David Melgueiro

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David Melgueiro
Born Unknown date
Porto, Kingdom of Portugal
Died 1673?
Porto, Kingdom of Portugal
Occupation Navigator and explorer

David Melgueiro (Porto, ? – Porto, 1673?) is supposed to have been a Portuguese navigator and explorer. He allegedly sailed across the Northeast Passage in 1660, travelling from Japan to Portugal through the Arctic Ocean[1][2] at a time when Portuguese vessels were banned from Japan.


According to the story of a diplomat and French spy in Portugal, the Seigneur de La Madelène (or Madeleine), he found records that a Captain David Melgueiro, at the command of the Dutch ship Eternal Father, left the island of Tanegashima, Japan (Kagoshima Prefecture)[3] on March 14, 1660, sailed north and entered the Arctic Ocean through the Bering Strait (known at the time as Strait of Aniam). The expedition reached 84° N and, upon sighting Svalbard, headed south, towards Scotland and Ireland. Carrying on board a number of emigrant passengers back to Europe with valuable goods. The ship finally arrived in 1662 at Porto, an important northern seashore Portuguese city, Melgueiro’s birthplace. The reason why his route was chosen was due to the risk of pirate attacks, common on southern seas for those who dared to return to their native countries sailing across the waters of Cape of Good Hope or Strait of Magellan.[citation needed]

La Madelène was allegedly murdered when he was preparing to leave Portugal to reveal Melgueiro’s achievement to the French.[4] In 1754 the French geographer Philippe Buache traced in his memoirs the route taken by Melgueiro on a 1649 map drawn by a Portuguese identified only as Teixeira. This map was found in the French Navy archives. How the French Navy acquired this map would be a Portuguese state secret as well.[3]

William Corr dismisses the story, saying that "no Portuguese vessels sailed, or could have sailed, from Japan in 1660; Portuguese commerce with Japan ended drastically in 1639."[5] The Portuguese were expelled and under the Sakoku isolationist policy all trade and contact with the outside world stopped except for very limited trade by the Dutch. Corr, however, does not take into consideration the fact that Melgueiro undertook the expedition under Dutch service and not Portuguese one.

In his account of the expedition of the Vega, Adolf Erik Nordenskiöld mentions Melgueiro's alleged voyage briefly but dismisses it as fiction.[6]

A Portuguese scientific project using avant-garde technologies in naval construction took Melgueiro's name: Associação David Melgueiro.[7][2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Os Corte Reais e o Novo Mundo, Eduardo Brazão, Agência-Geral do Ultramar, 168 pp, 1965, Lisbon
  2. ^ a b David Melgueiro: Na rota da lendária viagem do navegador português pelo Árctico (David Melgueiro: on the route of the legendary Portuguese navigator across the Arctic) – article by Teresa Firmino at the Portuguese daily newspaper Público, April 9, 2014. Includes a map of the possible Melgueiro travels, repeated by the "Associação David Melgueiro" in 2016-2017 with the scientific expedition "Marborealis".
  3. ^ a b Article published by Gazeta dos Caminhos de Ferro (Portuguese Railways Company Magazine), number 1276, p. 125, February 1941, Lisbon
  4. ^ David Melgueiro, o navegador mistério (Melgueiro, mysterious navigator) – Article at the Portuguese daily newspaper Diário de Notícias, September 14, 2014
  5. ^ Corr, William (2016). Adams the Pilot. Routledge. p. 15. ISBN 978-1138965898. Retrieved 11 November 2016. 
  6. ^ Nordenskiöld, Adolf Erik (1885). The Voyage of the Vega Round Asia and Europe. Translated by Alexander Leslie. London: Macmillan and Co. p. 561. Retrieved 10 August 2017. 
  7. ^ Associação procura apoios para construir veleiro científico (Society aiming at financial support to build a scientific sailing boat) – article by Paula Mourato, LUSA agency / Diário de Notícias, April 8. 2014