The Spice IslesThe armada was now well practiced in piracy. Usually, a few rounds of cannon fire was enough to subdue native craft but sometimes it was necessary to grapple and board them. As they blundered around half-starved in uncharted seas it was not only food they sought but also someone to show the way to the Spice Isles. They boarded one boat with a cargo of rice, coconuts, urns of palm oil and bags full of little black sticks with a strong scented smell. A man in the hold passed up a handful.
Pigafetta crushed one in his fingers, smelled it, tasted it, chewed it and said almost in wonder.
“Cloves. Espinosa, these are cloves. This ship has been to the Spice Isles.”
Espinosa tasted one for himself and broke into a smile.
“Black gold. Tell the captain if he shows the way to Maluku I will not sink his ship. If he refuses, I will sink his ship.
Pigafetta relayed the threat to the captain, who made no response.
“Tell him again.”
Still no response but then a young boy came forward and took the captain’s hand.
“Ah; your son?” Pigafetta asked.
With an almost imperceptible nod, the captain acknowledged this.
“Tell him if he does not show us the way I will take his son anyway.,” Espinosa said.
For the first time he got a reaction from the captain, who put his arm around his son’s shoulders.
“It is far.”
“In my ship seven days. In your ship, I know not.”
Now at last the armada was put on a southerly course to skirt around the many hazards. To the east was the open sea and out of that sea a few days later came a great storm more ferocious than any yet.The spirit of St Elmo appeared at the masthead and they prayed to St Helen, St Clare and St Nicholas.The pilot prayed to to his god, Allah, and his son also and when the storm ended no one knew which god had saved them.
Although the sky cleared and the wind eased it stayed in the wrong direction and the ships could make no headway to the south, tacking back and forth. For a day and a night the pilot never left the deck, saying ‘Maluku’ and pointing into the eye of the wind that made his goal impossible. One time, as the ship approached the shore, requiring her to haul off yet again, he cried ‘Maluku,’ pointed to the south, gathered up his son on his back and leaped overboard. With his son clinging to his back he struck out for shore but his little son could not hold on and was lost to the sea and the pilot was seen no more.
On 6 November 1521, 27 months since leaving Seville, Trinidad and Victoria anchored off the Spice Isles – perfect conical shapes wearing hats of cloud. El Cano ordered the cannons fired for joy and all gave thanks to God. He also ordered the flag of Castile hoisted at the masthead to signify that Spain claimed possession.