Juan Fernandez - Encyclopedia

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JUAN FERNANDEZ (fl. c. 1570), Spanish navigator and discoverer. While navigating the coasts of South America it occurred to him that the south winds constantly prevailing near the shore, and retarding voyages between Peru and Chile, might not exist farther out at sea. His idea proved correct, and by the help of the trade winds and some currents at a distance from the coast he sailed with such rapidity (thirty days) from Callao to Chile that he was apprehended on a charge of sorcery. His inquisitors, however, accepted his natural explanation of the marvel. During one of his voyages in 1563 (from Lima to Valdivia) Fernandez discovered the islands which now bear his name. He was so enchanted with their beauty and fertility that he solicited the concession of them from the Spanish government. It was granted in 1572, but a colony which he endeavoured to establish at the largest of them (Isla Mas-a-Tierra) soon broke up, leaving behind the goats, whose progeny were hunted by Alexander Selkirk. In 1574 Fernandez discovered St Felix and St Ambrose islands (in 27° S., 82° 7' W.); and in 1576, while voyaging in the southern ocean, he is said to have sighted not only Easter Island, but also a continent, which was probably Australia or New Zealand if the story (rejected by most critics, but with reservations as to Easter Island) is to be accepted.

See J. L. Arias, Memoir recommending to the king the conversion of the new discovered islands (in Spanish, 1609; Eng. trans., 1773); Ulloa, Relation del Viaje, bk. ii. ch. iv.; Alexander Dalrymple, An Historical Collection of the several Voyages and Discoveries in the South Pacific Ocean (London, 1769-1771); Freville, Voyages de la Mer du Sud par les Espagnols.

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