Journal of Antonio Pigafetta

17th of November, 1521

Sunday morning this same king came on board the ships and wished to see how we fought, and how we discharged the bombards, at which he was greatly pleased, for in his youth he had been a great warrior.

The same day I went on shore to see how the cloves grow, and this is what I observed. The tree from which they are gathered is high, and its trunk is as thick as a man’s body, more or less, according to the age of the plant. Its branches spread out somewhat in the middle of the tree, but near the top they form a pyramid. The bark is of an olive colour, and the leaves very like those of the laurel. The cloves grow at the end of little branches in bunches of ten or twenty. These trees always bear more fruit on one side than on the other, according to the seasons. The cloves are white when they first sprout, they get red as they ripen, and blacken when dry. They are gathered twice in the year, once about Christmas and the other time about St. John’s day, when the air in these countries is milder, and it is still more so in December. When the year is rather hot, and there is little rain, they gather in each of these islands from three to four hundred bahars of cloves. The clove tree does not live except in the mountains, and if it is transferred to the plain it dies there.[237] The leaf, the bark, and the wood, as long as they are green, have the strength and fragrance of the fruit itself. If these are not gathered when just ripe they get so large and hard that nothing of them remains good except the rind. It is said that the mist renders them perfect, and indeed we saw almost every day a mist descend and surround one or other of the above-mentioned mountains. Among these people everyone possesses some of these trees, and each man watches over his own trees and gathers their fruit, but does not do any work round them to cultivate them. This tree does not grow except in the five mountains of the five Maluco islands. There are, however, a few trees in Giailolo and in a small island between Tadore and Mutir named Mare, but they are not good.

There are in this island of Giailolo some trees of nutmegs. These are like our walnuts, and the leaves also are similar. The nutmeg, when gathered, is like the quince in form and colour, and the down which covers it, but it is smaller. The outside rind is as thick as the green rind of our walnuts, beneath which is a thin web, or rather cartilage, under which is the mace, of a very bright red, which covers and surrounds the rind of the nuts, inside which is the nutmeg properly so called.

There also grows in Tadore the ginger, which we need to eat green, instead of bread. Ginger is not a tree, but a shrub, which sends out of the earth shoots a span long like the shoots of canes, which they also resemble in the shape of the leaves, only those of the ginger are narrower. The shoots are good for nothing; that which makes ginger is the root. When green, it is not so strong as when it is dry, and to dry it they use lime, or else it would not keep.

The houses of these people are built like those already described, but are not so high above the ground, and are surrounded with canes after the fashion of a hedge. The women here are ugly, and go naked like the others, having only their middles covered with cloth made of bark. The men also are naked, and notwithstanding that their women are ugly, they are exceedingly jealous; and amongst other things which displeased them, was that we came ashore without cloaks,[238] because they imagined that might cause temptation to their wives. Both men and women always go barefoot.

Since I have spoken of cloth, I will relate how they make it. They take a piece of bark and leave it in water until it has grown soft; they then beat it with wooden clubs to extend it in length and breadth, as much as they please; thus it becomes like a veil of raw silk with filaments enlaced within it, so that it appears as if it was woven.

Their bread is made with the wood of a tree like a palm tree, and they make it in this way. They take a piece of this wood, and extract from it certain long black thorns[239] which are situated there; then they pound it, and make bread of it which they call sagu. They make provisions of this bread for their sea voyages.

Every day there came from Tarenate many boats laden with cloves, but we, because we were waiting for the king, would not traffic for those goods, but only for victuals: and the men of Tarenate complained much of this.