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The isle of Gatighan was a way station of the Armada de Molucca under Captain-General Ferdinand Magellan on their way to Cebu in Central Philippines. The name appears only in the map and text of the firsthand account of the Vicentine diarist Antonio Pigafetta and referred to as an isle at 10° N in the eyewitness report of Francisco Albo, Greek pilot whose logbook is the chief authority for most navigational treatises on the track of the circumnavigation of the globe.

The word Gatighan comes from the Visayan katigan meaning a boat with outrigger or, as verb, to outfit a boat with outrigger. As placename it appears only in Pigafetta's map and no other; it has disappeared totally from maps and geographical literature. The name is incorrectly transcribed as Satighan by Lord Stanley of Alderley (p. 84).



After a stay of 7 days, the fleet left the west port of Mazaua early morning of Thursday, April 4, 1521 taking a northwest track, according to Pigafetta, north according to Albo. The ships sailing in good weather negotiated the distance of some 20 leguas or 80 nautical miles (150 km) to reach Gatighan at 10° N in 11-13 hours. Here the fleet made a brief stop, long enough for Pigafetta to make very detailed description of the isle's fauna: "In this island of Gatighan are a kind of birds called Barbastigly (Venetian word for flying fox or large bats genus Pteropus that feeds on fruits), who are as large as eagles. Of which we killed a single one, because it was late, which we ate, and it had the taste of a fowl. There are also in that island pigeons, doves, turtledoves, parrots, and certain black birds as large as a fowl, with a long tail. They lay eggs as large as those of a goose, which they bury a good cubit deep under the sand in the sun, and so they are hatched by the great heat made by the warm sand. And when those birds are hatched they emerge. And those eggs are good to eat." (Pigafettaa 73)

Add two more sentences and that is all of what history has to say of Gatighan. Geographers, navigation historians, and Magellan scholars have tried their hand at a futile guessing game as to which island it is in today's map. R.A. Skelton surmised in 1969 it's Apit or Himuquetan, adopting the surmise of F.H.H. Guillemard, 1890, who said, "It is perhaps Jimuquitan or Apit Island", p. 235 which was repeated by Andrea da Mosto in 1894 ("Timutikan o Timuquitan, o di Apit", p. 74) re-echoed in 1911 by Jean Denuce ("Timutikan, Jimuquitan or Apit", p. 312) and repeated once more by Leonce Peillard (Ile de Timutikan ou Apit, p. 314) in 1991. The latest to follow Guillemard's lead is Theodore J. Cachey Jr., p. 155, who in 1995 gave a new spelling to the longer name, "Himuguetan." All of which confirms the saying history may not repeat itself but historians repeat one another's wild guesses. Apit, at 10° 31' N, is a tiny dot in a pilot chart, an atoll. The only maverick among historians is Samuel Eliot Morison who thinks Gatighan is one of the Camotes Islands (p. 423), completely forgetting that Pigafetta has a separate map showing these group of islands. Himuquitan Island directly below Apit at 10° 29' N is jut a teeny bit bigger. Both islands are at least 29 nautical miles (54 km) above Albo's Gatighan. Both are too small to sustain the varied fauna described by Pigafetta.

Where is Gatighan today?

If you look at Pigafetta's map, Gatighan is the only island mass that straddles between two huge islands, Bohol and Ceylon/Seilani (Panaon Island, the south most end of Leyte). It is almost exactly at the 10° N latitude, reference point of Albo for Gatighan. In 1663, a Spanish missionary, Fr. Francisco Colín, S.J. "christened" this isle, Pigafetta's Gatighan, with an invented name, Dimasawa to signify that this is not the Mazaua named by Antonio de Herrera as the port where Magellan and his men celebrated an Easter mass on March 31, 1521. Colín wrote, adopting the mangled account by Giovanni Ramusio of Pigafetta, the port of March-April 1521 was Butuan, not Herrera's Mazaua. Five years after, another Jesuit historian, Fr. Francisco Combés, writing on the evangelization of Mindanao, "rechristened" the same island, giving it a coined word, Limasawa that does not exist in any account of the circumnavigation or in any of 100+ Philippine languages. His Limasawa had as reference point Herrera's Mazaua, and was meant to also indicate negation of Herrera's mention of a mass at that island. Combés does not mention any mass, but talks of the planting of a cross at Butuan. This isle, Dimasaua or Limasawa, was projected in a world famous map drawn in 1734 in the Philippines by the Jesuit mapmaker, Fr. Pedro Murillo Velarde, plagiarized by leading European cartographers of the time, and copied, a credit to his integrity, by the leading European mapmaker the French Jacques N. Bellin.

Carlo Amoretti switches Gatighan with Mazaua

Carlo Amoretti, the Augustinian encyclopedist, was paleographe-conservator known as "Dottori del Collegio Ambrosiano" of a Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan. One fine day in 1797 he serendipitously discovered the lost handwritten manuscript of Pigafetta, with pressmark L. 103 Sup., one of four extant codices and the only one in Italian the rest being French, among the scattered books. This codex is famously called Ambrosiana. Amoretti transcribed it and published his edition, complete with notes, in 1800. In one of his notes he said Pigafetta's Mazaua may be Bellin's Limasaua, unaware that Limasaua/Dimasaua was in fact a complete negation of what Amoretti is asserting. He also further states, as proof of his contention, Limasawa and Mazaua are in the same latitude; in fact Limasawa is in 9° 56' N whereas Mazaua has three latitudes by three separate readings, Pigafetta's 9° 40' N, Albo's 9° 20' N, and the Genoese Pilot's 9° N. Magellan scholars, navigation historians, and geographers who came in the wake of Amoretti uncritically accepted his dictum; no Western mind, with the notable exception of French maritime historian Léonce Peillard, has challenged Amoretti--up to now.

