Luis Váez de Torres

Luis Váez de Torres (c. 1565-?)  made the first recorded navigation of the strait separating the continent of Australia from New Guinea on an expedition in search of the supposed southern continent led by Pedro Fernandes de Quirós. 

Apart from that achievement, we know almost nothing, of the man himself. 

According to accounts of the 1606–1608 voyage, he was a Breton, and later records suggest he may have been Portuguese, although he was more likely to have been Galician in origin. Having joined the Spanish Navy, he enters the historical record as commander of the San Pedrico in the Quiros expedition. On that basis, one assumes he was an experienced navigator.

The expedition set out from Callao in Peru on 21 December 1605 in search of the southern continent supposedly sighted by Álvaro de Mendaña y Neira's 1567 voyage. Their sighting of Guadalcanal was thought to be part of a continent stretching across the Pacific to the Straits of Magellan, and the island group was named the Solomons on the basis that it was assumed to be the source of the gold Solomon used to adorn the temple at Jerusalem.

Mendana's second expedition in 1595 discovered the Marquesas Islands, but he was unable to locate the Solomons, and he died on 18 October 1595 at Santa Cruz, south-east of the Solomons, where the expedition had established a malaria-ridden settlement. The settlement was abandoned just under two weeks after his death, and de Quirós was credited with bringing the survivors safely to the Philippines across uncharted waters, arriving at Manila on 11 February 1596.

Quiros was supposed to revive the Santa Cruz settlement and use it as a base for further exploration but landed on Espiritu Santo in the New Hebrides on 1 May 1606. There was a fracas in which several natives were killed when the party landed, and the Spanish crews were fractious. 

By the end of the month, Quiros had decided to abandon Espiritu Santo and sail on.

© Ian Hughes 2017