Gatighan - History


After a stay of 7 days, the fleet left the west port of Mazaua early morning of Thursday, April 4, 1521 taking a northwest track, according to Pigafetta, north according to Albo. The ships sailing in good weather negotiated the distance of some 20 leguas or 80 nautical miles (150 km) to reach Gatighan at 10° N in 11-13 hours. Here the fleet made a brief stop, long enough for Pigafetta to make very detailed description of the isle's fauna: "In this island of Gatighan are a kind of birds called Barbastigly (Venetian word for flying fox or large bats genus Pteropus that feeds on fruits), who are as large as eagles. Of which we killed a single one, because it was late, which we ate, and it had the taste of a fowl. There are also in that island pigeons, doves, turtledoves, parrots, and certain black birds as large as a fowl, with a long tail. They lay eggs as large as those of a goose, which they bury a good cubit deep under the sand in the sun, and so they are hatched by the great heat made by the warm sand. And when those birds are hatched they emerge. And those eggs are good to eat."

Add two more sentences and that is all of what history has to say of Gatighan. Geographers, navigation historians, and Magellan scholars have tried their hand at a futile guessing game as to which island it is in today's map. R.A. Skelton surmised in 1969 it's Apit or Himuquetan, adopting the surmise of F.H.H. Guillemard, 1890, who said, "It is perhaps Jimuquitan or Apit Island", which was repeated by Andrea da Mosto in 1894 re-echoed in 1911 by Jean Denuce and repeated once more by Leonce Peillard in 1991. The latest to follow Guillemard's lead is Theodore J. Cachey Jr., who in 1995 gave a new spelling to the longer name, "Himuguetan." All of which confirms the saying history may not repeat itself but historians repeat one another's wild guesses. Apit, at 10° 31' N, is a tiny dot in a pilot chart, an atoll. The only maverick among historians is Samuel Eliot Morison who thinks Gatighan is one of the Camotes Islands, completely forgetting that Pigafetta has a separate map showing these group of islands. Himuquitan Island directly below Apit at 10° 29' N is just a teeny bit bigger. Both islands are at least 29 nautical miles (54 km) above Albo's Gatighan. Both are too small to sustain the varied fauna described by Pigafetta.

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