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Fernandez, Alvaro

FERNANDEZ, ALVARO, one of the leading Portuguese explorers of the earlier 15th century, the age of Henry the Navigator. He was brought up (as a page or esquire) in the household of Prince Henry, and while still "young and audacious" took an important part in the discovery of "Guinea." He was a nephew of João Gonçalvez Zarco, who had rediscovered the Madeira group in Henry's service (1418-1420), and had become part-governor of Madeira and commander of Funchal; when the great expedition of 1445 sailed for West Africa he was entrusted by his uncle with a specially fine caravel, under particular injunctions to devote himself to discovery, the most cherished object of his princely master, so constantly thwarted. Fernandez, as a pioneer, outstripped all other servants of the prince at this time. After visiting the mouth of the Senegal, rounding Cape Verde, and landing in Goree (?), he pushed on to the "Cape of Masts" (Cabo dos Matos, or Mastos, so called from its tall spindle-palms), probably between Cape Verde and the Gambia, the most southerly point till then attained. Next year (1446) he returned, and coasted on much farther, to a bay one hundred and ten leagues "south" (i.e. S.S.E.) of Cape Verde, perhaps in the neighbourhood of Konakry and the Los Islands, and but little short of Sierra Leone. This record was not broken till 1461, when Sierra Leone was sighted and named. A wound, received from a poisoned arrow in an encounter with natives, now compelled Fernandez to return to Portugal, where he was received with distinguished honour and reward by Prince Henry and the regent of the kingdom, Henry's brother Pedro.

See Gomes Eannes de Azurara, Chronica de ... Guiné, chs. lxxv., lxxxvii.; João de Barros, Asia, Decade I., bk. i. chs. xiii., xiv.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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