Is Limasawa Mazaua, Is Limasawa Gatighan?

A very simple way to resolve this issue is to pose this question, based on the earlier testimonies of Pigafetta and Albo that it took the fleet almost a whole day of sailing and 80 nautical miles (150 km) to reach Gatighan at 10° N latitude. From Limasawa to 10° N, it takes only 4 nautical miles (7 km) not 80 n.m. It takes only less than 30 minutes to sail that distance, not one whole day of sailing.

So Where is Gatighan Now?

You look at a modern map, any map of the Philippines today, all the way from Murillo Velarde's to the latest pilot chart. There is only one island between Bohol and Panaon. It is the only island within the Leyte group of islands found at 10° N latitude. It is called Limasawa. Gatighan and Limasawa are one and the same.

See also


Albo, Francisco. 1522. Log-Book of Francisco Alvo or Alvaro. In: The First Voyage Round the World. Lord Stanley of Alderley (ed. and trans.). Ser. I, Vol. II, London 1874, Pp. 211-236.

Brand, Donald D. 1967. "Geographical explorations by the Spaniards." In: The Pacific Basin, A History of Its Geographical Explorations. Herman R. Friis (ed.). New York. Pp. 109-144, 362-375.

Colín, Francisco. 1663. Labor evangelica de los obreros de la Compañia de Jesús, fundacióon y progresos de Islas Filipinas. Pablo Pastells (ed.), 3 vols. Barcelona 1900.

Combés, Francisco. 1667. Historia de las islas de Mindanao, Iolo y sus adyacentes. W.E. Retana (ed.) Madrid 1897.

de Jesus, Vicente C. (2002). Mazaua Historiography. Retrieved February 27, 2007, from MagellansPortMazaua mailing list: [1]--[2]

Denuce, Jean. 1911. La Question des Moluques et la Premiìre Circumnavigation du Globe. Brussels.

Genoese Pilot. 1519. Navegaçam e vyagem que fez Fernando de Magalhães de Seuilha pera Maluco no anno de 1519 annos. In: Collecção de noticias para a historia e geografia das nações ultramarinas, que vivem nos dominios Portuguezes, ou lhes sao visinhas. Lisboa 1826. Pp. 151-176.

Guillemard, Francis Henry Hill. 1890. The Life of Ferdinand Magellan and the First Circumnavigation of the Globe: 1480-1521. New York.

Herrera, Antonio de. 1601. Historia general de los hechos de los Castellanos en las islas y tierrafirme del mar oceano, t. VI. Angel Gonzalez Palencia (ed.). Madrid 1947.

Morison, Samuel Eliot. 1974. The European Discovery of America: The Southern Voyages 1492-1616. New York.

Murillo, Pedro Velarde. 1752. Geografia historica de las islas Philippinas...t. VIII. Madrid.

Pigafetta, Antonio. 1524. Various editions and translations:

--1524a. Magellan's Voyage, Vol. II. R.A. Skelton (ed. and trans.) Nancy-Libri-Phillipps-Beinecke-Yale codex. New Haven 1969.

--1524b. Primo viaggio intorno al globo terracqueo, ossia ragguaglio della navigazione...fatta dal cavaliere Antonio Pigafetta...ora publicato per la prima volta, tratto da un codice MS. Della biblioteca Ambrosiana di Milano e corredato di note da Carlo Amoretti. Milan 1800.

--1524c. Il primo viaggio intorno al globo di Antonio Pigafetta. In: Raccolta di Documenti e Studi Publicati dalla. Commissione Colombiana. Andrea da Mosto (ed. and tr.). Rome 1894.

--1524d. Le premier tour du monde de Magellan. Léonce Peillard (ed. and transcription) Manuscript 5,650. France 1991.

--1524e. Magellan's Voyage, 3 vols. James Alexander Robertson (ed. and tr.) Ambrosiana Codex. Cleveland 1906.

--1524f. The First Voyage Round the World by Magellan. Lord Stanley of Alderley (ed. & tr.) Manuscript 5,650 collated with Ambrosiana and Nancy-Yale codices. London 1874.

--1524g. The First Voyage Around the World (1519-1522). Theodore J. Cachey Jr. (ed. Based on English text of J.A. Robertson) New York 1995.

--1524h. Pigafetta: Relation du premier voyage autour du monde...Edition du texte français d'après les manuscripts de Paris et de Cheltenham. Jean Denucé (ed. and transcrition of Manuscript 5,650 collated with Mss. Ambrosiana, Nancy-Yale and 24,224) Anvers 1923.

--1524i. The First Voyage Round the World by Magellan. Lord Stanley of Alderley (ed. and tr. of Ms. fr. 5,650 collated with Ambrosiana Ms). London 1874, pp. 35-163.

Ramusio, Gian Battista. 1550. La Detta navigatione per messer Antonio Pigafetta Vecentino. In: Delle navigationi e viaggi... Venice: Pp. 380-98.