Balboa, Vasco Núñez de

Balboa, Vasco Núñez de bălbōˈə, Span. väˈskō no͞oˈnyāth dā bälbōˈä [key], c.1475–1519, Spanish conquistador, discoverer of the Pacific Ocean. After sailing with Bastidas in 1501, Balboa probably went to Hispaniola. In 1510, fleeing from creditors, he hid on the vessel that took Enciso to Panama. After reaching Darién, Balboa took command, deposed the incompetent Enciso, and sent him to Spain as a prisoner. Balboa showed only rarely the rapacity and cruelty characteristic of the conquistador. He won the friendship of the indigenous people, who accompanied him on his epic march across the isthmus. Toward the end of Sept., 1513, he discovered the Pacific and claimed it and all shores washed by it for the Spanish crown. His discovery came too late to offset Enciso's complaints at the court of Spain. Balboa was replaced by Pedro Arias de Ávila, and while preparing an expedition to Peru, he was summarily seized, accused of treason, and beheaded.

See C. L. G. Anderson, Life and Letters of Vasco Núñez de Balboa (1941, repr. 1971); K. Romoli, Balboa of Darién (1953).

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