Early Voyages to Terra Australis/Relation of Luis Vaez de Torres

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(First printed in Burney's Discoveries in the South Sea. Part 2, p. 467. London, 1806. 4to.)

Being in this city of Manila, at the end of a year and a half of navigation and making discovery of the lands and seas in the southern parts; and seeing that the Royal Audience of Manila have not hitherto thought proper to give me dispatches for completing the voyage as Your Majesty commanded, and as I was in hopes of being the first to give yourself a relation of the discover, etc., but being detained here, and not knowing if, in this city of Manila, I shall receive my dispatches, I have thought proper to send Your Majesty Fray Juan de Merlo of the order of San Francisco one of the three religious who were on board with me, who having been eye-witness, will give a full relation to Your Majesty. The account from me is the following.

We sailed from Callao, in Peru, December 21st, 1605, with two ships and a launch, under the command of Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros, and I for his almirante; and without losing company, we stood W.S.W., and went on this course 800 leagues.

In latitude 26° S., it appeared proper to our commander not to pass that latitude, because of changes in the weather: on which account I gave a declaration under my hand that it was not a thing obvious that we ought to diminish our latitude if the season would allow, till we got beyond 30°, my opinion had no effect; for from the said 26° S., we decreased our latitude in a W.N.W. course to 24½° S. In this situation we found a small low island, about two leagues long, uninhabited and without anchoring ground.

From hence we sailed W. by N. to 24° S. In this situation we found another island, uninhabited, and without anchorage. It was about ten leagues in circumference. We named it San Valerio.

From hence we sailed W. by N. one day and then W.N.W. to 21¾° S., where we found another small low island without soundings, uninhabited, and divided into pieces.

We passed on in the same course and sailed twenty-five leagues: we found four islands in a triangle, five or six leagues each; low uninhabited and without soundings. We named them las Virgines (the Virgins). Here the variation was north-easterly.

From hence we sailed N.W. to 19° S. In this situation we saw a small island to the eastward, about three leagues distant. It appeared like those we had passed. We named it Sta. Polonia.

Diminishing our latitude from hence half a degree we saw a low island, with a point to the full of palms: it is in 13½° S. We arrived at it. It had no anchorage. We saw people on the beach: the boats went to the shore, and when they reached it, they could not land on account of the great surf and rocks. The Indians called to them from the land: two Spaniards swam ashore: these they received well, throwing their arms upon the ground, and embraced them and kissed them in the face. On this friendship, a chief among them came on board the Capitana to converse, and an old woman; who were clothed, and other presents were made to them, and they returned ashore presently for they were in great fear. In return for these good offices they sent a heap, or locks of hair, and some bad feathers, and some wrought pearl oyster shells: these were all their valuables. They were a savage people, mullattoes, and corpulent: the arms they use are lances, very long and thick. As we could not land nor get anchoring ground, we passed on steering W.N.W.

We went in this direction from that island, getting sight of land. We could not reach it from the first, on account of the wind being contrary and strong with much rain: it was all of it very low, so as in parts to be overflowed.

From this place in 16½° S., we stood N.W. by N. to 10¾° S. In this situation we saw an island, which was supposed to be that of San Bernardo, because it was in pieces: but it was not San Bernardo, from what we afterwards saw. We did not find anchoring ground at it, though the boats went on shore to search for water, which we were in want of, but could not find any: they only found some cocoa-nut trees though small. Our commander seeing we wanted water, agreed that we should go to the island Santa Cruz, where he had been with the adelantado Alvaro de Mendana, saying we might there supply ourselves with water and wood, and then he would determine what was most expedient for Your Majesty's service. The crew of the Capitana at this time were mutinous, designing to go directly to Manila: on this account he sent the chief pilot a prisoner on board my ship, without doing anything further to him or others, though I strongly importuned him to punish them or give me leave to punish them; but he did not choose to do it, from whence succeeded what Your Majesty knows, since they made him turn from the course (voyage), as will be mentioned, and he has probably said at Your Majesty's court.

We sailed from the above island W. by N., and found nearly a point easterly variation. We continued this cource till in full 10° S. Latitude. In this situation we found a low island of five or six leagues, overflowed and without soundings: it was inhabited, the people and arms like those we had left, but their vessels were different. They came close to the ship, talking to us and taking what we gave them, begging more, and stealing what was hanging to the ship, throwing lances, thinking we could do them no harm.

