Narrative of the Events
which happened in the fleet of
Simon de Alcazaba

Who went out as Governor of the Province
of Leon in the Parts of the South Sea
Having to Pass the Strait of Magellan

Alonso, Scrivener to His Majesty

Note: The author's full name is not given, nor does he (or the editor) state the purpose of either the voyage or the march, hence the speculations about both which follow.

The King of Spain had divided Spanish South America into four parts, as shown in the table.

Granted to:NameApproximate Boundaries
PizarroNueva Castilla1° 20' N9° 57' S
AlmagroNueva Toledo9° 57' S21° 6' 30" S
MendozaNueva Andalucia21° 6' 30" S36° S
AlcazabaNueva León36° S48° 22' 25" S

It is presumed here that Alcazaba was on his way to the territory awarded to him, and for reasons unknown, planned to pass through the Strait of Magellan and establish his headquarters on the west coast of the continent, perhaps following the examples of Pizarro and Almagro. When that failed, he landed on the east coast and attempted an overland march, which also failed. If Alcazaba was looking for a place to establish his headquarters, presumably that plan would have been abandoned early on when, unable to continue, he returned to his ship. But despite that, most of the others continued for some 400 miles before also deciding to return to the ships.

The said Captain embarked at the town of San Lucar de Barrameda on the 20th of September, 1534, and made sail from the said port on the day of St Mathias, being the 21st of that month.

On the 23rd he put back to Cadiz because one of his ships was leaking, and needed some repairs which were presently effected. On the next day they left the bay of Cadiz at night. In the first watch the capitana struck a rock in fronot of Rota. A large piece of the keel came up, and she made enough water.

We arrived at Gomera in the afternoon of Thursday the 2nd of October, where we remained eight days. The repair of the ship was effected by a diver who fixed a patch over the place where she struck, well caulked and greased, with many nails to secure it.

We left Gomera in the afternoon of Thursday the 15th of October of that year, and two days after sailing, the captain gave orders respecting the rules to be observed by the passengers who were on board. They were that each man was to have daily ten ounces of biscuit, issued by weight, and two measures of wine, equal to three azumbres,* for every ten men, two sardines per man daily, or else a little half-putrid meat. But many days passed when one or other part of the ration was not issued, except the bread and wine which was ordinarily served out. Both the ships together had only three casks of injured meat, the same of sardines, and half a thousand cazones.† So that the passengers could only touch the ration of bread and wine, throughout the voyage, except those who took their own food.

* An azumbre is about ½ a gallon.

† Dogfish.

Before twenty days, more or less, the above ration for the passengers was reduced to eight ounces and no more; and on the day of San Andres, being in sight of Gomera, where we were becalmed for 10 days, not moving more than ten leagues, during the whole time, and with such calms that there was no one who could endure it, they reduced the ration of wine, the same quantity having to suffice for 15 men, instead of 10 men.

On the 20th of November we sighted three islands called Trinidad, but did not stop, leaving them on our right hand. On the following Saturday we came in sight of the mainland of Brazil, leaving it on that night, on our right.

On the 15th of December we lost sight of our consort the San Pedro, and the capitana encountered much bad weather, with many gales from Christmas to Epiphany and New Year's Day. On Saturday the 2nd of January, 1535, we sighted the mainland at Cape Blanco, and on the 13th of January we came to the river Gallegos. On Friday the 15th of January we took in water from the same coast, of which the ship was in some need. They had so reduced the ration for the sailors that for many days they only got wine and no water at all. So that all, whether passengers or sailors, only received the eight ounces of biscuit and wine. They gave nothing else, neither fish, nor beans, nor peas, though they had them on board.

On Sunday the 17th of January we reached the mouth of the strait and the next day we were joined by the San Pedro which had been lost. They said they had been taking in water at the Cape of San Domingo, where they discovered some islands in the sea, with many beasts on them, which some said were seals, but from their middles upwards they were like lions, as well as in their roaring and their eye teeth. Their hands and feet were like wings, but with five fingers and nails showing. Their greatest force was in their hands, on which they moved and gave fairly good jumps. Their skins were as thick as a cow's, and they were fat like pigs. There was a seal from which three arrobas of such good grease were taken that it appeared to be better than common grease, without any bad smell. Fish were fried with it and were better to eat than if they had been fried with pigs' lard. However cold it might be the flesh of these beasts was never frozen. It was very good to eat, and the people who were fed with it declared that it was as good as mutton.

