A Spanish navigator and explorer, born in Saragossa, 1541; died in Santa Cruz, Solomon Islands , 18 October, 1596.
Little is known of his early years, but about 1558 he went to Lima upon invitation of his uncle, Lope García de Castro, who was then Viceroy of Peru. At that time the Spaniards were well aware that the Pacific offered an extensive field for exploration and discovery, and García de Castro, wishing to explore that vast region, equipped an expedition of two ships at the head of which he placed his nephew Mendaña. The expedition set out from Callao in November, 1567. In the course of about a year they discovered several islands of Oceanica, and returned to Peru in 1568. Mendaña's travels did not awaken much interest at first, so he gave an elaborate and glowing description of the archipelago to which he gave the name of Solomon Islands, as it was supposed that here King Solomon had obtained the gold with which he had adorned the temple at Jerusalem. These reports of the wealth of the islands, some years later, caused the fitting out of a second expedition for the purpose of colonizing them. By order of Philip II, Mendaña was placed in command, and the expedition sailed 11 April, 1595. Several groups of islands were discovered, among them the Marquesas Islands which he so named in honour of the wife of García de Mendoza, Marquis of Cañete, who was at the time Viceroy of Peru. The explorer Cook, in 1774, gave the name of Nukahiva to this group, that being the native name of the largest island of the archipelago. The expedition continued westward, visiting several other groups of islands, but Mendaña died before he reached the end of the voyage. Before his death, he delegated his powers to his wife in whom he had great confidence and who was with him on the voyage. The widow, a very resolute woman, took charge, and led the expedition into Manila, where they arrived safely in February, 1596. Mendaña left notes describing both of his voyages which were collected after his death by the historian Pedro Guérico de Victoria under the title of "Derrotero de Mendaña de Neyra". The manuscript is now in the National Library in Paris.
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