The article is dedicated to the analysis of the cases of desertion in Spanish and English circumnavigations undertaken during the 16th century. Only four expeditions were able to overcome the Strait of Magellan and enter the Pacific Ocean, but there were many more attempts to repeat the voyages round the world, and in each we meet cases of desertion. The aim of the study is to identify common features of the described cases of desertion, and characteristics of the methods of maintaining order and discipline on ships. The crucial moment for most expeditions was the sectors from La Plata to the Strait of Magellan and attempts to cross the Strait of Magellan, as the ultimately dangerous part of the route. We find only one case of desertion in the Pacific Ocean, caused by the quarrel of the crew over captured spoil. In most part of the examples, desertion was caused by fear of the unexplored sea roads, by conflicts of interest and social contradictions, by personal enmity of crew members or by dissatisfaction with the actions of the leader of the expedition. The punishment for deserters at their homeland was surprisingly mild. The captains of the escaped ships not only saved their lives, but also continued their careers. But for every circumnavigation loss of even one ship was critical and could lead to difficulties or complete failure of the voyage.
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