A notable case of a fruit that resembles almonds, and many of them are found on a small island without any almond trees nor trees that bear any such fruit on that island, nor does this fruit grow there, rather it comes by air[1].

Translated by Nicholas Weiner ’22

Half a league or a league from Gilolo, in the Malukan Islands, there is a small island with many large trees, produced á natura; but no almond trees are present nor trees that bear such fruit nor other useful substance for men, nor ships nor men to bring almonds, and even though there are no almond trees, almonds can be collected by the bushel or the sackful. And provoking more wonder, if today we collected all of them, tomorrow (I mean the next day after they are collected) we would find as many or more; and there are so many that they cannot be exhausted in the time that naturally such fruit can resprout or regrow. That which is described here is not fantastic but observed and commented by many of our Spaniards; and I know it from Captain Urdaneta and Martin de Islares, who were mentioned previously: they ate these same almonds many times and stayed on the same island, which is more than a degree from this part of the equinoctial line to our arctic pole. And knowing the way those almonds arrive by air to this island, it is very possible to explain, and an easy thing to understand and reasonably believe.

The authors I have mentioned said that no almond trees grow on that island, nor are there any, and that innumerable wood pigeons eat those almonds when they are ripened and the tops of the shells are green, and with the heat of their crop they digest this first cover or bark, and not the second that is between it and the almond because it is harder. And during the night, many large groups of these pigeons fly across from the island of Gilolo to roost on that island, and they defecate or discharge the first layer or shell of these almonds, consumed as has been told. And since there are so many of them, they discharge so much fruit from the almonds that have been flying around in their crops, that I was told by these noblemen that every day the birds could bring many sackfuls of such almonds, which, although they are very similar to our almonds from Spain, are not almonds, although they look and taste like almonds, but they are bigger than the almonds from Castille. And thus, after spending the night on this island, as it grows light the pigeons leave the island, and go to graze on the bigger landmass or island of Gilolo: and they stay there all day, until the sun goes down below the horizon, and then they return to sleep on this island, with their crops full of this fruit or almonds. And even among the hardships and necessities that the Castilians suffered because of the war with the Portuguese in the Malukan Islands (especially those few who remained from Commander Frey García de Loaysa’s fleet), many times these almonds that I have spoken of brought great relief as part of the provisions that sustained them.[2]


[1] Already in chapter XIV of the 6th book Oviedo had spoken of this peculiarity, indicating there that he intended to address it more extensively, “when the time would come to speak and write about the parts of the Spice Islands.” However, this passage alters very little, even in the same sentences, from what he had said in the aforementioned passage.

[2] Up to this point Oviedo left Part II in leaflet form when he died suddenly in 1557. As we have already mentioned in the Vida of the first chronicler of the Indies, this book was printed in Valladolid by Francisco Fernández de Córdova, who in trying to find a reason to suspend the edition of others, put this warning at the end of the chapter: “This work was no longer to be printed because the author died.”