Seeing we could not anchor, on account of the want we were in of water, our commander ordered me ashore with two boats and fifty men. As soon as we came to the shore they opposed my entrance, without any longer keeping peace, which obliged me to skirmish with them. When we had done them some mischief, three of them came out to make peace with me, singing, with branches in their hands, and one with a lighted torch and on his knees. We received them well and embraced them, and then cloathed them, for they were some of the chiefs; and asking them for water they did not choose to show it me, making signs as if they did not understand me. Keeping the three chiefs with me, I ordered the sergeant, with twelve men, to search for water, and having fallen in with it the Indians came out on their flank and attacked them wounding one Spaniard. Seeing their treachery they were attacked and defeated without other harm whatever. The land being in my power, I went over the town without finding anything but dried oysters and fish, and many cocoa-nuts, with which the land was well provided. We found no birds nor animals except little dogs. They have many covered embarcations, with which they are accustomed to navigate to other islands, with latine sails made curiously of mats; and of the same cloth their women are cloathed with little shifts and petticoats, and the men only round their waists and hips. From hence we put off with the boats loaded with water, but by the great swell we were overset with much risk of our lives, and so we were obliged to go on with out getting water at this island. We named it Matanza.

We sailed in this parallel thirty-two days. In all this route we had very strong currents, and many drifts of wood and snakes, and many birds, all which were signs of land on both sides of us. We did not search for it, that we might not leave the latitude of the island of Santa Cruz, for we always supposed ourselves near it; and with reason, if it had been where the first voyage when it was discovered had represented; but it was much further on, as by the account will be seen. So that about sixty leagues before reaching it, and 1940 from the city of Lima, we found a small island of six leagues very high, and all round it very good soundings; and other small islands near it, under shelter of which the ships anchored. I went with the two boats and fifty men to reconnoitre the people of this island; and at the distance of a musket shot separate from the island, we found a town surrounded with a wall, with only one entrance, without a gate. Being near with the two boats with an intention of investing them as they did not by signs choose peace, at length their chief came into the water up to his neck, with a staff in his hand, and without fear came directly to the boats; where he was very well received, and by signs which we very well understood, he told me that his people were in great terror of the muskets, and therefore he entreated us not to land, and said that they would bring water and wood if we gave them vessels. I told him that it was necessary to remain five days on shore to refresh. Seeing he could not do more with me he quieted his people, who were very uneasy and turbulent, and so it happened that no hostility was committed on either side. We went into the fort very safely; and having halted, I made them give up their arms, and made them bring from their houses their effects, which were not of any value, and go with them to the island to other towns. They thanked me very much: the chief always continued with me. They then told me the name of the country: all came to me to make peace, and the chiefs assisted me, making their people get water and wood and carry it on board the ships. In this we spent six days.

The people of this island are of an agreeable conversation, understanding us very well, desirous of learning our language and to teach us theirs. They are great cruizers: they have much beard; they are great archers and hurlers of darts; the vessels in which they sail are large, and can go a great way. They informed us of more than forty islands, great and small, all peopled, naming them by names, and telling us that they were at war with many of them. They also gave us intelligence of the island Santa Cruz, and of what had happened when the adelantado was there.

The people of this island are of ordinary stature: they have amongst them people white and red, some in colour like those of the Indies, others woolly-headed blacks and mulattoes. Slavery is in use amongst them. Their food is yams, fish, cocoa-nuts, and they have hogs and fowls.

This island is named Taomaco and the name of the chief, Tomai. We departed from hence with four Indians whom we took, at which they were not much pleased: and as we here got wood and water, there was no necessity for us to go to the island Santa Cruz, which, as I have said, is in this parallel sixty leagues further on.

So we sailed from hence, steering S.S.E. to 12½° S. latitude, where we found an island like that of Taomaco, and with the same kind of people, named Chucupia: there is only one small anchoring place; and passing in the offing, a small canoe with only two men came to me to make peace, and presented me some bark of a tree, which appeared like a very fine handkerchief, four yards long and three palms wide: on this I parted from them.

