BARTOLOME GARCIA DE NODAL (1574-1622)
Two manuscript documents (contemporary scribal copies) of the instructions issued in the name of Philip III, King of Spain, to Bartolome Garcia de Nodal and his brother, Gonzalo de Nodal, for their expedition to locate the Le Maire Strait and to explore the Strait of Magellan, in Spanish, inscribed 'Yo El Rey' at the head, dated 26(?) August 1618 in a different hand, the first document, 6 pages, folio, and the second, 4 pages, folio, blanks, minor annotations (one confirming the second document as a true copy of the original), stitch holes, 19th-century paper wrappers. Phillipps MS 13306.
Orders for the Spanish expedition which achieved the first successful circumnavigation of Tierra del Fuego. 'Conbiniendo a un servicio que vos el Capitan Bartholome Garcia de Nodal aquien he encargado el viaxe des descubrimento de los estrechos de Magallanes y Mayre, llebeis instrucion de loque haveis de hazer guardareis la siguiente sinquele tra otrapersona, mas que vostro hermano el Capitan Goncalo de Nodal y Diego Ramirez que va en vuestra compania por cosmographo a designiar loque se descubriere'.
The instructions (issued by the Council of War) are to follow the coasts of Brazil and Chile, and to navigate the approach to the strait of Magellan, to be reconnoitred both at its entrances and in its passage, and to discover the presumed location of the Strait of Le Maire, recording all kinds of information including tidal and meteorological conditions. Orders are given for strict discipline, and consultation between the two brothers and Diego Ramirez, the chief navigator. The two ships must stay together, following the most direct routes, the pilots remaining under supervision, and charts are to be made and logs kept on each ship. Stores are to be loaded for ten months.
The Nodal brothers' expedition was precipitated by the news that the Dutch expedition of Willem Cornelius Schouten and Jacob Le Maire had discovered the strait between Tierra del Fuego and Staten Island in January 1616, naming it after Isaac Le Maire who had financed the voyage. The purpose of both the Dutch and Spanish expeditions was to discover a new route to the South Seas.
The Nodals sailed from Lisbon (then under Spanish rule) on 27 September 1618, in two caravels, and returned to Spain on 9 July 1619, having completed their mission with remarkable speed and great success. Much superior to the Dutch as observers, the Nodals examined the Magellan strait in considerable detail, taking soundings, noting anchorages, tides and currents and collecting artefacts, animal skins and botanical specimens. The isles which they discovered south of Cape Horn were named after their cosmographer, Diego Ramirez, and until Cook's discovery of the South Sandwich Islands in 1775 were the most southerly recorded isles in the world. They renamed the Le Maire strait as San Vicente. Their conduct of the voyage was 'a model of decision and efficiency' (Spate, II, 26). Both brothers died in a hurricane at sea in 1622. (2)