Estêvão Gomes was a Portuguese cartographer and explorer. He sailed with Ferdinand Magellan in his expedition to the Spice Islands using west route. He deserted after reaching the Strait of Magellan and brought his ship back in Spain in May 1521. Three years later, he explored present-day Nova Scotia in Canada.
Gomes was born in Porto in northern Portugal. He used to serve on Portuguese ships going to India. He then left Portugal and went to Castille to serve for Spain. He was appointed pilot of the Casa de la Contratación in Seville on 10 February 1518.
He was part of the five-ship expedition of the Magellan-Elcano First Circumnavigation of the World as the pilot of ‘’San Antonio.’’ When they reached the Strait of Magellan, he and other men of the ship deserted the expedition and returned to Spain in May 1521 where he was jailed. When the remaining survivors from the Magellan’s expedition reached Spain in September 1522, he was freed.
Passage through Northern America
In 1523, he convinced Charles V that he could find a shorter and easier passage to the Spice Islands as compared to the one discovered by Magellan. In Bilbao, he built a 75-ton caravel named La Anunciada. On 24 September 1524, the caravel sailed from Coruña with 29 men on board. Gomes led the expedition as captain and pilot, together with Pedro de Luna as controller.
In February 1525, the expedition reached Cabot Strait and Cape Breton. He decided to sail south after being able to renew his search for the passage and realizing that an even Northern passage would not present better conditions than what he remembered from the Strait of Magellan. He passed through Maine and entered the Upper New York Bay and the Hudson River, which he named the San Antonio River.
The Anunciada stopped at Santiago de Cuba to load fresh supplies before sailing along the eastern seaboard from Florida to Cape Race. When it failed to find a western passage, it returned to Spain and reached Coruña on 21 August 1525. The voyage lasted for 10 months and 27 days.
As Gomes did not want to return empty-handed, he kidnapped many Indians from Maine or Nova Scotia and planned to sell them as slaves. There were at least 58 slaves who was freed later by order of Charles V.
Because Gomes failed to find a western passage, the Spanish maps drawn after his return showed a continuous coastline from Florida to Newfoundland. The “Land of Esteban Gómez” was also featured, which included roughly New England and Nova Scotia. Diogo Ribeiro’s “Castiglione Map” outlined the East coast of North America almost perfectly. The Northern half of the current US coast was named on maps as Tierra de Esteban Gómez.
Alonso de Santa Cruz’ “Islario general del mundo” also provided information on Gomes’ voyage and pictured the Nova Scotia peninsula as the “Isla de San Juan.” He added that Gomes did not try to enter Cabot Strait but sailed past it.
Gomes sailed to the Rio de la Plata as chief pilot of the armada of Pedro de Mendoza in 1535. In February 1537, he accompanied Juan de Ayolas in search of silver and gold across the Gran Chaco. After 14 months, they returned to the banks of the Paraguay where they were ambushed and killed by the Indians.
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- Davies, Surekha. [www.jstor.org/stable/3594759 “The Navigational Iconography of Diogo Ribeiro's 1529 Vatican Planisphere”]. ‘’Imago Mundi’’, vol. 55, 2003, pp. 103–112. JSTOR.(Accessed on 15 February 2021).
- “DIEGO RIBEIRO AND THE SQUARE PADRON REAL”.Cartography Unchained.(Accessed on 15 February 2021).