The expedition of Jacques Mahu and Simon de Cordes

1598 - 1600

In June 1598 an expedition organised by the Rotterdam-based Magellan Company departed from Goeree. Its goal was to reach East Asia and Southeast Asia to trade there and along the way to harass the Spanish settlements on the Chilean coast. Five ships, the Liefde, the Hoop, the Geloof, the Trouw and the Blijde Boodschap were sent out under the command of admiral Jacques Mahu and with Simon de Cordes serving as vice-admiral. The expedition can only be described as disastrous. Four of the five ships were lost, most of their crew died and none of the objectives of the expedition were realized.

After departing the ships struggled to make progress in the Atlantic Ocean. Admiral Mahu died off the African coast on 23 September and many of the crew perished from scurvy and fevers. Mahu’s replacement, De Cordes, finally guided the fleet across the Atlantic towards Brazil and then along the coast of South America. The expedition then found it very difficult to pass through the Strait of Magellan and De Cordes decided to winter in the strait, where many men died due to the tough conditions. After finally managing to complete the passage by early September 1599, the admiral’s ship became separated from the other ships, most of which also lost sight of each other afterwards.

De Cordes decided to press on to the agreed rendezvous point at Saint Mary’s Island off the Chilean coast, where the ships were to wait for each other if they became separated. However, De Cordes himself did not make it to the island. He and two dozen men were killed when they tried to come ashore at Punta de Lavapie. The remaining crew decided to press on to the rendezvous were they found the Liefde already anchored. The Hope had likewise lost its commander and many men when trying to land at Mocha island. The ships ultimately decided to sail on across the Pacific Ocean to Japan. During the journey the Hope was lost at sea while the Liefde managed to reach Japan with most of its crew severely weakened. Here they made the first Dutch contact with the Japanese court, though their ship was confiscated.

The Blijde Boodschap became separated from the Faith and Fidelity and while sailing up the Chilean coast it found itself in adverse winds and low-running supplies forced the ship to turn into the port of Valparaiso, where the Spanish captured the vessel and took the crew prisoner. The Geloof and Trouw stayed together for some time in a bay near the western edge of the Strait of Magelhaes. In early December, however, the Trouw was blown into the open seas and was separated from the Geloof. It continued along the Chilean coast and attacked and briefly occupied the Spanish settlement of Castro. After the Spanish recaptured the town, the Dutch fled and crossed the Pacific, eventually reaching Tidore in the Moluccas. Here the ship was captured by the Portuguese and most of the crew was killed.

The Geloof meanwhile, suffering low morale, decided to return to the Netherlands by going through the strait again. It eventually managed to make this passage and returned to the Netherlands in June of 1600. Its wares were largely intact, but most of its crew had died. It was the only ship to reach home.

01 August 1598 - 30 September 1598

Cape Verde

15°06' N 23°61' W

In late August 1598 the expedition of the Rotterdam-based Magellan Company arrived at Cape Verde. Here they sought to acquire fresh supplies from the Portuguese-occupied islands. The ships anchored near the island of Santiago and successfully assaulted the Portuguese fort at Praia. However, they soon abandoned the fortress and having failed to acquire many supplies, they sailed to the island of Brava, where they likewise could not acquire much fresh water. Many of the crew, however, had fallen ill with fevers, including admiral Jacques Mahu. Mahu died on 23 September and was succeeded in command by Simon de Cordes.

15 September 1598 - 31 December 1598

West Africa

0°82' S 8°79' E

After taking over command of a crew affected with fevers and scurvy, Simon de Cordes sailed the fleet along the African coast. He first landed at Congo, but lost some men trying to land at the shore. After a second landing did not find any food or fresh water, the ships sailed on to Cape Lopez in modern-day Gabon. Here they rested and healed the sick from scurvy, but negotiations for bartering with the local king resulted only in some livestock in bananas. The ships continued to Annobon, which they reached by mid-December 1598, and conquered the Portuguese fort. After several weeks and losing more men to fevers, De Cordes decided to cross the Atlantic Ocean in early January.

01 April 1599 - 31 January 1600

Strait of Magellan

52°63' S 69°87' W

For many months the ships wintered in the Strait of Magellan and in the process lost more than a hundred more men. After in early September 1599, the passage through the strait was finally completed, the ships lost each other due to poor weather and miscommunications. The Faith and Fidelity sheltered together for some months in the western side of the strait, before also losing each other. The Faith then returned back through the strait and sailed home to the Dutch Republic, which it reached by June 1600.