Sir Francis Drake: A Pictorial Biography by Hans P. Kraus
The Spanish Defenses of the Strait of Magellan, the Pacific Coast
and the Caribbean after the Drake Circumnavigation
The Pacific coasts were practically without defenses until after
Drake's arrival in 1578. Don Francisco de Toledo, Viceroy of Peru
from 1568 to 1581, immediately took steps to correct this. Reproduced
(first page only) is the original draft of his letter to Juan Ortiz
de Zárate, Governor of Río de La Plata, telling him
of Drake's depredations, and of his sending an expedition through
the Strait of Magellan, under the command of Pedro Sarmiento de
Gamboa (1532-1592), to see whether an English garrison had been
left there, and to survey sites for a fortress to prevent other
raiders from passing through.
Toledo requests the Governor to assist the two ships of the expedition,
to send to him any dispatches from it overland by way of Tucuman,
and to inform him of any other English ships off the coast of
de La Plata. The present letter was, of course, sent to La Plata
overland. Sarmiento is not named in it as the commander, as he
probably was not yet selected for that service at the time of
writing. He did not receive his official appointment as commander
October 9th, 1579, three days before the expedition finally sailed
after encountering many delays in its preparation.
Letter of Francisco de Toledo, Viceroy of Mexico, concerning Drake, 1579.
The Sarmiento voyage is important for a number of reasons. It
was the second complete west-to-east traversal of the Strait, and
the first to make an accurate survey and detailed description
of it. It led directly to the first attempt to make a settlement
the ill-fated Sarmiento expedition of 1581-1583.
The translation of the text on the left is as follows:
Report on the incursion through the strait by the English
ship and on the precautions taken against it.
A ship belonging to English raiders passed through the Strait
of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean and reached the port of Santiago
in the province of Chile on 6th December last year, 1578. This
ship plundered one laden with a large quantity of gold that was
in port there, and also other ships in ports along this coast,
and did other damage. On the 13th February it arrived off the
port of this city [i.e., Callao, port of Lima] and we were taken
entirely unawares by so surprising an event, for, although there
had been so much time for me to be warned from Chile of the presence
of this ship, nothing was done. The excuse for this was that
the Governor was away at the front in the region of the Araucanians,
and neither the royal officials nor the city council were willing
to take responsibility for chartering a ship to bring me the
news, which, if it had arrived, would have saved so much loss
and avoided the expense to His Majesty and to private citizens.
This has grown considerable because of the loss of a ship
that the raider plundered which was carrying a large sum in silver
dispatched from this country to the kingdom of Tierra Firme.
We have taken a great deal of trouble to capture this raider
and have sent two armed ships in search of him...
Toledo's sending of Sarmiento de Gamboa to the Strait of Magellan
is narrated in Argensola's Conquistas de las Islas Malucas ,
1609,  pp.
108-110. Following this, Argensola continues with the narrative
of the voyage of Sarmiento from Peru to Spain (pp. 110-126). This
is the longest published contemporary account of that voyage.
Narrative of Sarmiento de Gamboa's west to east passage through
the Strait of Magellan in Argensola's Conquista de
las Islas Malucas , 1609. 
TRANSLATION OF THE PASSAGE FROM ARGENSOLA, on the left
It appeared to the Viceroy of Peru that it was necessary
for the protection of the Indies and for the preservation of
their tranquillity and of the Faith to take up arms against this
pirate [ i.e., Drake]. If he suffered retribution,
then his punishment would place a bridle on all Northerners;
a mobilization would tear up by the roots all obstacles to making
an example of him by a memorable punishment, and, what was more
important, it would put the people into a state of watchfulness
(an excellent precept government both in things temporal and
things spiritual). For this purpose the pirate's destruction
had to be preceded by an exploration of the passages out of the
Pacific, and by a still more careful survey of the routes he
might use in order to return to his own country. The English
ships (a part of their fleet) which at that time were raiding
the coasts of Chile and Arica, provided the spur to action, for
either they terrorized the people or they outraged their pride,
obliging them to take up arms for fear that Drake had erected
fortifications at strategic points within the Strait [of Magellan]
so that the English could become interlopers in the trade in
spices and precious stones, and could introduce the ministers
of perversion armed with the poison of their heretical dogmas.
