explorers recorded them:
tell about the giants of Patagonia
there are, as far as I know,
no bones that can confirm the giants of the southern part
of South America, but the books
and other documents after the first
discoverers comfirm that there indeed were tall people living
The first European to sail down the South American east coast
was Hernando de Magallanes - Magellan, in 1520. Spain had
already started to explore the new land they had found to
the west of the Atlantic Ocean. Magellan, a Portuguese, was
trying to find a new route to the Spice Islands/Moluccas,
in northern Indonesia. When he reached the southern part of
what now is Argentina, on a inlet he named San Julián,
he encountered very tall people, Yes, the first one they saw
was so tall that so tall that the seamen only reached to his
waist! They later managed to capture two young giants, but
they died later at sea.
to 11 feet
Magellan was the first European to encounter the Patagonian
giants but he was far from the only one! Other Spanish explorers
followed, then the English and the Dutch. And they all saw
giants, up to 11 feet (more than 3 meters) tall! For more
than 250 years sailors visiting the land, that now was called
Patagonia, could tell about seeing human giants - yes, early
charts sometimes added the legend "regio gigantum",
"region of the giants", to the area!
The European public's interest really peaked
after the visit to Pantagonia by vice-admiral John Byron in
the ship HMS Dolphin. The book that was published (1767) when
they were back home seemed to give proof of the giants existence.
But the interest died down, especially after John Hawkesworth's
book of 1773, supposedly based on the English explorers' journals,
telling that they had been exaggerating the Patagonians hight:
They were perhaps 6 feet, 6 inches (1.98 m), tall but not
Well, there are no giants in southern Argentina today, so
might be there never were any? John Hawkesworth book or not:
It is hard to believe that so many of the first explorers
told about the giants they encountered if it was just more
or less fantasies. Why should they make up stories like that?
The well respected captains representing their countries were
out to explore, to find new routes to gold and spices - not
make a kind of horror movie! Take the mentioned John Byron;
He was later made Commander-in-chief of the British fleet
in the West Indies and during the American War of Independence
- would that have happened if Hawkesworth's book really had
proven that he had been lying?
The explorers to the tip of South America were not the only
to find very tall people, giants. Francisco Pizarro of Spain
was the first European to sail down thew west coast of South
America from Panama. In 1527 he managed, by trickery, guns
and his few soldiers, to take the Inca capital Cusco - and
go on to conquer the huge Inca-kingdom in what today is Peru.
He did not see any giants, but some people that were very
tall: The Inca kings/chiefs and their families. They seemed
to be of the totally different race than the others - they
where white skinned and had European
features. He was also told stories about a race of giants
Peru's private gold museum has
of golden-clad giant kings,
the head of a crowned king is about twice as large as a normal
head and a golden tunic is over eight feet tall. In 1543,
Juan de Olmos, lieutenant governor of Port Viejo, Guayaquil,
Ecuador, ordered excavations to be made at the place where
the natives claimed giants were destroyed by fire from heaven.
He apparently found bones indicating that from the knee down
the giants had been as big as the full length of an ordinary
fair-sized man. The legends told
that they had come over the sea in large boats of reeds.
what happened to the giants?
All over the world the stories were the same: The first explorer
did find very tall, white skinned people among the natives
and they found bones after even taller people - giants. Like
in North America where the Europeans encountered extremely
tall Indian chiefs and the settlers making roads, houses and
farm fields dug up mound after mound with large, bones that
most often crumbled to dust.
So what happened to the giants? Well,
the first Europeans to the other continents were not as Christian
as they pretended to be, at least not when it came to the
local "heathens". - Shoot them down, get them killed!,
was often the parole. The tall people would of course be the
first in line, because it seems that they were the leaders!
The newcomers were first of all after gold, spices and land
- but if the locals did not want to hear about Jesus then
the tough methods could convince the survivors of what was
the better religion! And - in addition to guns and Bibles
the Europeans also brought their diseases - thousands and
thousands (might be millions) of natives all over the world
died of common diseases like measles and influenza because
they were lacking genetic resistance.
It was quite seldom that the explorer actually saw the really
tall giants, the 11-footers. But they often found was the
bones after them. They had, according to the legends, also
come from another place - so might it was the giants that
lacked resistance against the local diseases that time? Or
was it, like most legend say, that the giants that came in
from the sea only were men? For it would be quite hard for
an 11 foot giant to get a baby with a 4-5 foot Indian lady!
would most probably die even before it was time to deliver!
is what I have found about the explorers (to what became
called Patagonia), what was written by them:
1520: Magellan, Spanish (Portuguese) explorer.
Where: Saint Julian (49°20 S, 67°43
Quotes: But one day, unexpectedly, we saw a man of
gigantic stature who was on the beach, quite naked; who
while singing and dancing threw sand on his head,
gigantic stature, And he was so tall that
the tallest of us only came up to his waist. Withal he was
well proportioned, "another giant was seen, taller
and better proportioned than the others".
Source: Magellans chronicler Antonio Pigafetta. "Report
on the First Voyage around the World", 1525.
They captured two younger males, needing nine men to get
one of them to the ground, but they later died at sea.25
García Jofre de Loayza, Spanish explorer.
Where: Patagonian coast.
Quotes: "men are thirteen spans tall" (2,74 m,
Source: Juan de Aréizaga, a priest that was part
of the expedition. "Narrative".
1577: Sir Francis Drake, English admiral and privateer.
