García Jofre de Loaísa

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García Jofre de Loaísa (1490 – 20 July 1526) was a 16th-century Spanish explorer ordered by King Charles I of Spain to command an expedition to Asia, known as the Loaísa expedition, which in 1525 was sent by the western route to colonize the Spice Islands in the East Indies, thus crossing the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. More than 450 men were aboard, including different kinds of trades and administrative staff, intended to establish a permanent Spanish settlements in the Spanish East Indies.


Loaísa’s expedition

A fleet of seven ships took part on the expedition: Santa María de la Victoria, Espiritu Santo, Anunciada, San Gabriel, Santa María del Parral, San Lesmes and Santiago. Jofre de Loaísa was appointed captain along with Juan Sebastián Elcano, who had reached the Spice islands in 1521 during the Magellan expedition. The fleet sailed from Corunna on July, 24 1525 and reached the Patagonian shores in January 1526 and by then two of the ships had lost contact with the fleet. In the following weeks, the fleet alternatively gathered and dispersed due to high winds while trying unsuccessfully to enter the Strait of Magellan. Two ships were wrecked and one tacked into the Atlantic and deserted from the expedition. Eventually the remaining four vessels, in bad weather, reached the Pacific Ocean in May, just to be again dispersed, this time permanently, by another storm.

One of the galleons, San Lesmes, disappeared. The Santiago sailed for the North and in an astonishing 10,000 kilometre sailing reached the Pacific coast of Mexico in July, 1526, achieving the first navigation from Europe to the Western coast of North America.

The third ship, Santa María del Parral, sailed the Pacific, and reached Sangir off the northern coast of Celebes, where the ship was beached and its crew were variously killed or enslaved by the natives, four of them being rescued in 1528 by another Spanish expedition coming from Mexico. The galleon, Santa Maria de la Victoria, was the only ship to reach the Spice Islands, in September, 1526.

Successive explorers of the expedition died while crossing the Pacific Ocean. Loaísa died of scurvy on July 30, 1526, Elcano died a few days later, Alonso de Salazar died after a month and Yñigez reached the islands of Visayas and Mindanao in the Philippines and the Moluccas, but died of food poisoning, and De la Torre anchored in Indonesia to wait for help from Spain. Only Andrés de Urdaneta and 24 other men survived to land in the Spice islands, just to be caught by the Portuguese, who had traveled there from their outposts in the East Indies. Eventually Urdaneta and a few of his men managed to return to Spain in 1536 in the Portuguese India Armada and under Portuguese guard.

The fate of the San Lesmes is explored in Greg Scowen's conspiracy thriller The Spanish Helmet which is based on Robert Langdon's theory that the lost vessel made its way to, and discovered, New Zealand following a grounding on the French atoll, Amanu.

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