Journal of Antonio Pigafetta

6th of March, 1521

After having navigated sixty leagues[113] by the said course, in twelve degrees latitude, and a hundred and forty-six of longitude, on Wednesday, the 6th of March, we discovered a small island in the north-west direction,[114]and two others lying to the south-west. One of these islands was larger and higher than the other two. The captain-general wished to touch at the largest of these three islands to get refreshments of provisions; but it was not possible because the people of these islands entered into the ships and robbed us, in such a way that it was impossible to preserve oneself from them. Whilst we were striking and lowering the sails to go ashore, they stole away with much address and diligence the small boat called the skiff, which was made fast to the poop of the captain’s ship, at which he was much irritated, and went on shore with forty armed men, burned forty or fifty houses, with several small boats, and killed seven men of the island; they recovered their skiff. After this we set sail suddenly, following the same course. Before we went ashore some of our sick men begged us that if we killed man or woman, that we should bring them their entrails, as they would see themselves suddenly cured.

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It must be known that when we wounded any of this kind of people with our arrows, which entered inside their bodies, they looked at the arrow, and then drew it forth with much astonishment, and immediately afterwards they died.[115] Immediately after we sailed from that island, following our course, and those people seeing that we were going away followed us for n league, with a hundred small boats, or more, and they approached our ships, showing to us fish, and feigning to give it to us. But they threw stones at us, and then ran away, and in their flight they passed with their little boats between the boat which is towed at the poop and the ship going under full sail; but they did this so quickly, and with such skill that it was a wonder. And we saw some of these women, who cried out and tore their hair, and I believe[116] that it was for the love of those whom we had killed.


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These people live in liberty and according to their will, for they have no lord or superior; they go quite naked, and some of them wear beards, and have their hair down to the waist. They wear small hats, after the fashion of the Albanians; these hats are made of palm leaves. The people are as tall as us, and well made: they adore nothing, and when they are born they are white, later they become brown, and have their teeth black and red. The women also go naked, except that they cover their nature with a thin bark, pliable like paper, which grows between the tree and the bark of the palm. They are beautiful and delicate, and whiter than the men, and have their hair loose and flowing, very black and long, down to the earth. They do not go to work in the fields, nor stir from their houses, making cloth and baskets of palm leaves. Their provisions are certain fruits named Cochi, Battate; there are birds, figs a palm long,[117] sweet canes, and flying fish. The women anoint their bodies and their hair with oil of cocho and giongioli (sesame). Their houses are constructed of wood, covered with planks, with fig leaves, which are two ells in length: they have only one floor: their rooms and beds are furnished with mats,[118] which we call matting,[119] which are made of palm leaves, and are very beautiful, and they lie down on palm straw, which is soft and fine. These people have no arms, but use sticks,[120] which have a fish bone at the end. They are poor, but ingenious, and great thieves, and for the sake of that we called these three islands the Ladrone Islands. The pastime of the men and the women of this place, and their diversion, is to go with their little boats to catch those fish which fly, with hooks made of fish bones. The pattern of their small boats is painted here-after, they are like the fuseleres,[121]but narrower. Some of them black and white, and others red. On the opposite side to the sail, they have a large piece of wood, pointed above, with poles across, which are in the water, in order to go more securely under sail: their sails are of palm leaves, sewed together, and of the shape of a lateen sail, fore and aft. They have certain shovels like hearth shovels,[122] and there is no difference between the poop and the prow in these boats, and they are like dolphins bounding from wave to wave. These thieves thought, according to the signs they made, that there were no other men in the world besides them.