Appleton's Cyclopedia of American Biography, edited by James
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FERNANDEZ, Juan, Spanish navigator, born in Cartagena, 1526" died in 1576. The jealousy with which the Spanish court retarded the diffusion of intelligence regarding its possessions in America is perhaps the reason, why so little is known about his voyages. The following incidents embrace nearly all it is possible to ascertain concerning him. He made frequent voyages along the coast of South America, and, according to the custom of sailors at the time, kept close to the shore. When sailing from Peru to Chili, however, he found that the pas sage was rendered extremely long and laborious by the winds that prevailed constantly in these latitudes, and he thought that he would avoid them by standing out from land. His plan was successful, and he arrived in Chili without any difficulty, making the journey in a much less time than when he followed the shore. In one of these voyages, probably about 1563, he discovered the Island, which bears his name. According to some writers, the Spanish government granted him possession of it, while others say that he met with a refusal, He remained some time on it, however, and when he departed left several goats behind him, which multiplied to such an extent that the Island was soon stocked with them.
He discovered the islands of Saint Felix and Saint Ambrose in 1574. He was so much encouraged by these successes that, in the hope of making still more important discoveries, he sailed from the coast of Chili in 1576, bearing out farther from land than in the preceding voyages. He sailed over about forty degrees toward the west and southwest, and, after a month's journey, landed on a coast, which to all appearance was that of a continent. The inhabitants, who were white, well made, and decently clothed, received the Spaniards kindly. As his ship was very small and badly equipped, Fernandez did not push his researches farther, but, after a short stay, embarked for Chili. He made his companions promise to keep the discovery a secret, and arranged with them to return with a larger expedition, but he was prevented in some way from putting his design in execution, and, after his death, the whole affair was forgotten. According to another version, he partially disclosed his discovery to certain persons who abandoned the idea of pursuing it after his death.
These details are found in a work published by Luis Arias, a Spaniard, entitled "Memoir to recommend to the King the Conversion of the Natives of Newly Discovered Islands" (1609; English translation, Edinburgh, 1773). It has been conjectured by some geographers that the coast perceived by Fernandez was that of New Zealand, and they account for the discrepancy between the real distance of New Zealand from South America and the forty degrees over which Fernandez sailed by supposing that Arias, from his ignorance of nautical matters, made an error in his calculations. Another discovery by Fernandez was that of Easter Island, forty degrees west from the Chilean coast, which was generally thought to have been sighted first by Roggeneen, a Dutch navigator, in 1722, but Duperrey, a French savant, has restored the credit of its discovery to Fernandez.
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