Portuguese Corte-Real brothers missing mystery

Portuguese Corte-Real brothers missing mystery
By Lee Cannon from Bayville aka West Fenwick, DE, USA (Lisbon, Portugal April 2010Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-SA-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Ah, the Portuguese, known for their fish and chips shops. But in the middle ages, they were well known for being the world’s greatest explorers. One does not have to scratch your head too hard to recall names such as Bartolomeu Dias and Vasco Da Gama.

However, names such as Gaspar Corte-Real and Miguel Corte-Real are not equally talked about and celebrated. Gasper and Miguel were Portuguese explorers as well, who followed in their father’s footsteps.


In 1501, the king, Manuel I, sent Gasper out on a voyage to find new land. These were exciting times as Christopher Columbus had already made his historic voyage.

Gasper set sail with three ships at his disposal to aid him on his conquest. He eventually came on shore to a place he described as being rich in forestry. He gave this land the appropriate name of Terra Verde, which translates as Greenland.

Gasper had discovered Greenland with three ships of which one contained his brother, Miguel. They went further and discovered Newfoundland where they captured 57 native men, only to be sold as slaves later.

Statue of Gaspar Corte-Real in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
Statue of Gaspar Corte-Real in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada

He then sent two ships back to Portugal, including the one his brother was aboard and continued his expedition. Gasper was using a Caraval, which is a smaller ship meant for speed and was quite popular at the time. Unfortunately, Gasper disappeared and was not heard of again.

In 1502, Miguel went on a quest to go searching for his brother. He took along three ships as well to complete his voyage. Just as with his brother, he too broke away from the other two ships and disappeared. This left the other two ships returning to Portugal without their leader.

Their third brother, Vasco Annes Corte-Real, requested the king to send out an expedition in search of his two brothers but the king refused.

Photograph of the Dighton Rock taken by Davis in 1893
Photograph of the Dighton Rock taken by Davis in 1893

In 1918, the Dighton Rock was discovered, which contained some seriously mysterious writing on it. The rock was found near Massachusetts and bared the engraving, “I, Miguel Cortereal, 1511… I became a chief of the Indians”.

The date suggests that Miguel was still alive nine years after his disappearance.

However, there are many gaps in this story which leaves it with a rich maritime mystery.

check out: allday.com

Chilton Mellem
Editor, With a National Diploma in Journalism from CPUT and experience as a newspaper reporter, Chilton shares Dino’s passion for the Portuguese community in South Africa.


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