Where: Patagonian coast
Quotes: men in height and greatnes are so extraordinary
that they hold no comparison with any of the sones of men
this day in the world, 7 foote and halfe (2,29
m) describing the full height...of the highest of them.
Source: Francis Fletcher, Drake's Chaplain.
Sir Francis cousin John Drake, who sailed with him,
recalled a skirmish with the giants that resulted in the
death of one native and two sailors.
1579: Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, Spanish explorer,
historian and scientist.
Quotes: were Big People", "Giants.
He also reported their great strength; it took ten of his
men to capture a native.
Sir Thomas Cavendish, English captain.
1. Where: Patagonian coast
Quotes: of a gigantic race, as the measure of one
of their foot marks was eighteen inches [45,7 cm] long.
2. Where: Port Desire (47°45 S, 65°55
Quotes: "Giants fifteeene or sixteene spans of height.
I affirme, that at Port Desire I saw the footing of them,
by the shoare side, that was aboute foure foote of one of
our mens in length; and I saw two of them that were buried
newly, the one of them was fourteene spannes long"
(2,94 to 3,36 m, 9.6 to 11 ft.), thirteen spans tall
(2,74 m, 9 ft.) - about a Patagonian
Knivet, an adventurer who sailed with Cavendish,
Quotes: savages whom he thought to be ten or eleven
feet high [3,05 3,35 m], tore up trees
by the roots, that were a span in diameter, with great facility.
1599 Oliver van Noort, Dutch admiral.
Where: Port Desire (47°45 S, 65°55 W).
Quotes: savages of a gigantic stature, gigantic
people...who were continually making war upon the other
He was told that not all Patagonian natives were gigantic,
but only one tribe out of the five that lived there, the
Joris van Spilbergen, Dutch Privateer
Where: Strait of Magellan.
Quotes: a human being of very big stature.
1615: Jacques Le Maire, Dutch explorer and Willem
Corneliszoon Schouten, Dutch navigator.
Where: Puerto Deseado hills.
Quotes: Graves with skeletons of very tall human beings,
with bones 10 to 11 feet (3,05 3,35 m), their skulls,
once opened, could be placed on our heads as if they were
map of Puerto Deseado.
Bartolomé and Gonzalo García del Nodal,
Henry Brewer, Dutch Admiral
Tierra del Fuego
race of men taller, by the head, than the Europeans
Source: A crewmember.
1641: Dionisio de Rueda, Spanish
governor of Chiloé
Tierra del Fuego: Los
the Strait of Magellan
fought at with the local natives, the Caucauhue,
a very belligerent nature.
Where: Strait of Le Maire, Tierra del Fuego.
Quotes: footsteps of men that measured eighteen inches.
Peter Harrington, captain/commander from France
Strait of Magellan.
seven of these giants in Gregory Bay on the Strait of
Captain Eon de Carman, also from France, reported seeing giants
John Byron, English admiral
Strait of Magellan.
a gigantic stature", "monsters in a human shape.
"them examined and measured by Mr. Byron. He represents
them in general as stout and well-proportioned, and assures
us that none of the men were lower than eight feet (2,44 m),
and that some even exceeded nine (2,74 m), and that the women
were from seven feet and a half to eight feet (2,29 to 2,44
Officer Charles Clerke in a letter to the Royal Society
He said that Captain Byron who was a tall man nearly six feet
tall (1.83 m), had to stand on tip-toe and stretch his arm
in order to reach the top of a natives head.
wrote that one of his officers was astonished upon perceiving
himself, though six feet two inches high [1,88 m], become
at once a pigmy among giants; for these people may indeed
more properly be called giants than tall men.
was their extraordinary size, that in this situation they
were almost as high as the Commodore when standing."
on Board the said Ship, Voyage Round the World in His Majesty's
Ship the Dolphin".
Charles de Brosses, French baron and writer.
coast of Port Desire is inhabited by giants fifteen to sixteen
palms high. I have myself measured the footprint of one of
them on the riverbank, which was four times longer than one
of ours. I have also measured the corpses of two men recently
buried by the river, which were fourteen spans long. Three
of our men, who were later taken by the Spanish on the coast
of Brazil, assured me that one day on the other side of the
coast they had to sail out to sea because the giants started
throwing great blocks of stone of astonishing size from the
beach right at their boat. In Brazil I saw one of these giants
which Alonso Díaz had captured at Port Saint Julien:
he was just a boy but was already thirteen spans tall. These
people go about naked and have long hair; the one I saw in
Brazil was healthy-looking and well proportioned for his height.
I can say nothing about his habits, not having spent any time
with him, but the Portuguese tell me that he is no better
than the other cannibals along the coast of La Plata."
His book "Historie des navigations aux terres australes".
Samuel Wallis, English
one of these was six feet seven
inches high (2.01 m), several more were six feet five, and
six feet six inches high (1,96 to 1,98 m); but the stature
of the greater part of them was from five feet ten to six
feet (1,78 to 1,83 m).
Hawkesworth "Walliss An Account of the
Voyage Round the World" 1773.
1831: Charles Darwin, English naturalist.
Patagonia, Cape Gregory.
"on an average, their height
is about six feet, with some men taller and only a few shorter;
and the women are also tall; altogether they are certainly
the tallest race which we anywhere saw."
Darwin, The Voyage
of the Beagle.
a blog in three parts by Austin
See a pdf-article with information from a Stephen Quayle