Journal of Antonio Pigafetta

20th of October 1518

[This portion is undated, serving as prologue to the actual commencement of the voyage on August 10, 1519]  

Anthony Pigapheta, Patrician of Vicenza, and Knight of

Rhodes, to the very illustrious and very excellent

Lord Philip de Villiers Lisleaden, the famous

Grand Master of Rhodes, his most

respected Lord.[1]

Since there are several curious persons (very illustrious and very reverend lord) who not only are pleased to listen to and learn the great and wonderful things which God has permitted me to see and suffer in the long and perilous navigation, which I have performed (and which is written hereafter), but also they desire to learn the methods and fashions of the road which I have taken in order to go thither, [and who do] not grant firm belief to the end unless they are first well advised and assured of the commencement. Therefore, my lord, it will please you to hear that finding myself in Spain in the year of the Nativity of our Lord, one thousand five hundred and nineteen, at the court of the most serene king[2] of the Romans, with the reverend lord, Mons. Francis Cheregato,[3] then apostolic proto-notary, and ambassador of the Pope Leon the Tenth, who, through his virtue, afterwards arrived at the bishoprick of Aprutino and the principality of Theramo, and knowing both by the reading of many books and by the report of many lettered and well-informed persons who conversed with the said proto-notary, the very great and awful things of the ocean, I deliberated, with the favour of the Emperor and the above-named lord, to experiment and go and see with my eyes a part of those things. By which means I could satisfy the desire of the said lords, and mine own also. So that it might be said that I had performed the said voyage, and seen well with my eyes the things hereafter written. Now in order to decypher the commencement of my voyage (very illustrious lord); having heard that there was in the city of Seville, a small armade to the number of five ships, ready to perform this long voyage, that is to say, to find the islands of Maluco, from whence the spices come: of which armade the captain-general was Fernand de Magaglianes, a Portuguese gentleman, commander of St. James of the Sword, who had performed several voyages in the ocean sea (in which he had behaved very honourably as a good man), I set out with many others in my favour from Barcelona, where at the time the Emperor was, and came by sea as far as Malaga, and thence I went away by land until I arrived at the said city of Seville. There I remained for the space of three months, waiting till the said armade was in order and readiness to perform its voyage. And because (very illustrious lord) that on the return from the said voyage, on going to Rome towards the holiness of our Holy Father,[4] I found your lordship at Monterosa,[5] where of your favour you gave me a good reception, and afterwards gave me to understand that you desired to have in writing the things which God of His grace had permitted me to see in my said voyage; therefore to satisfy and accede to your desire,[6] I have reduced into this small book the principal things, in the best manner that I have been able. Finally (very illustrious lord), after all provisions had been made, and the vessels were in order, the captain-general, a discreet and virtuous man, careful of his honour, would not commence his voyage without first making some good and wholesome ordinances, such as it is the good custom to make for those who go to sea. Nevertheless he did not entirely declare the voyage which he was going to make, so that his men should not from amazement and fear be unwilling to accompany him on so long a voyage, as he had undertaken in his intention. Considering the great and impetuous storms[7] which are on the ocean sea, where I wished to go; and for another reason also, that is to say that the masters and captains of the other ships of his company did not love him: of this I do not know the reason, except by cause of his, the captain-general, being Portuguese, and they were Spaniards or Castilians, who for a long time have been in rivalry and ill will with one another. Notwithstanding this all were obedient to him. He made his ordinances such as those which follow, so that during the storms at sea, which often come on by night and day, his ships should not go away and separate from one another. These ordinances he published and made over in writing to each master of the ships, and commanded them to be observed and inviolably kept, unless there were great and legitimate excuses, and appearance of not having been able to do otherwise. Firstly, the said captain-general willed that the vessel in which he himself was should go before the other vessels, and that the others should follow it; therefore he carried by night on the poop of his ship a torch or faggot of burning wood, which they called farol, which burned all the night, so that his ships should not lose sight of him. Sometimes he set a lantern, sometimes a thick cord of reeds[8] was lighted, which was called trenche.[9] This is made of reeds well soaked in the water, and much beaten, then they are dried in the sun or in the smoke, and it is a thing very suitable for such a matter. When the captain had made one of his signals to his people, they answered in the same way. In that manner they knew whether the ships were following and keeping together or not. And when he wished to take a tack on account of the change of weather, or if the wind was contrary, or if he wished to make less way, he had two lights shown; and if he wished the others to lower their small sail,[10] which was a part of the sail attached to the great sail, he showed three lights. Also by the three lights, notwithstanding that the wind was fair for going faster, he signalled that the studding sail should be lowered; so that the great sail might be quicker and more easily struck and furled when bad weather should suddenly set in, on account of some squall[11] or otherwise. Likewise when the captain wished the other ships to lower the sail he had four lights shown, which shortly after he had put out and then showed a single one, which was a signal that he wished to stop there and turn, so that the other ships might do as he did. Withal, when he discovered any land, or shoal, that is to say, a rock at sea, he made several lights be shown or had a bombard fired off. If he wished to make sail, he signalled to the other ships with four lights, so that they should do as he did, and follow him. He always carried this said lantern suspended to the poop of his vessel. Also when he wished the studding sail to be replaced with the great sail, he showed three lights. And to know whether all the ships followed him and were coming together, he showed one light only besides the fanol, and then each of the ships showed another light, which was an answering signal. Besides the above-mentioned ordinances for carrying on seamanship as is fitting, and to avoid the dangers which may come upon those who do not keep watch, the said captain, who was expert in the things required for navigation, ordered that three watches should be kept at night. The first was at the beginning of the night, the second at midnight, and the third towards break of day, which is commonly called La diane, otherwise the star of the break of day. Every night these watches were changed; that is to say, he who had kept the first watch, on the following day kept the second, and he who had kept the second kept the third; and so on they changed continually every night. The said captain commanded that his regulations both for the signals and the watches should be well observed, so that their voyage should be made with greater security. The crews of this fleet were divided into three companies; the first belonged to the captain, the second to the pilot or nochier, and the third to the master. These regulations having been made, the captain-general deliberated on sailing, as follows.