Francisco de Hoces

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Francisco de Hoces (died 1526) was a Spanish sailor who in 1525 joined the Loaísa Expedition to the Spice Islands as commander of the vessel San Lesmes.

In January 1526, the San Lesmes was blown by a gale southwards from the eastern mouth of the Strait of Magellan to 56ºS latitude, where the crew thought they saw a land’s end. This is commonly understood as that they saw open waters westward away of a point of land that could be the southeasternmost tip of either Tierra del Fuego (Cape San Diego) or Isla de los Estados (Cape San Juan). In any of both cases they supposedly had seen an open water connection between Atlantic and Pacific oceans south of Tierra del Fuego, and therefore they preceded Francis Drake in inferring the existence of such a connection. This is the reason why some Spanish, Argentine, and Chilean historians maintain that the so-called Drake Passage should be named Mar de Hoces (Hoces Sea).

After Loaisa expedition eventually reached the Pacific through the Strait of Magellan, the whole fleet was dispersed by another gale and San Lesmes was seen for the last time in late May 1526. San Lesmes final fate has been the subject of a lot of speculation based in some 16th-century European traces later found in different places around South Pacific, which suggest she could have reached Easter Island, any of the Polynesian archipelagos or even New Zealand. Any of these cases would represent the first European landing in the Polynesian Triangle, preceding confirmed European landings in this region by several decades. Australian writer Robert Langdon has been the most prominent supporter of these theories in his books "The lost caravel" and "The lost caravel re-explored". Following Robert Langdon's death, his theory has since been used as the basis for Greg Scowen's conspiracy thriller The Spanish Helmet which features Francisco de Hoces as one of the main characters.


  • Landín Carrasco, Amancio. España en el mar. Padrón de descubridores. Madrid: Editorial Naval ISBN 84-7341-078-5
  • Oyarzun, Javier. Expediciones españolas al Estrecho de Magallanes y Tierra de Fuego. Madrid: Ediciones Cultura Hispánica ISBN 84-7232-130-4.
  • Langdon, Robert. The lost caravel re-explored. Canberra: Brolga Press ISBN 0-9588309-1-6
  • Scowen, Greg. The Spanish Helmet. Whare Rama Books ISBN 978-1-4635-5848-2