Reviews for Conquering the Pacific : an unknown mariner and the final great voyage of the Age of Discovery

Publishers Weekly
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U.C. Davis history professor Reséndez (The Other Slavery) delivers a riveting account of the 1564–1565 Spanish expedition that was the first to cross the Pacific Ocean from the Americas to Asia and return, launching an era of global trade with the Far East. Spain funded the costly expedition out of a port in Navidad, Mexico, building four ships in secrecy from its competitor Portugal, and recruiting a skilled, multinational crew. Included were famed explorer and Augustine friar Andrés de Urdaneta and Afro-Portuguese pilot Lope Martín, who had achieved the highest rank available to a “free mulatto.” Once underway, the expedition’s lookout ship, piloted by Martín, became separated from the others during a storm. Reséndez evocatively traces Urdaneta and Martín’s subsequent adventures, including encounters with Pacific Islanders, a mutiny, and a near shipwreck. Though Martín’s smaller vessel was the first to complete the west-east return, Urdaneta, sailing on a much larger ship, received all the glory. Meanwhile, Martín and his captain were investigated in Mexico for leaving the expedition behind. While the captain was allowed to return to Spain, Martín was sentenced to be hanged for treason, yet he managed to escape. 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. Agent: Susan Rabiner. (Sept.)

Library Journal
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In a book that mixes stirring adventure story with inspired scholarship, Reséndez (history, Univ. of California, Davis; The Other Slavery, a National Book Award finalist) details the biracial Black mariner Lope Martín's round-trip voyage from Navidad, on the west coast of Mexico, to the Philippines, in 1564–65. Martín was a navigator in Spain's expedition to undercut Portugal in Asia; the largest of its four ships was 60 feet long, while the smallest, the San Lucas, was only 20 feet. He piloted the San Lucas on its return trip to Mexico, when it became the first European vessel to successfully sail east across the Pacific, against the prevailing ocean currents that impeded earlier attempts, Reséndez writes. On the way, the crew faced hunger, fierce storms, near-shipwreck, and even mutiny, but the San Lucas completed the never-before-accomplished return trip and reached Mexico at least a month before the expedition's largest ship. Reséndez does a superb job explaining the challenges of early sea navigation, including navigating circular ocean currents and the contrary ways of Earth's magnetic fields. The book is complete with extensive maps charting the journey and archival photographs. VERDICT A vivid tale of adventure and discovery that will draw in all history lovers. Reséndez's skillful writing is fast-paced, inviting, and descriptive, setting this book apart.—David Keymer, Cleveland

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In the 1400s and 1500s, Portuguese and Spanish adventurers found their way across the Atlantic Ocean and soon charted the winds and ocean currents that made the round trip possible. But the vastness of the Pacific Ocean made the return crossing from Asia to the Americas a much more difficult undertaking than the initial journey west. Reséndez (The Other Slavery: The Uncovered Story of Indian Enslavement in America, 2017) delves into this complex tale and uncovers the little-known story of Black mariner Lope Martín, who struggled to master the art and science of seamanship before becoming a highly skilled pilot. Setting forth as a four-ship squadron from a Spanish port on Mexico’s west coast, doughty explorers hoped to reach the Philippines. Martín commanded the smallest ship, the San Lucas, and quickly found his vessel separated from the fleet. Despite hardship, storm, and mutiny, Martín achieved the round trip and reached North America first. The balance of the fleet eventually caught up, but credit fell to the flagship’s pilot, Andrés de Urdaneta, not Martín. Reséndez lays out the navigational challenges of this voyage, making the details fascinating and compelling. Readers of sailing and adventure stories will find this true account both enlightening and exciting.