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Rare Map of the Straits of Magellan Showing French, English, Spanish, and Dutch Discoveries

Rare map showing European discoveries up to the early eighteenth century. The map depicts a large scale outline of southern Patagonia, or Terre Ferme, separated from Terre de Feu by the Straits of Magellan. Several islands are named, including the Isle des Etats, across the Straits of Le Maire, and the Sebald d'Weerts (Isles de Sebald).

The other dominant feature of the map is a large cartouche in the lower right corner. Underlining the difficult sailing in this region, two men sit atop the cartouche, one gesturing out to sea, the other gazing through a telescope. The cartouche itself is shaped like a ship, with billowing clouds behind and a shield of rope and ironwork below.

The European encounter with Tierra del Fuego and the Straits of Magellan

The first European voyage to the region would leave the largest legacy. Ferdinand Magellan and his crew found the entrance to the Straits and navigated the treacherous passage during his historic circumnavigation (1519-1522). It is from Magellan that we get the name Tierra del Fuego (Terre de Feu), land of fire, from the numerous fires of the indigenous peoples which he saw south of the Straights. He also named Cape of Virgins (C. des Verges) and Cape Victory (C. de Victoire), and lent his name to the Straits themselves.

Another circumnavigator, Francis Drake, passed through the Straits sixty years after Magellan. His voyage distressed the Spanish, who thought their control of the Pacific secure, and led Spanish colonial officials to appoint Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa to attempt a settlement in the Straits. Unfortunately, the settlement failed and Thomas Cavendish, on his own circumnavigation (1586-8), found the survivors. He rescued one, along with the town's ordnance, and abandoned twenty others. Cavendish renamed the unlucky Spanish settlement of Ciudad de Rey Don Felipe as Port Famine, in memory of the starving people he found there. It is marked as B. Famine here.

The most significant toponyms for the history of exploration are east of the South American landmass. The Dutch East India Company (VOC) had declared the Straights as their own, disallowing non-VOC ships from entering. In an attempt to circumvent these restrictions, the merchant Isaac LeMaire, Jacob's father, financed a voyage to find an alternative route in 1615. William Schouten and Isaac Le Maire entered the Pacific from the West via a straight that sent their ships around Cape Horn, which they named for their port of departure in the Netherlands. Le Maire's name was chosen for the Strait, while the island they passed by received the name of Staten Landt, or I. des Etats as shown on this map. The Schouten and Le Maire expedition also named the Barnevelt Islands after Johan van Oldenbarnevelt, governor of the province of Holland.

The Spanish, as they had been with Drake, were alarmed at the incursion and sent an expedition to verify the new strait in 1618. The Spanish commanders took along two pilots that had sailed with Schouten and Le Maire. After rounding Cape Horn they found an island they named for another of their pilots, Diego Ramirez. They were there first to circumnavigate Terre deu Feu, proving its insularity.

Other voyages continued to chart the Straits and Tierra del Fuego. In 1623, Admiral Jacobus L'Hermite led eleven ships and 1600 men around Tierra del Fuego, taking time to explore some of the channels and waterways between the many islands. His name is on an island on the eastern edge of Cape Horn.

Turning farther east, the title cartouche mentions the "new islands" of Anycan and Beauchene. They are near another group of island, the Isles de Sebald. The latter islands gained their name from another Dutch voyage. The Magellan Company, commanded by Oliver van Noort, and the Rotterdam Company were the only two Dutch spice fleets that navigated the Straights, the former in 1598-1601, the later in 1598-1600. The Rotterdam Company were troubled by weather and the difficult navigation. Wintering in the Straights, they lost 120 of the nearly 500 men to the conditions and, reportedly, pugnacious and giant native peoples. Frustrated and ailing, one of the commanders, Sebald de Weert, decided to return to Holland, meeting Oliver van Noort on his way home. de Weert charted islands to the northwest of the Malvinas, which appear on maps as the Sebald Islands, or the Sebalines.

Beauchene Island gained its name from a French trader. The island is the most remote of the Falklands group, but the relationship of all the islands was not known when Beauchene sailed through in the early eighteenth century. Jacques Gouin de Beauchene led a French trading fleet through the Straits in 1699, where he left his mark with an island named for Louis XIV, here I. de Louis le Grande. He sailed into the Pacific, traded in Peru and Chile, and then visited the Galapagos before returning around Cape Horn, when he spotted the island now named for him. This voyage made him the first Frenchman to sail round the Horn west to east. The Isles d'Anycan were also discovered by French traders, in 1705, and named for the financial backer of their voyage.

This map first appeared in Lettres édifiantes et curieuses, écrites des missions étrangères par quelques missionnaires de la Compagnie de Jesus. The first eight volumes of this work were published in Paris in 1702 and 1703, but this map comes from a later volume and was first published in 1707. Emmanuel Bowen made an English version in 1740. Although unattributed, the map is very similar to one presumed to be by Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville held at the BnF.

Carlos Pedro Vairo, Terra Australis: Historia de la cartografía de Tierra del Fuego, Patagonia, & Antarctica (Buenos Aires: Zagier & Urruty Publications, 2011).;0 . .