Book VI, Chapter XIV
Another repository or remarkable wonder the author records here in this sixth book, it being something unusual and never seen in any other part, except for a small island very close to the land of Gilolo in the Especiería (the Maluku or Spice Islands), noted here until the right time comes to talk and write about those parts; in which islet there are absolutely no almond trees but countless almonds, without any single human being or manned ship having taken them there; which happens as follows.
Translated by Lizabeth Paravisini-Gebert
There is an islet in the Especiería, near Gilolo, in the middle of the sea, small and full of groves of trees created by nature; but there are no almond trees nor any other fruit useful to man, nor does any ship ever bring them. And although there are no almond trees, as I have said, one could pick almonds by the bushel or sackful. And what is particularly wonderful is that if they are all to be gathered today, there will be more to be found tomorrow, or the following day. And they are boundless during the season when such fruit is plentiful in other parts where almonds grow and can be found. This could seem like a made-up fable or something that sounds impossible but it has been seen by Spaniards; and I have heard this from the very same Spaniards who had been to those parts and have eaten many times from these very almonds at that very islet, which can be located one degree and a few minutes from the equinoctial line on our side of the Artic pole, as I was informed by Captain Andrés de Urdaneta, a native of Salvatierra in the province of Guipuzcoa, and by Martín de Islares, a native of the village of Laredo. These two hidalgos traveled to the Especiería in the armada that the Emperor, our lord, sent with his Captain General, the Comendador Friar García de Loaysa, of the Order of San Juan de Rodas in the year 1525; and they spent some time there and they are trustworthy people who give a very good account of what they saw and of the fate of that navy, as will be told at more length in the second part, when we address the subject.
Upon my asking them how these almonds reached or got to this islet (since they said that they didn’t grow there, nor were there any almond tress of any other tree that produced the fruit), they gave me an answer that could be believed and understood; and something similar to this can be seen in Spain, but not with almonds but with acorns. And that is that countless wood pigeons eat these almonds when they are ripe, and they have a green layer over their shell which the pigeon digest with the heat in its craw, but it cannot dissolve the harder shell. At night, very large flocks of these pigeons go to sleep on the islet, and they defecate or push out these almonds without their outer cover or rind, as I have said. And since there are so many, they release such quantities of the fruit they brought in their crop that this captain and the above-mentioned Martín de Islares assure me that one could gather bushels of these almonds every day. And upon my asking if there were proper almonds, like the ones we have in Spain, they replied that they were not true almonds, but that they were more similar to almonds than to any other fruit from Castile in their flavor and in the manner and hardness of their shell, except that they are much larger. And as soon as the night comes to an end, as the day starts, the pigeons leave the islet and go feed at the larger island of Gilolo; and as the sun starts to set, they return to the islet to sleep, as I have said.