On Monday the 18th of January both ships entered the strait and anchored where there was a high cross on a mast fixed in the ground, with the inscription—“The year 1526.” We went into the strait as far as the island of the ducks,* which they said was a third part of the strait. Our boat went to that island and, in three of four hours, brought back more than 300 ducks.† In truth they were a new kind. They were unable to fly, and were killed with sticks.

* Penguin Islands or Elizabeth Island.§

§ Isla Magdalena is the modern Penguin Island; the nearby and larger Elizabeth Island is not.

† Penguins.

As winter was very near and the winds were contrary we agreed to turn back on the 5th of February.§ We left the strait on the 9th of that month and arrived at the bay near the Cape of San Domingo on the day of St Mathias the Apostle, entering a river between two mountains, which might have a depth of six fathoms at high water, but at low water the ships were almost aground. It was named the Port of Lions.

§ A questionable decision: February is in the summer season, with winter several months away.

We were in this port from the 26th of February to the 9th of March, getting ready everything necessary for a march inland, as well arms as provisions. The port was in 45°. Here, in this port, the Captain Simon de Alcazaba had himself sworn in as Governor, according to the royal decree which he brought. He declared that this was the centre of his command. He appointed his captains, ensigns, and chiefs of squadrons as follows.

Rodrigo Martinez, a native of Cuellar, who commanded 42 lancers.

Juan Arias, a native of Zamora, commander of 42 archers with one Yaraza of Colindres as his ensign, and two chiefs of squadrons named Chaos Navarro, and Ortiz of Medina de Pomar.

Gaspar de Sotelo, a native of Medina del Campo, had 42 lancers, with one Ruison as his ensign and two chiefs of squadrons, a Portuguese named Nuño Alvarez and one Recio of Medina del Campo.

Gaspar de Aviles was a native of Alcaraz. He was captain of 33 arquebusiers and 10 archers. His ensign was one Mexia of Aviles, and his chiefs of squadrons a Florentine named Micer Luis, and Ochoa, a Bisvayan.

The Governor had twenty men armed with lances and shields as his bodyguard, and to keep watch over his tent.§

§ According to the above figures, there were 203 men in the group.

We begain our march from the said port on Tuesday the 9th of March. The Governor gave each man a knapsack containing 15 lbs. of bread without any other provisions, to carry on his back, besides his arms. He required the men to march not less than four leagues§ daily over mountains without roads. We set out from the Port of Lions in the following order. First marched the arquebusiers, next the archers, then the lancers, then the Governor with his twenty men. He was accompanied by Alonso Rodrigues, pilot of one of the ships, with his compass, astrolabe, and chart. The direction was N.W. turning sometimes to north, but always keeping a N.W. course. In this was we marched for 12 leagues from the ships into the interior. Then the Captain and Rodrigo Martinez could not go any further, one owing to his age,* and the other owing to being taken ill. They resolved to return to the ships with all the men who were disabled from weakness or lameness. Their number was 30 men. When he returned the Governor appointed as his Lieutenant one Rodrigo de Isla Montañez, a native of Escalona. Rodrigo Martinez was succeeded in his captaincy by Juan de Mori, a servant of the Governor.

§ About 16 miles.

* Alcazaba was not only old, but also extremely corpulent.

In this way we resumed the march leaving the Governor, with the others, to return to the ships. When we were 15 leagues from the ships, we entered upon a desert and uninhabited country where we found neither roots nor heabs which we could use for food, nor fuel to make a fire, nor water to drink. Only at the end of two days without water, it pleased God that we should find a pool or rain water, which was sufficient to let us drink and fill our bottles. It seemed as if our Lord had given it to us miraculously, for, loaded as we were with arms, half of us must have preished if our thirst had not been quenched.

