Pedro Fernandez de Quiros

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Pedro Fernandez de Quiros (Quieros), (1563?-1615), was a Spanish navigator. He was born in Portugal but worked during the dynastic amalgamation of the two crowns (from 1580) and is considered Spanish. “De Quiros” is the Catalan spelling of the name he himself used.

After some years seafaring in the eastern Pacific he was appointed chief pilot of a venture under Alvaro de Mendaña to colonize the Solomon Islands. Four ships left Callao, Peru, in April in April 1595, and after a stay in the Marquesas which ended in bloodshed, made landfall in the Santa Cruz Islands, (modern Nendo) in the southern Solomons in September. The attempt at settlement was a failure; the crew were sick and starting to die, they fought with the natives, and in October, Mendana died, leaving Quiros in charge. They left, sailed WSW for two days then headed for Manilla which they reached three months later. Under the conditions, this is one of the greatest feats of seamanship in exploration history.

In March 1605, after returning to Europe and impressing all he met with his knowledge and zeal, he led another expedition into the Pacific – to search for a southern continent, and for settlement and evangelism in the Solomons. After zigzagging his way across the Pacific he landed in Austrialis del Espiritu Santo (in modern Vanuatu) where a settlement was formed whilst Quiros explored the surrounding ocean. On one of these voyage contrary winds, ill-health and – possibly – a mutinous crew forced him to head back to Mexico, leaving the expedition under the charge of Luis Vaez de Torres. He spent the rest of his life writing numerous memoirs and pushing for approval for another expedition to find the Great South Land which he felt sure was out there somewhere.

Quiros’ skills as a navigator, chart maker, seaman and commander are not reflected in the results of his endeavours. He was unlucky. At various times he was heading for New Zealand or the Queensland coast of Australia but changed course too early. He did, however, fill charts of the previously empty expanse of the western Pacific with many places previously unknown.

Reference: Australian Dictionary of Biography online.

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