Appletons' Cyclopædia of American Biography/Fuentes, Bartolomé de

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FUENTES, or FONTE, Bartolomé de, Spanish or Portuguese navigator, supposed to have lived in the 17th century. His real or imaginary voyages have been the subject of much controversy, and even his existence has been called in question. The story of the voyages of Fuentes, who is said to have been an admiral in the service of Spain, is contained in a letter of seven pages, which was first published in a work entitled “The Monthly Miscellany, or Memoirs of the Various” (London, 1708). It is not known how the letter fell into the hands of the editors of this work. According to the narrative, he sailed from the port of Lima, 3 April, 1640, took a northwesterly course, and, after reaching lat. 53° N., discovered an archipelago, which he called the archipelago of St. Lazarus. He entered a river in one of the islands of the archipelago, flowing from the east, and sailed eastward through other rivers and lakes of vast extent, until he fell in with the ship of Capt. Shapely, who was coming from Boston, and consequently from the east, all of which showed clearly that there was a communication between the two oceans north of America. The letter of Fuentes was republished by Sir Arthur Dobbs in his account of the countries that border on Hudson bay (London, 1744). Sir Arthur Dobbs says that, from information that he had gathered in America, there was a Capt. Shapely living in Boston at the date of the voyage of Admiral Fuentes. Another narrative of the same event was published in a “Voyage to Hudson's Bay” (London, 1749). The letter of Fuentes was translated into French by the distinguished geographer, Joseph Nicholas Delisle, who read two learned dissertations on the subject in presence of the Academy of sciences in 1750. He attaches considerable importance to the letter of Fuentes, and endeavors to reconcile his statements with what he had learned of the discoveries of the Russians. Spanish authors have generally kept silent on the voyage of Fuentes. The author of the “Noticia de California,” however (Madrid, 1757), formally denies that such a person existed. Dr. Forster, also, in his work on the discoveries in the north, considers Fuentes a mythical personage. On the other hand, Fleurieu, in his “Introduction au voyage de Marchand,” leans to the opinion that he was a real person, and this opinion acquires still more probability since the publication of the voyages of Maldonado, although in the “Quarterly Review” of February, 1817, strong objections are urged against the reality of either voyage. The fact of the existence at least of a navigator of the name of Fonte, or Fuentes, would seem to receive confirmation from the work of the Hollander, Witsen, on Tartary, entitled “Nord en cost Tartarye” (1705), quoted in Burney's “Chronological History of the Discoveries of South Sea.” Vancouver, although frequently opposing the statements of Fuentes, declares that he could not deny them positively.