Two days afterwards we must have marched 10 or 12 leagues over a very bad road. We came to some vry deep ravines in which we found a little water. The people were again in sore need, and were refreshed. A league further on we came to a very wide and deep river.* Here there was a hut consisting of a circle of fire wood, and here we found six native women, three of them with child, and a very old man. As we knew not their language we could not learn anything from them, except that they were living like savages. The life they led was by the river, where they gathered the seeds of a herb in Spain called wild beet which they toasted by a fire and ground between two stones, eating the flour. Their husbands had a tame sheep like those they have in Peru. They had it for a lure to entice other animals, and kill them with their arrows. The hubsands of the women fled, and we could not overtake them. The river was so deep that we could not ford it. The Lieutenant of the Governor and other captains determined to make a canoe of willow wands which we found on the river bank, fastened with cords. By two and two the whole party crossed, with the women, and the sheep, carrying a weight of quite four arrobas. At this time, out of the four parts of our people, three parts had no bread at all, and maintained themselves on the roots of a mountain thistle which above ground had thorns sharper than awls, and under ground had heads like turnips, very sustaining as food. It was not because the Indians ate them that we did, for we knew not what they were, but one day a Christian pulled one up for fun, to try it, and found it good. We then began to feed on these roots, and if it had not been for them we would have suffered much.

* The river Chupat [Rio Chubat].

After 8 or 10 more leagues of road worse than the first, over which we marched, eating roots because we had no bread, we came to another river* with beautiful banks, which passed between two well-wooded hills,† with tall willows. The water of this river was the finest and most sustaining that our men saw, for though we drank it fasting, it never did harm to anyone, nor reminded us of wine. At this river we found an old woman, two girls, and two men who fled with their seeds. The girls taught us to gather roots under the ground, the size of melons and the small of green almonds, very hard to eat. With these and some remains of bread the people were kept alive with much difficulty, and some succeeded in killing fish in the river, like barbels, with hooks they had brought. Those who had fish-hooks fared well, and the rest kept themselves alive with difficulty, living on herbs and roots of a kind of celery of which ther ewas much on the river banks.

* Perhaps the Rio Valencia§ in about 40 S.

§ Possibly the modern Rio Negro.

† The heights of Balchitas.

Among the native women we captured at this river, there was one very old who, by signs with her fingers, told us there was much gold five days' journey further on, which they had put in their ears, noses, and hair, like some doubloons which we showed them. We followed, keeping our old woman as a guide, for ten days, and each day we found the land worse, without a sign of people, the river becoming narrower and smaller, the mountains higher and reaching to the sky. Each day the old woman made the same sign, while our people became more and more exhausted owing to having had no bread for so long, living only on herbs and roots. Those who had fish-hooks to catch fish fared better, and if all had brought the tackle for catching such large and excellent fish as abounded in the river, there would have been enough for all. I saw fish of 10 and 12 lbs. taken.

As the pilot said that we had marched little short of 100 leagues the Lieutenant of the Governor and the captains held counsel together. They agreed that in 100 leagues of marching they had not found habitable land or any sign of it, nor road nor path. They did not understand the old woman, whether she said 5 or 50 days journey, for from the first day she had shown five fingers and we had followed her for 30 leagues. They, therefore, resolved to return to the ships, it being 22 days since we left them. We began the return march on Easter day 1535.

On the third day from commencing our return journey, one night in the valley of the river, two captains, Arias and Sotelo, mutinied, marching with armed men to the tent of the Lieutenant of the Governor and the servants of Simon de Alcazaba. They seized an arroba of bread which they had, and some raisins and sugar. That night Juan Arias wanted to kill the Lieutenant of the Governor and all his servants, and it would have been done if it had not been for the Captain Sotelo who prevented it, saying that they had sent a message to the Governor, so that, if we did this, we could not return to the ships, since they would not receive us. Finally they kept the Governor's friends as prisoners, ordering that no one should depart on pain of death, and all were to be in their tents in the morning.

