6

Alvaro De Mendana

1567 to 1569

After the voyages of Magellan and Loyasa through the Strait of Magel lan, the Spanish voyages across the Pacific to the Philippines were organized from the ports of Navidad or Acapulco on the Pacific coast of Mexico. As these ports were north of the equator, both the outward and return voyages were made in the Northern Hemisphere. Hence, except for the Hawaiian Archipelago, there was no prospect of encountering any Polynesian islands. The conquest of Peru, however, provided the ports of Payta and Callao from which any expedition would of necessity pass for a distance at least, through the Southern Hemisphere.

The first Spanish navigator to evince a desire to explore the south Pacific was Alvaro de Mendana. His object was to discover rich islands to the west and convert the infidels inhabiting them. He sailed from Callao with two ships on November 19, 1567. The first part of his course evidently retraced part of the route of Magellan, for he passed between the Tokelau chain and the Marquesas without sighting either. However, he continued west instead of turning north. He sighted an island which may have been one of the Ellice group and another which is held to have been Ontong Java. He finally reached the Solomon Islands in the heart of Melanesia, having accomplished the remarkable feat of crossing the south Pacific without encountering any island in Polynesia proper.

After various adventures, he sailed north for his return voyage, passing along the Marshall Islands to a latitude north of Hawaii, across to the California coast, and down the coast to Acapulco. Lack of funds for repairs, and other delays, cost Mendaña another nine months before he reached Callao on September 11, 1569.