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Columbus of the Pacific: The Forgotten Portuguese Sailor Who Opened Up Earth’s Largest Ocean in 1564

September 07, 2021
00:00 44:54
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Lope Martín was a little-known 16th century Afro-Portugese pilot known as the "Columbus of the Pacific"--who against all odds finished the final great voyage of the Age of Discovery. He raced ahead of Portugal’s top navigators in the notoriously challenging journey from the New World to Asia and back, only to be sentenced to hanging upon his return, while a white Augustine monk achieved all the glory.

It began with a secret mission, no expenses spared. Spain, plotting to break Portugal’s monopoly trade with Asia, set sail from a hidden Mexican port to cross the Pacific—and then, critically, to attempt the never before-accomplished return: the vuelta. Four ships set out, each carrying a dream team of navigators. The smallest ship, guided by Lope, a mulatto who had risen through the ranks to become one of the most qualified pilots of the era, soon pulled far ahead and became mysteriously lost from the fleet.

It was the beginning of a voyage of epic scope, featuring mutiny, murderous encounters, astonishing physical hardships—and at last a triumphant return. But the pilot of the fleet’s flagship, an Augustine friar, later caught up with Martín to achieve the vuelta as well. It was he who now basked in glory, while Lope Martín was secretly sentenced to be hanged by the Spanish crown as repayment for his services.

To look at this forgotten story is Andres Resendez, author of the new book Conquering the Pacific: An Unknown Mariner and the Final Great Voyage of the Age of Discovery

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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