A mere four hundred years ago, some of the great explorers of the world – history book names – came face to face with giants in old Patagonia. During the two thousand years before the Christian era, the vast lands of the Americas were inhabited by tribes of giants, much the same as those of the Middle East. As did their biblical brethren, the mighty men of America dwindled slowly away, the survivors moving ever southwards until reaching their last home, the southern tip of Argentina. It was here, as the first tentative exploration of the New World began, that Europeans encountered the few that were left.


The first of these chronicled sightings occurred in 1520, when the famous Portuguese explorer Magellan anchored his ships in the harbour of San Julian. On going ashore, he and his crew were startled to encounter a giant of a man, nearly ten feet tall and with, so they related, a voice like a bull. Enquiries soon, ascertained that he was not alone, but belonged to a tribe of giants who lived nearby.

Thoroughly intrigued, Magellan and his men captured two specimens, intending to take them back to Europe. He shipped them aboard and set sail, but they died before the return journey was halfway completed. Sir Francis Drake, who passed through San Julian in 1578, mentions that he saw two men who stood nine feet tall, and in the years that followed similar reports were made by adventurers whose names may not be quite so familiar. Pedro Sarmiento, Tome Hernandez, Anthony Knyvet and Sebald de Weert all claim to have laid eyes on the South American giants. In 1615, two more travellers, Jacob le Maire and Wilhelm Schouten, recorded the fact that they had discovered a pair of human skeletons, each nine feet in length.

By 1700, the giants seemed to have moved away from San Julian, and the next official record places them at Valdivia, Chile. In 1712, the Spanish authorities there filed repeated reports of a race of giants living in the wild interior, not many miles from the town. The last sighting seems to have taken place in 1764, when Commodore Byron, grandfather of famous poet, saw them at Cabo Virgines.

From Giants - The Vanquished Race of Mighty Men by Roy Norvill