Magellan’s Voyage

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On Monday, St. Lawrence’s day, the tenth of August in the… year [1519], the fleet, having been furnished with all that was necessary for it, and having in the five ships people of divers nations to the number of two hundred and thirty-seven in all [in fact, between 270 and 280, including at least thirty-seven Portuguese], was ready to depart from the Mole of Seville, and firing all the artillery we set sail with the staysail only and came to the mouth of a river named Betis, which is now called Guadalquivir.… And passing through several small villages along the said river, at length we arrived at a castle belonging to the Duke of Medina Sidonia called San Lucar, which is a port by which to enter the Ocean Sea.…

Departure of the fleet from the port of Seville

A few days after, the captain-general went along the said river in his boat, and the masters of the other ships with him, and we remained for some days at the said port to supply the fleet with some necessary things. We went every day to hear mass on land at a church named Our Lady of Barrameda near San Lucar, where the captain ordered all those of the fleet to confess themselves before going further. In which he himself showed the way to the others. Moreover he would not allow any woman, whoever she might be, to come into the fleet and to the ships, for several good reasons.…

Tuesday the twentieth of September of the said year, we departed from San Lucar, laying course by the southwest wind, otherwise called labeiche . And on the sixteenth of the said month [an error; it was on either September 26 or 29] we arrived at an island of the Grand Canary named Tenerife, in twenty-eight degrees of latitude, where we remained three and a half days to take in provisions and other things which were needed.…

On Monday the third of October in the said year, at midnight, we sailed on the course to the south, which the seamen of the Levant call Cyroc [the sirocco], [and] engulfing ourselves in the Ocean Sea, we passed Cape Verde and sailed for many [days] along the coast of Guinea or Ethiopia, where there is a mountain called Sierra Leone … And sometimes we had the wind contrary, at others fair, and rain without wind.

Thus we sailed for sixty days of rain to the equinoctial line [i.e., the equator]. Which was a thing very strange and uncommon, in the opinion of the old people and of those who had sailed there several times before. Notwithstanding, before reaching that equinoctial line, we had in fourteen degrees a variety of weather, and bad, both by squalls and by wind and currents which came head-on to us so that we could not advance. And in order that our ships should not perish or broach to … we struck the sails.…

During these storms the body of St. Anselm appeared to us several times. And among others on a night which was very dark, at a time of bad weather: the said saint appeared in the form of a lighted torch at the height of the maintop [this was, of course, St. Elmo’s fire], and remained there more than two hours and a half, to the comfort of us all. For we were in tears, expecting only the hour of death. And when this holy light was about to leave us, it was so bright to the eyes of all that we were for more than a quarter of an hour as blind men calling for mercy. For without any doubt no man thought he would escape from that storm.

Be it noted that, whenever this fire which represents the said St. Anselm appears and descends on a ship (which is in a storm at sea), the [said] ship never perishes. Suddenly when the said fire vanished, the sea became calm again …

After we had passed the equinoctial line towards the south, we lost the north star, and… crossed to a land named Verzin [Brazil]…

Of the land of Verzin

The said land of Verzin abounds in all good things, and it is larger than France, Spain, and Italy together. It is one of the countries that the King of Portugal has conquered. Its people are not Christians, and worship nothing, but live according to the custom of nature, more like beasts than otherwise. And some of these people live a hundred years, or six score or seven score years, or more, and they go naked, both men and women. Their habitation is in fairly long houses, which they call Boii , and they sleep in nets of cotton, which they call in their language Amache [hammocks; the people were Tupi or Guarani Indians].

Be it noted also that the inhabitants of that country, both men and women, are in the habit of painting themselves with fire [i.e., tattooing] over all the body and face. The men are shaved and wear no beard, for they pluck it out themselves. And their whole clothing is a ring surrounded by the largest parrot feathers, with which they cover the part and backside only. Which is a very ridiculous thing.… And those people, both men and women, are not quite black, but tend to tan color, and they openly display their shame …