Welcome to another additions of Adventure time where we travel to various places that use Spanish, Portuguese and English.
Today we visit the lovely town of
Fernando de Noronha
A little histrory
Many controversies mark the discovery of the archipelago by Europeans. At least three names – São Lourenço, São João, and Quaresma – have been associated with the island around the time of its discovery.
Based on the written record, Fernando de Noronha island was discovered on August 10, 1503, by a Portuguese expedition, organized and financed by a private commercial consortium headed by the Lisbon merchant Fernão de Loronha. The expedition was under the overall command of captain Gonçalo Coelho and carried the Italian adventurer Amerigo Vespucci aboard, who wrote an account of it. The flagship of the expedition hit a reef and foundered near the island, and the crew and contents had to be salvaged. On Coelho’s orders, Vespucci anchored at the island, and spent a week there, while the rest of the Coelho fleet went on south. In his letter to Soderini, Vespucci describes the uninhabited island and reports its name as the “island of St. Lawrence” (August 10 is the feast day of St. Lawrence; it was a custom of Portuguese explorations to name locations by the liturgical calendar).
Its existence was reported back to Lisbon sometime between then and January 16, 1504, when King Manuel I of Portugal issued a charter granting the “island of St. John” (São João) as a hereditary captaincy to Fernão de Loronha.The date and new name in the charter has presented historians with a puzzle. As Vespucci did not return to Lisbon until September, 1504, the discovery must have been earlier. Historians have hypothesized that a stray ship of the Coelho fleet, under an unknown captain, may have returned to the island (prob. on August 29, 1503, feast day of the beheading of St. John the Baptist) to collect Vespucci, did not find him or anyone else there, and went back to Lisbon by himself with the news. (Vespucci in his letter, claims he left the island August 18, 1503 and upon his arrival in Lisbon a year later, on September 7, 1504, the people of Lisbon were surprised, as they “had been told” (presumably by the earlier captain?) that his ship had been lost.) The captain who returned to Lisbon with the news (and the St. John name) is unknown. (some have speculated this captain was Loronha himself, the chief financier of this expedition, but that is highly unlikely.)
Detail from the 1502 Cantino planisphere, showing the island of “Quaresma” (Fernando de Noronha?) off the Brazilian coast
This account, reconstructed from the written record, is severely marred by the cartographic record. An island, named Quaresma, looking very much like Fernando de Noronha island, appears in theCantino planisphere. The Cantino map was composed by an anonymous Portuguese cartographer, and completed before November 1502, well before the Coelho expedition even set out. This has led to speculation that the island was discovered by a previous expedition. However there is no consensus on which expedition that might have been. The name, “Quaresma” means Lent, suggesting it must have been discovered in March or early April, which does not correspond well with the known expeditions. There is also a mysterious red island to the left of Quaresma in the Cantino map that does not fit with Fernando de Noronha island. Some have explained these anomalies away by reading quaresma as anaresma (meaning unknown, but sidesteps the Lent timing), and proposing that the red island is just an accidental inkblot.
Assuming Quaresma is indeed Fernando de Noronha, then who discovered it? One proposal is that it was discovered by a royal Portuguese mapping expedition that was sent out in May, 1501, commanded by an unknown captain (possibly André Gonçalves) and also accompanied by Amerigo Vespucci. According to Vespucci, this expedition returned to Lisbon in September 1502, just on time to influence the final composition of the Cantino map. Unfortunately, Vespucci does not report discovering this island then – indeed he is quite clear that the first time he (and his fellow sailors) saw the island was on the 1503 Coelho expedition. However, there is a letter written by an Italian saying that a ship arrived “from the land of Parrots” in Lisbon on July 22, 1502 (three months before Vespucci).This could be a stray ship from the mapping expedition that returned prematurely, or another expedition altogether, about which we have no information. The timing of its reputed arrival (July, 1502), makes it possible that it stumbled on the island sometime in March 1502, on the homeward voyage, well within Lent.
A third possible (but unlikely) theory is that the island was discovered already in 1500, shortly after the discovery of Brazil by the Second India Armada under Pedro Alvares Cabral. After his brief landfall at Porto Seguro, Cabral dispatched a supply ship under either Gaspar de Lemos or André Gonçalves (sources conflict) back to Lisbon, to report the discovery. This returning supply ship would have returned north along the Brazilian coast and might have come across Fernando de Noronha island, and reported its existence in Lisbon by July, 1500. However, this contradicts the Quaresma name, since the returning supply ship was sailing well after Lent.
A fourth (but also unlikely) possibility is that it was discovered by the Third India Armada of João da Nova, which set out from Lisbon in March or April 1501, and arrived back on September 1502, also in time to influence the Cantino map. Chronicler Gaspar Correia asserts that on the outward voyage, the Third Armada made a stop on the Brazilian coast around Cape Santo Agostinho. Two other chroniclers (João de Barros and Damião de Góis) do not mention a landfall, but do report they discovered an island (which they believe to be identified as Ascension island, but this is not certain). So it is possible that the Third Armada may indeed have discovered Fernando de Noronha island on their outward leg. However, the timing is very tight: Easter landed on April 11, 1501, while the estimated departure date of the Third Armada from Lisbon ranges from March 5 to April 15, not leaving enough time to reach those environs within Lent.
As a result of these anomalies, some modern historians have proposed that Fernando de Noronha is not depicted on the 1502 Cantino map at all. Instead, they have proposed that Quaresma island and the accompanying red “inkblot” are in fact the Rocas Atoll, slightly misplaced on the map. This reserves the discovery of Fernando de Noronha island itself as indeed on August 10, 1503, by the Gonçalo Coelho expedition, as originally reported by Vespucci.
The transition of the name from “São João” to “Fernando de Noronha” was probably just natural usage. A royal letter dated May 20, 1559, to descendants of the Loronha family, still refers to the island by its official name of ilha de São João., but already in other places, e.g. the logbook of Martim Afonso de Sousa in the 1530s, it was referred to as the “island of Fernão de Noronha” (“Noronha” being a common misspelling of “Loronha”). The informal name eventually displaced the official name.
So what is there to see?
Beaches, beaches everywhere! Fernando de Noronha is promoted as one of the best warm watered regions for recreational diving and tourism. Thanks to the South Equatorial Current, it relays warm water from the currents of Africa to the island itself with amazingly clear and gorgeous depths of 30 to 50 meters of visually clear underwater views that can easily be done without a wetsuit. It’s the divers’ paradise!
Diving and surfing is not the only thing to do here. One can also go on the many hiking trails that’s up on offer like the ever so gentle Capim-Açu Point trail which leads you off to World War II built ruins of equipment to the little more brutal Farol Trail or Lighthouse Trail which is a 2.5km long trail that will give you not only a fair challenge but will dazzle you with the amazing views of untouched landscapes.
Hope you all had a fun little digital travel with us and we will be back next Monday with another exciting destination to dazzle you all with!
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