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Revista médica de Chile

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ESPINOZA G, JUAN PABLO  and  ESPINOZA G, RICARDO. The possible causes of the tragedy of “Port Famine” in the Strait of Magellan. Rev. méd. Chile [online]. 2010, vol.138, n.11, pp.1456-1460. ISSN 0034-9887.

The attempts to colonize the Strait of Magellan soon followed the discovery of this route. PeDro Sarmiento de Gamboa, a Spanish sailor, established human settlements to fortify those lands and control the transit of vessels, especially those of English corsairs, which devastated Chilean and Peruvian coasts. During the summer of 1584, approximately 500 soldiers, artisans, priests, women and children established two villages called “Nombre de Jesús” and “Rey Don Felipe”. From the beginning, these settlers had leadership and communication problems and difficulties to obtain food. After three winters only 17 to 18 people survived according to the testimony of one of the survivors, that was rescued by an English sailor named Cavendish, which renamed the village “Rey Don Felipe” as “Port Famine”. When he observed the scenes of abandonment and death, he supposed that the settlers died due to lack of food. Other factors that facilitated the desolation were hypothermia, execution, anthropophagy and lesions caused by natives. There is also a possibility that intoxication by red tide (harmful algal bloom) could explain in part the finding of unburied corpses in the strait beaches.

Keywords : Chile; Harmful algal bloom; Starvation.

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