Juan Fernández

Spanish navigator Juan Fernández (c. 1536 – c. 1604), one of three or four pilots who shared the same name and served on the coasts of Chile and Peru in the 16th century, arrived in Peru in about 1550. He is best known for establishing an alternative maritime route between Callao and Valparaíso that avoided the north-setting Humboldt Current and reduced the duration of a southbound voyage from ninety to thirty days. 

In the process, he encountered the Juan Fernández Islands as well as San Félix and San Ambrosio off the Chilean coast in 1574. The following year the governor of Chile, Juan Jufré, authorised an expedition to Terra Australis led by Fernandez. Since the Viceroy of Peru had not approved the enterprise, the ostensible targets were the islands Fernández had already discovered. He is said to have sailed west along the 40th parallel for a month and encountered a mountainous, fertile island where the indigenous population was friendly, but the lack of viceregal approval meant the discovery was kept secret until after Jufré's death in 1578. 

While this island has been identified as Tahiti, or possibly New Zealand, suggestions that Fernandez took a month to sail across the Pacific against the westerly Roaring Forties to be greeted by peaceable Maoris makes Tahiti or maybe Easter Island a more likely destination.

© Ian Hughes 2017