The corvettes Atrevida and Descubierta sailed from the port of Cadiz, Spain, in 1779. They were commanded by Frigate Captains Alessandro Malespina and José Bustamante y Guerra, respectively.
They were considered solid, fast and maneuverable ships, which made them suitable for the expedition. The mission was given to them by the King of Spain himself, Charles III, who entrusted them with the exploration of the Atlantic Ocean. There they were to discover new lands, map the different regions, reveal the flora and fauna. As well as making astronomical and meteorological observations. All this would serve the Spanish empire to trace new routes for maritime trade and even establish diplomatic and commercial relations with countries other than the European ones.
The crew was composed of crewmen, painters, naturalists, astronomers, physicians, geographers and hydrographers.
Their itinerary was to go first to North Africa. There they would get the slaves they would take to America. The first country to be visited would be Brazil and from there they would leave again towards the Caribbean Sea, touching Cartagena de Indias, in Colombia, and then they would sail through the Caribbean islands. Later they would head for the coasts of Florida in search of the fountain of eternal youth.
Legend has it that the Spanish explorer Juan Ponce de León heard about the fountain of eternal youth from the natives of Puerto Rico when he conquered the island.
This was very much in the mind of the physician Jacinto Rodríguez de los Ríos, who embarked on that expedition with that objective in mind. The naturalist Fernando Laverde de la Rosa and the geographer Valentín Pérez del Corral also secretly shared this objective. Efraín Sánchez del Pinar and Manuel de las Casas Mejía, painter and astronomer respectively, disagreed.
In July both corvettes left for Africa. When they arrived, Mr. Amilcar Acosta de Basualdo was waiting for them. He himself was in charge of selecting the slaves, who were immediately transferred to the ships and placed in the holds.
After loading, they set sail for Brazil. There they left part of the slaves who would work in the coffee and sugar cane plantations, possession of José Santillana, the commander of the Terra Vivente Hacienda. He needed them because the Indians, tired and sick, could no longer work in the fields. In addition, José gave them samples of exotic plants and animals to take to the King.
Subsequently, La Atrevida and Descubierta set sail for Colombia. In this case, apart from leaving slaves, the captains contacted Julián de la Cruz, known as the emerald czar. They gave him part of the slaves in exchange for these precious stones. Julian would also tell them the route of the emeralds, which Ignacio Montes de Oca would hasten to map.
So far no sickness, no problems on the ships. Everything seemed to flow as captains Alessandro Malespina and José Bustamante y Guerra had planned.
It would now be their turn to set sail for the Caribbean islands. And so they did. But the astronomer, Manuel de las Casas Mejía, had already warned them that they might come into contact with hurricanes and suggested they change course.
The captains argued among themselves. That was not in their plans. Besides, if they changed their route, they might not have enough food. That would cause them problems with all the people. So they decided to continue as planned. .......
Everything continued as normal until the third day of the journey. Calm was apparent. Already the geographers, of each expedition, pointed out:
-Captain, I remind you that we are heading for the Bermuda Islands.
Both captains, in each of their ships, replied to the geographers:
-Thank you. We are now closer to Florida.
The two captains were anxious to reach Florida and discover the famous fountain of youth, but they had not discussed this with anyone.
It was early in the morning, it was very quiet, although they saw a strange darkness they could distinguish the splendor of the stars until ....... a strong breeze takes them out of that splendor. La Atrevida begins to feel the instability but does not take it into consideration. Bad omen......The breeze gets stronger and stronger. A storm breaks out and the captain does not consider it important until ........ The ship begins to tilt. They try to right it, but nothing, useless effort. The ship tilts to one end.
Everyone screams, the crew members can't find what to do.....They make human errors. A heavy storm breaks out at sea, piercing the hull of La Atrevida. Water begins to pour in. Some desperate people fall into the sea....... they are never seen again. The captain tries to remain calm but the ship continues to fill with water. Little by little it sinks..... until it is completely submerged. No one is saved........
While Descubierta made it through the hurricane......but not for long.
Her Captain was able to continue her course to Florida. Unfortunately there was another heavy storm with lots of lightning. There they realized that they had forgotten to attach the lightning rod to the Descubierta. Even the crew fought hard against the adversity but the storm and lightning were already raging all over the ship.
The slaves were taken out of the holds, everyone was running from one side to the other. The crew was still in command until they collided with something. They didn't know what it was.......... The water began to rush in and the ship succumbed to the sea, with all its occupants and riches, on the fateful dark night of October 19, 1779.
-Hey grandfather, why didn't they ask for help," asked Jorge, Arturo Cospedales' youngest grandson, after his grandfather finished reading him the story.
-Oh, my dear JuanMa, at that time there were not the sophisticated devices that we have today to communicate," Arturo answers.
And he continues:
-I guess you are going to sleep now. I've already read your favorite story in its entirety.
To which JuanMa replies:
-Yes, but promise me that tomorrow you will read me the pirate story.
-Promise, tomorrow we will do it, Arturo replies and puts the blanket over him, kissing his grandson goodnight.