The day before this happened the Captain Arias had sent on his two chiefs of squadrons, with certain archers and arquebusiers, to go back to the ships. The messenger who had gone before was overtaken and detained. The day after the arrest of the Lieutenant of the Governor, the captain departed with 15 arquebusiers, and in the afternoon of the same day the Captain Arias ordered the camp to move. So all, having nothing to eat, set out for the ships, in hopes of getting some food.

Some, however, stayed at the river to fish, others strayed over the hills to find thistle roots, but at last we came to the first river which we had crossed on a raft. Captain Juan Arias came, with the Lieutenant of the Governor and his servants, and he ordered that, on pain of death, they should come as prisoners as far as a watering-place a league from the ship, and that on one should go further until another day was passed. All those we found there went on, and some who had remained behind also passed on as we came without any order, for there was no one to guide us, or show us the road. When we arrived at the ships, fould or six together, some came in 15 days, others in less, according to the strength they had left. We found mane skins of dead sheep.

The chiefs of squadrons of Captain Juan Arias, and those who went with them, arrived at the ships one night. One of the company swam off, and got the boat without being observed. They thus got on board the capitana and seized the Governor who was in his bed. The pilot was also in bed. They stabbed them and threw their bodies overboard. They also stabbed a boy who attended on the Governor. He died the next day. Having tot possession of the ship, they went to the other ship, and seized the Captain Rodrigo Martinez, even wanting to kill him. The Captain Sotelo, with those who were with him, took possession. After three or four days the Captain Juan Arias arrived, and did much robbery in the ships. He distributed all the boxes of the Governor among his followers, as well as the property of the Lieutenant of the Governor and the Pilot. There began to be discord between the two captains. Juan Arias said that the other should go in the smaller vessel, and Sotelo refused, saying that he arrived first. The two mutineers then agreed to be together in the larger ship, and they took all the artillery that was in the smaller one. There was then a consultation among the leaders. Sotelo proposed to go to the river Plate to wait upon Don Pedro, and that we should join company with him. Capptain Juan Arias said that he only wished to fit out and supply the capitana, then to go to sea and rob all the vessels they met, not only Castilian, but also Portugues and Genoese, especially ships coming from India. Then he would go to the Levant or to France and, having collected all the boldest and most desparate characters, he would cruise with them. Sotelo was of a contrary opinion, wishing to go to the river Plate and join Don Pedro de Mendoza* with all our people. This being the case, Arias plotted to kill Sotelo and his friends. We were taken from the large to the small ship with four or five barrels of bread, and told we could go to Spain or where we liked. But some of us felt sure that this was only to deceive us, and that some night before they departed, they intended to bore our ship with one of two holes so as to sink her, and leave us forlorn.

* The expedition of Don Pedro de Mendoza was sent out to take possession of the country round the Rio de la Plata, with 14 ships, 2300 men, and 72 horses. Don Pedro founded Buenos Ayres in 1535.

God, however, brought succour in another way. One morning, at break of day, the master of the capitana named Juan de Echaruaga, his mate Martin de Loriaga, the carpenter Sancho de Aroya, the purser Martin de Garay and three or four sailors, all armed, surprised the Captain Juan Arias and the other mutineers in their beds. They secured Juan Arias, Ortiz, Chaos and Ruison and put them in the old which they got the fetters ready. They also captured one Falcon de Lebrixa, and a servant of Pavon de Xeres. Other mutineers named Anton de Baena a native of Trebuxena, Diego Ximenez, Anton Martinez, and Alejo Garcia Herrera were put on shore. As soon as the culprits were secured, the master and his colleagues appointed one Ochoa de Menaza to be Alguazil, to execute justice on them. They raised their banners on the two ships, declaring that they took charge of all the property to five an account to the Emperor, that he might grant it to whom he chose and to whom by right in belonged.

After three or four days the Alguazil come to the small ship, where Captain Sotelo was a prisoner, and the Master and his colleagues elected Juan de Mori, formerly the Governor's servant, to be captain, Rodrigo de Isla to be master, one Escovedo to be Alguazil, and a brother of the captain to be purser.

