It began with a secret mission, no expenses spared. Spain, plotting to break Portugal's monopoly trade with the fabled Orient, 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 from Navidad, each one carrying a dream team of navigators. The smallest ship, guided by seaman Lope Martín, 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 with Pacific islanders, astonishing physical hardships--and at last a triumphant return to the New World.
Impressive [...] is the research done by the author, although much of it is from more contemporary secondary sources and not so much from original documents in Spanish, Portuguese, or other archives. Also helpful is a short note referencing dates and measurements which compare those of modern day and the 16th century. The discovery of the vuelta influenced all subsequent voyages and has done so right down to the present. This story deserves a wider audience even if it didn’t result in a momentous discovery of lands or riches along the lines of a Columbus, Cortez, or Magellan.
Andrés Reséndez, a professor of history at the University of California, Davis, has written a pacey account of the 1564-65 expedition that first made its way from Mexico to the Philippines and back again. For all of its political and economic consequences, the expedition’s achievement was in essence a triumph of seamanship over the forces of wind and water. And credit for it, Mr. Reséndez shows persuasively, rests with a brilliant pilot whose role has long been neglected by chroniclers.
U.C. Davis history professor Reséndez (The Other Slavery) delivers a riveting account ... Reséndez evocatively traces Urdaneta and Martín’s subsequent adventures ... Enlivened by lucid explanations of navigational techniques, larger-than-life characters, and colorful anecdotes from the age of exploration, this is a rip-roaring maritime adventure.