For so great an enterprise the Viceroy selected Pedro Sarmiento
de Gamboa, a gentleman from Galicia, who had already twice encountered
the pirate. The first time was in the harbor of Callao, by Lima,
when he took back from the pirate a Spanish ship, laden with
goods from Spain; the second time was a few days later, when
pursuing him towards Panama. The Viceroy decided that Sarmiento
ought to be sent out to explore the Strait of Magellan, an operation
that was considered not to be feasible, if attempted from the
Pacific side, because of the innumerable openings and channels
which prevent ships from finding the mouth; many explorers sent
out by the Governors of Peru and Chile have been lost there.
Others have attempted the passage, entering it from the Atlantic,
but none was successful [sic]. Some were cast away;
others struggled back, torn apart by the storms. Everybody despaired
and became profoundly convinced that the passage could never
be found. But now that the terror which it inspired had been
dissipated at one blow, navigators can run up to a known latitude,
set a calculated course and by following a safe route can reach
the Strait, which can be closed off before the enemy can fortify
it. The Viceroy selected two ships; he saw that they were fitted
out with guns, were supplied with rigging and sails, and victualled.
Sarmiento named the larger of the two, Nuestra Señora
de la Esperanza [Our Lady of Hope], and designated her the
The first page of Hernán Gallego's manuscript report
on the expedition to the Strait of Magellan in 1553, the
first authentic and detailed account. 
The Spanish authorities had previously been interested in the
exploration of the Strait of Magellan. This is seen from the hitherto
totally unknown narrative of Hernán Lamero Gallego de Andrade,
who went with three ships, in October, 1553, from La Concepción,
Chile, through the Strait. This was the first west-to-east traversal.
The discovery of this narrative adds a most important new source
to the literature of exploration. In it, Gallego states that the
expedition arrived at the entrance to the Strait of Magellan 52° south;
that they entered the Strait and passed through it in four days;
that its total length was about one hundred leagues; and that he
and his companions arrived safely at the Atlantic end of the Strait.
The narrative is detailed and accurate and contains much information
about the sailing directions followed, the landmarks and the Indian
inhabitants of the region.
TRANSLATION OF THE FIRST PAGE OF GALLEGO'S REPORT
Notice of the Strait of Magellan In the month
of October in the year 1553 we sailed in three ships from the
city of Concepción in the province of Chile on orders
of the Lord Governor Pedro de Valdivia to explore the Strait
of Magellan. On leaving Concepción we ran close inshore
along the coast to the south-west, until we fetched an island
called Santa Maria, twelve leagues from Concepción, where
we took on board quantities of meat and fish for our voyage.
Leaving this island, we continued our voyage with course set
to the south-west and reached an island which we decided to name
St. Nicolas. This island has a large population of Indians; it
is six leagues from the mainland, in latitude 38 degrees and
a half south. Having left this island our voyage continued until
we managed to make port in a place which is now settled, and
called the city of Valdivia, which is in latitude 40 degrees.
From this port we continued our voyage to the south-west until
we brought abeam a headland that we discovered...
The following are the early passages through the Strait:
- Magellan. Oct. 21-Nov. 27, 1520. East-west.
- Garcia de Loyasa and Sebastian del Cano. April 8-May 26, 1526.
- Simon de Alcazava. January, 1535. East-west; unsuccessful.
- Francisco de Camargo. Entered Jan. 12, 1540, with three ships,
one of which got through. East-west.
- Hernán Lamero Gallego de Andrade. 1553. West to
east. This expedition is mentioned in a few early sources,
but its results have hitherto been entirely unknown and unreported.
- Juan Ladrillero (with Gallego as pilot). January, 1558. An
attempted west-east passage. Unsuccessful.
- Francis Drake. August-September, 1578. East-west.
- John Winter. November, 1578. West-east, returning from losing
Drake at the Pacific end.
- Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa. 1579. West-east.
On the navigation of the Strait of Magellan and the burning question
of improving the Spanish defenses the Duke of Medina Sidonia gave
his expert advice to Philip II, in reviewing a memorandum by the
experienced mariner Diego Maldonado. (See pages 129-130.)