Before the imprisonment of the mutineers stragglers arrived from the interior, some on the 16th of April, others on the 18th and 20th. The last reached the shore on the 30th of the said month.

Account was taken of those who went inland and returned. It was found that, what with lost and dead, not more than fifty returned to the ships. Others died of hunger, and were lost, having no guide. Besides these, 20 died on board the ships; so that the loss amounted to 80,§ either from deaths on board and on shore, and those murdered or executed after sentence. We who survived, owed it to two or three circumstances. One was that the land was very cold, like Flanders. Another was that, although we came back very thin and weak, we found bread to eat, for they gave us four ounces of bread with a cuartillo of wine. Now and then we also got some small fish they had killed, or some shell fish, and thus the survivors were preserved. They even gave the passengers three ounces of bread, in spite of the small quantity that was on board. But the three ounces appeared to us to be only two, made up with other trifles of meat or fish.

§ Of the 203 men who marched inland, if only 50 returned, then the loss was almost double the number reported here.

The Master and Alguazil, with their colleagues, appointed Captain Juan de Mori to be tutor of the son of the Governor, named Don Fernando de Alcazaba. With his consent criminal charges were brought against the Captains Juan Arias and Sotelo, and their accomplices, who were tried, sentenced, and executed. The two captains were declared to be traitors and put to death. Chaos and Ortiz, chiefs of squadrons, Pedro de Yaraza and Diego de Ruison were strangled, and sent to the bottom with weighted ropes round their necks. Benito Falcon de Lebrixa and Juan Gallego, servant of Pavon, were hanged at the yard-arm. The Alguazil named Alejo Garcia, whom the two captains had appointed, was sentenced to be banished on shore for ten years. Then they proceeded against the absent, being those who had fled.

The said captains, past and present, gave as the ration for the passengers four ounces of bread daily with a cuartillo of wine, with nothing else whatever. They sent to the islands, two or three leagues from us, to kill seals and sea lions. They brought back 200 or 300 carcases, of which they made seven or eight barrels of salt meat for the voyage. They were killed by blows on the head or snout with clubs, for in no other way was it possible to take their lives. Many times they were run through with swords and lances without effect. The livers of these seals are so poisonous that they give fevers and headaches to every one who eats them, and presently all the hairs on their bodies fall off, and some die.§

§ Apparently the Alcazaba expedition members were not familiar with the account of Andres de Urdaneta, who reported much the same thing. See that account for a few additional details.

it happened that a rumour was spread one night, declaring that some of the crew did not wish to obey the Captain Juan de Mori nor his brother the purser. Owing to this affair some of the crew were made prisoners, among whom were the Captain Rodrigo Martinez, and Alonso Mostrenco, Hernan Perez, and two other Portuguese. Some of the prisoners were sentenced to the torture of water and jug.* This was inflicted on the Portuguese.

* “Agua e polla;” perhaps “polla” is for “ampula” a phial: the torture of dripping water.

We were staying for a long time in this place, and the supplies were diminishing. They reduced the ration of bread and wine, only giving two ounces of bread to each passenger, and three of seal meat to each sailor daily. The allowance of wine was so reduced that only a small cup was served out, with which God satisfied us absolutely, and not with the ration they gave us. Until today, the feast of San Bernabe, no more lost comrades have turned up, may God preserve them.

On the 13th of June, seeing the small amount of bread that was left, they ceased to serve it out, and gave us nothing for a ration, except 1 lb. of seal flesh daily, between three men, and a cup of wine so small that it would take three to make a cuartillo.

On the 17th of the same month, being Wednesday at noon, we made sail from this Port of Lions and stood outwise, where we anchored for the rest of the day. On the same day the Master of the capitana and his colleagues sentenced the Captain Rodrigo Martinez, the Portuguese Nuño Alvares, and Alejo Garcia to be left on shore in the Port of Lions for ten years, or if God did not find a rescue for them, for their lives, which was likely by reason of the evil land where there is nothing to eat, and therefore uninhabitable.

On the same day we again made sail God willing, and for the next two days the food we were given as a daily ration amounted to 2 lbs. of sea lion meat boiled, between five men, a little wine, and no bread except to the sailors, who got 2 oz.