From hence we steered south. We had a hard gale of wind from the north, which obliged us to lye to for two days: at the end of that time it was thought, as it was winter, that we could not exceed the latitude of 14° S., in which we were, although my opinion was always directly contrary, thinking we should reach for the islands named by the Indians of Taomaco. Wherefore sailing from this place we steered west, and in one day's sail we discovered a volcano, very high and large, above three leagues in circuit, full of trees, and of black people with much beard.

To the westward, and in sight of this volcano, was an island not very high and pleasant in appearance. There are few anchoring places, and those very close to the shore: it was very full of black people. Here we caught two in some canoes, whom we cloathed and gave them presents, and the next day we put them on shore. In return for this they shot a flight of arrows at a Spaniard, though in truth it was not in the same port, but about a musket shot further on. They are, however, a people that never miss an opportunity of doing mischief.

In sight of this island and around it are many islands, very high and large, and to the southward one so large that we stood for it, naming the island where our man was wounded Santa Maria.

Sailing thence to the southward towards the large island, we discovered a very large bay, well peopled, and very fertile in yams and fruits, hogs and fowls. They are all black people and naked. They fight with bows, darts and clubs. They did not choose to have peace with us, though we frequently spoke to them and made presents; and they never, with their goodwill, let us set foot on shore.

This bay is very refreshing, and in it fall many and large rivers. It is in 15 2/3° S. latitude, and in circuit it is twenty-five leagues. We named it the bay de San Felipe y Santiago, and the land del Espiritu Santo.

There we remained fifty days:* we took possession in the name of Your Majesty. From within this bay, and from the most sheltered part of it, the Capitana departed at one hour past midnight, without giving any notice to us and without making any signal. This happened the 11th of June, and although the next morning we went out to seek for them; and made all proper efforts, it was not possible for us to find them; for they did not sail on the proper course, nor with good intention. So I was obliged to return to the bay, to see if by chance they had returned thither. And on the same account we remained in this bay 15 days; at the end of which we took Your Majesty's orders, and held a consultation with the officers of the frigate. It was determined that we should fulfil them, although contrary to the inclination of many, I may say, of the greater part; but my condition was different from that of Captain Pedro Fernandez de Quiros.

* This includes the time Torres remained in the bay after the separation from Quiros.

At length we sailed from this bay, in conformity to the order, although with intention to sail round this island, but the season and the strong currents would not allow this, although I ran along a great part of it. In what I saw, there are very large mountains. It has many ports, though some of them very small. All of it is well watered with rivers. We had at this time nothing but bread and water: it was the height of winter, with sea, wind, and ill will (of his crew) against us. 'All this did not prevent me from reaching the mentioned latitude, which I passed one degree, and would have gone farther if the weather had permitted; for the ship was good. It was proper to act in this manner, for these are not voyages performed every day, nor could Your Majesty otherwise be properly informed. Going into the said latitude on a S.W. course, we had no signs of land that way. From hence I stood back to the N.W. to 11½° S. latitude: there we fell in with the beginning of New Guinea, the coast of which runs W. by N. and E. by S. I could not weather the east point so I coasted along to the westward on the south side.

All this land of New Guinea is peopled with Indians, not very white, and naked, except their waists, which are covered with a cloth made of the bark of trees, and much painted. They fight with darts, targets, and some stone clubs, which are made fine with plumage. Along the coast are many islands and habitations. All the coast has many ports, very large, with very large rivers, and many plains. Without these islands there runs a reef of shoals, and between them (the shoals) and the main land are the islands. There is a channel within. In these ports I took possession for Your Majesty.

We went along three hundred leagues of coast as I have mentioned, and diminished the latitude 2½°, which brought us into 9°. From hence we fell in with a bank of from three to nine fathoms, which extends along the coast, above 180 leagues. We went over it along the coast to 7½° south latitude, and the end of it is in 5°. We could go no further on for the many shoals and great currents, so we were obliged to sail out S.W. in that depth to 11° S. latitude. There is all over it an archipelago of islands without number, by which we passed, and at the end of the eleventh degree the bank became shoaler. Here were very large islands, and there appeared more to the southward: they were inhabited by black people, very corpulent and naked: their arms were lances, arrows, and clubs of stone ill-fashioned. We could not get any of their arms. We caught in all this land twenty persons of different nations, that with them we might be able to give a better account to Your Majesty. They give much notice of other people, although as yet they do not make themselves well understood.

