Luis Vaez de Torres

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Luis Vaez de Torres (fl.1605-1607), Spanish navigator, discovered the Strait that separates New Guinea from Australia, thus revealing the insularity of New Guinea. Apart from this one voyage, almost nothing is known of this man.

In 1605 he was appointed captain of the second in size of the three ships that departed Peru on Pedro Fernandez de Quiros’ venture to the western Pacific. When bad weather forced Quiros’ separation from the expedition in (modern) Vanuatu Torres assumed effective command (over Don Diego de Prado the nominated commander). Under orders to explore south-west before sailing to Manilla he found himself sailing and charting along the southern coast of New Guinea, passing through the Strait that bears his name and claiming his discoveries for Spain. Although he noted islands that are today part of the Commonwealth of Australia, it is unlikely that he sighted any part of the mainland; which would be discovered by the Dutchman Willem Jansz later that year.

His charts were filed away and completely forgotten until brought to light during the British occupation of Manilla in 1762.

Reference: Australian Dictionary of Biography online.

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