The outfitting and sailing of early sixteenth-century vessels in the Pacific: The Loaysa and Saavedra expeditions (1525-1536)

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The outfitting and sailing of early sixteenth-century vessels in the Pacific: The Loaysa and Saavedra expeditions (1525-1536)


This paper examines the information provided by primary written sources in relation to the outfitting and sailing of the ships used in the Loaysa and Saavedra expeditions, which took place between 1525 and 1536. On July 24, 1525, seven vessels, under the command of Garcia Jofre de Loaysa, departed from La Coruña, Spain, to take the Moluccas for the king of Spain, Charles I. Only one nao reached its destination where the Spanish managed to thwart the Portuguese for several years with the help of the natives. In 1527, Hernán Cortés sent Alvaro de Saavedra with three ships from New Spain to find Trinidad, a ship from the Magellan’s expedition, and to find out the outcome of the Loaysa expedition. He never returned. A close examination of eleven documents written by survivors of both expeditions revealed one hundred and twelve references regarding the use of nautical technology and operational aspects of seafaring in the Pacific Ocean in the early sixteenth century. This data includes ship typology, rigging, navigation techniques, equipment, provisions and containers, ballast, hull maintenance, seagoing disasters and their remedies, ordnance, and naval warfare. This type of information is useful for nautical archaeologists since it can be compared with the data provided by contemporary nautical and shipbuilding treatises and be used to interpret the archaeological data. The analysis of such primary documents is analogous to the way an archaeologist approach an excavation site – the data is gathered and then interpreted by the nautical archaeologists.


Jose Luis Casabán, in Van Tilburg, H., Tripati, S., Walker Vadillo, V., Fahy, B., and Kimura, J. (eds.)





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