We went upon this bank for two months, at the end of which time we found ourselves in 25 fathoms and in 5° S. latitude and ten leagues from the coast. And having gone 480 leagues, here the coast goes to the N.E. I did not reach it, for the bank became very shallow. So we stood to the north, and in twenty-five fathoms to 4° latitude, where we fell in with a coast, which likewise lay in a direction east and west. We did not see the eartern termination, but from what we understood of it, it joins the other we had left on account of the bank, the sea being very smooth. This land is peopled by blacks, different from all the others: they are better adorned: they use arrows, darts, and large shields and some sticks of bamboo filled with lime with which, by throwing it out, they blind their enemies. Finally, we stood to the W.N.W. along the Coast, always finding this people, for we landed in many places: also in it we took possession for Your Majesty. In this land also we found iron, china bells, and other things, by which we knew we were near the Malucas and so we ran along this coast above 130 leagues, where it comes to a termination fifty leagues before you reach the Molucas. There is an infinity of islands to the southward and very large which for the want of provisions we did not approach, for I doubt if in ten years could be examined the coasts of all the islands we descried. We observed the variation in all this land of New Guinea to the Molucas; and in all of it the variation agrees with the meridian of the Ladrone Islands and of the Philippine Islands.

At the termination of this land we found Mahometans, who were cloathed and had firearms and swords. They sold us fowls, goats, fruit and some pepper, and biscuit which they called sagoe, which will keep more than twenty years. The whole they sold us was but little; for they wanted cloth, and we had not any; for all the things that had been given us for traffic were carried away by the Capitana, even to tools and medicines, and many other things which I do not mention, as there is no help for it; but, without them, God took care of us.

These Moors gave us news of the events at the Malucas, and told us of Dutch ships though none of them came here although they said that in all this land there was much gold and other good things, such as pepper and nutmegs. For hence to the Malucas it is all islands, and on the south side are many uniting with those of Banda and Amboyna, where the Dutch carry on a trade. We came to the islands of Bachian, which are the first Malucas, where we found a Theatine, with about one hundred Christians in the country of a Mahometan king friendly to us, who begged me to subdue one of the Ternate islands inhabited by revolted Mahometans, to whom Don pedro de Acunha had given pardon in Your Majesty's name, which I had maintained; and I sent advice to the M. de Campo, Juan de Esquivel, who governed the islands of Ternate, of my arrival, and demanded if it was expedient to give this assistance to the king of Bachian, to which he (Juan de Esquivel) answered that it would be of great service to Your Majesty if I brought force for that purpose. On this, with forty Spaniards and four hundred Moors of the king of Bachian, I made war, and in only four days I defeated them and took the fort, and put the king of Bachian in possession of it in Your Majesty's name, to whom we administered the usual oaths, stipulating with him that he should never go to war against Christians, and that he should ever be a faithful vassal to Your Majesty. I did not find these people of so intrepid a spirit as those we had left.

It must be ascribed to the Almighty that, in all these labours and victories, we lost only one Spaniard. I do not make a relation of them to Your Majesty, for I hope to give it at large.

The king being put in possession, I departed for Ternate, which was twelve leagues from this island, where Juan de Esquivel was, by whom I was well received; for he had great scarcity of people, and the nations of Ternate were in rebellion, and assistance to him was very unexpected in so roundabout a way.

In a few days afterwards arrived succour from Manila, which was much desired, for half of the people left by Don Pedro de Acunha were no more, and there was a scarcity of provisions, for, as I said, the nations of the island were in rebellion; but by the prudence of the M. de Campo, Juan de Esquivel, he went on putting the affairs of the island in good order, although he was in want of money.

I left the Patache here and about twenty men, as it was expedient for the service of Your Majesty. From hence I departed for the city of Manila, where they gave me so bad a dispatch, as I have mentioned; and hitherto, which is now two months, they have not given provisions to the crew; and so I know not when I can sail hence to give account to Your Majesty.

Whom may God preserve prosperous, For sovereign of the world. Your Majesty's servant, LUIS VAEZ DE TORRES.

Done at Manila, July 12th, 1607.