Ditat Deus

Illustration of Dutch colonists planting sugar cane on Mauritius, mid 17th century

“I believe there is truth in the saying it is an ill wind that bloweth no good,” said Maestre Rodrigues. He was garrulous for a sailing master, but Diogo Fernandes did not mind because Rodrigues seldom required an answer.

Besides, he was right. The cyclone that had blown the Cirne off course had brought them here, wherever here was. There was no record of these islands in any of the navigation rutters or charts.

Fernandes scanned the shore with his glass. “I see at least a score of enormous tortoises on the beach. Perhaps there is a source of fresh water was well. Let us get the launch over the side and go ashore.”

“You will need to name the place,” said Rodrigues. “Perhaps you can name it after me?”

Diogo Fernandes laughed at this. “I think we’d better thank our deliverer instead. To which saint does this day belong?”


What Pegman Saw: Mauritius

Historical note:

The three islands that comprise Mauritius were uninhabited  except for brief visits by Arab sailors in the fourteenth century. The ship Cirne, under the command of Capitao Diogo Fernandes Pereira, sighted the island later known as Reunión in February 1507.  Diogo Fernandes named it “Santa Apolonia” in honor of that day’s saint.

The creatures of the island included prodigious amounts of giant tortoises and flightless dodo birds. The birds had never known predators, so the ravenous sailors had an easy time killing all they needed to provision their ships. The cats and rats they left behind devastated the ground-nesting birds’ habitat. The Dutch, who colonized the island over the next century, further depleted the island fauna. By 1710 the dodo was extinct, as were some distinct species of giant tortoise.