On the 21st of the said month, the capitana named the Madre de Dios parted company with a light and fair wind, but she was not in sight nor did we know with what intention she had gone. She had on board all the arms and clothing.

On Monday the 21st, during all day and night, we had squalls of thunder and lightning with hail, the night being fearful. We threw the bodies of two men into the sea, who had died of hunger and thirst. Owing to this the captain ordered, from that time forward, one ounce of bread to be served out to each man.

On Thursday the 1st we encountered a terrible storm, and if it had struck us astern, we must have been lost. We went under bare poles for two days, during which time no fire could be lighted in the ship, the sailors not eating more than two ounces of bread, and the passengers one ounce, with one cuartillo and a half of wine.

On the 11th of July, being under sail on our voyage, and having little food left, they only gave us each one ounce of bread and two of meat a day. Seeing this all the passengers agreed together, and drew up a requisition to the captain, witnessed by a scrivener, that he should land in Brazil and fill up with provisions, and that he should take us hence to Spain. Only for making this request the captain arrested us, and put seven of us in prison, below the deck, where we could see neither sun nor light of any kind. The prisoners were Captain Gaspar de Aviles, Simon de Moruguilla, Hernan Perez, Diego Aleman, Juan Sanches, and Saravis,* only these because the prison would not hold more. So the principal requisitionists, Alonso Mostrenco, Juan de Torres, Carmona, Santa Cruz, and Romero were put in irons. More were not so treated, because there was no more room, and so they were kept confined for a fortnight.

* And Alonso himself, which makes seven.

At length we sighted land in a Brazilian port called Tenereques, and on the 28th of July we arrived in another port called Todos Santos. In this port there is a Christian named Diego Alvarez who had lived there for 26 years, married, with a wife and children. With him there were six or seven other Christians who had escaped from a caravel which was wrecked two or three months ago. Of these four came with us. Being desirous to land, we came*

• • • • •

§ Blank in MS.

days that we were on shore, Diego Alvarez told us that we should keep guard as the natives intended to attack us. This they did in a narrow pass, robbing us and leaving us naked, in which condition we returned on board.

After two days Diego Alvarez pacified the natives, and we went on shore again to obtain provisions. We remained until the 7th of August and purchased what we needed. Being at anchor, three of four days before we were to sail, the boat of the large ship, our consort, arrived with 20 men, the ship having been lost on the shoals of Tenereques. The natives attacked the shipwrecked crew, killing some, while others fled and hid themselves on shore. Out of a crew of 110 persons not more than these 20 escaped. Among them were the mate, the carpenter, the purser, and a nephew of the master. The ship was valued at 10,000 ducats. We made sail on that day, Sunday the 8th of August, being All Saints.

On Monday the 9th of August, the captain, with his alguazil, took from those of us who had anything to each which we procured in Brazil, the half of all we possessed. One man among us had sold his clothes for food. Others bought, from a Portuguese, Bohemian knives at two reals, worth ten for three, to repay at San Domingo, giving pledges. Those who took away our food did not give us ship's rations in return, but a cuartillo of water and a cassava root boiled in salt water. Others got six ounces of flour for three men.

On the 14th a man named Cordero, a native of Lebrija, died of hunger and thirst.

On the 26th of August the ration was fixed for the whole crew. They gave us a cuartillo and a half of water between four, and six ounces of flour, without salt or anything else whatever. On Thursday the 2nd of September we sighted an island, called Graciosa, which is in 13° off san Domingo. At midnight on Friday the 3rd of September we came to an island called Barbosa, 25 leagues from the other. On Saturday the 4th of September they surveyed the remaining stock of provisions, and that day they served out three ounces of flour to the sailors, and two to the passengers.

On the 11th of September we arrived at the island of San Domingo with much travail, and for that day, in the said ship, there was nothing to eat.

Of all which, I Alonso the Overseer, scrivener to His Majesty, give my faith that it is the truth, for I saw it with my eyes, and I testify to it by signing my name

Alonso (Veedor).