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The Elaphiti Islands: Sailors from the Elaphites discover the New World!


Sailors from the Elaphites discover the New World

Brave Vice Bune explored unknown islands of the Pacific ocean!

Vice Bune (1559 – 1612) was a diplomat from Dubrovnik. He was the captain of a ship and the most famous Croatian sea-explorer during the 16th century. He was probably the first sailor from this part of Europe who explored unknown Pacific islands at that time. By searching through the archives of Dubrovnik, Spain and Italy we can obtain sufficient information about Vice Bune’s life.

He was born on island Lapud. He spent his early days on the island and then he moved to Dubrovnik to complete his schooling there. As a diplomat he represented Dubrovnik  on the Spanish King Court in Madrid during the reign of Philip II and Philip III.  Soon he travelled as the captain of a Spanish ship to the Indian port Goa. At that time Goa was under the Spanish control. Vice Bune assembled the crew on a ship from Dubrovnik. It was a type of ship called Karaka. The majority of the crew members were from Dubrovnik. From Goa he set off to the Phillipines. On the Phillipines he did preparations for his next journey towards the Pacific ocean.  From 1580 till 1597 he explored at the time unknown Southwest Pacific. He reached and explored exotic islands especially the ones in Melanesia. Thanks to his efforts and exploration some merchants from Dubrovnik arrived there and commenced exchanging goods with the natives. It is quite interesting to mention that sailors from Dubrovnik were not aggressive towards the native people. They were exceedingly friendly towards the native population. The native inhabitants took over a number of words from Croatian and started using them in their language. They borrowed the names of some Croatian islands, bays and capes. Under the influence of the major European colonial powers the same  names  stopped to be used  but temporarily. After gaining independence from the major European colonial powers and establishing new island states, the people of the Pacific islands returned former Croatian words as names for certain parts of the islands which are used even today.

There are over 60 Croatian (toponyms)

It is worth mentioning some of them:

Papua New Guinea (north-eastern coast and islands): bays Buna and Milna, nearby islands) Tamara, Boca, Karkar, Seka, Bili,Beli, Kanap, Kriwina, Iwa, Nada

The Bismarch islands (eastern part): Siroti, Buka, Jowo, Jame and bay Torokina

The Salomon islands (the natives call them Saloma): Owan, Lina, Velakula, Narovo, Uveli, Rendova, Sawo, Mala, Ulowa;  volcanic tops: Kula and Kolovrat;  capes : Debeli, Alan, Sokolovi ; bay: Voza

New Hebrids (present Vanuatu): islands Rava, Valun, Mata, Mala, Malakula, Nina, Matas and bays Marina and Palenta

Vice Bune completed his exploration in 1597. He returned to Spain where he commenced his diplomatic career. He travelled to Mexico in 1598. After Mexico he  returned to Europe. He spent some time in Belgium as a Spanish Ambassador. In 1600, Vive Bune became an official representative of Dubrovnik and he travelled to Naples where he stayed till 1612 when he passed away. According to his last wish he was buried on island Lopud. His grave has been preserved till present time.

Sailors from the Elaphites in the Columbus crew

Christopher Columbus appreciated the skills and knowledge of the sailors from Elaphites. Without doubt he opted for two sailors from the Elaphites to have them as new members of his crew. The two members of the Columbus’ crew were from the island Kalocep and they boarded the ship Santa Maria. The two sailors were Mato Kondjevic and Dominik Kondjevic who participated in the discovery of the New World.

The Elaphites’ island Sipan in the Guinness Record Book

The Elaphites’ island Sipan is very rich in vineyards and olive grows. It is in the Guinness Record Book as an island with most olive trees in relation to the land size and number of inhabitants.

General information about the Elaphites

The Elaphites are a group of the south Dalmatian Islands situated near the city of Dubrovnik. They got its name from the Greek word ‘elaphos’ which means ‘deer’, because of its specific shape. The capes of the islands have been positioned in the sea in the shape of a deer’s antlers. The Elaphites or Deer Islands were mentioned for the first time under this name in the 1st century by Plinije Older in his Naturalis Historia. The Elafiti are made from a group of various islands and five smaller islands. The three islands have been inhabited: Koločep, Šipan and Lopud. They are the islands of natural beauty in the vicinity of Dubrovnik. They have been well connected with Dubrovnik by boat connections. There are frequently many organised tours to these islands. The islands are green with a lot of Mediterranean vegetation. There is a number of beautiful gardens, parks and stunning beaches on the islands which are quite attractive to the foreign visitors. Tourism is equally developed as wine and olive oil production.


The island is one of the guardians of the Dubrovnik sea and it is the cradle of brave captains and seamen. It is the most southern island and it is the nearest inhabited island to Dubrovnik with population of approximately 150 residents. The subtropical vegetation pine tree forests, olive trees and numerous remnants of the old architecture make this island a unique and very attractive place for visiting.


Sipan is the largest and the furthest island of the Elaphites archipelago. The island has been inhabited since ancient times according to many archaeological findings. At present, there are approximately  450 inhabitants on the island. The island is one of the pearls of Dubrovnik region with its tranquil bays, amazing beaches and lush greenery.


Vice Bune ( 1559 – 1612) was born on this island. He was the first Croatian sea explorer at the time of the big geographical discoveries. He was buried on the island. Lopud is situated between islands Šipan and Koločep. The island is known for its beautiful sandy beaches,  fields of bamboos and for different sorts of cactus. Also, the island is rich in cultural and historic monuments which advocate about a thousand year long history of civilisation on the island. People who visit Lopud are quite interested in the local park which dates from the 19th century. The park is rich in various Mediterranean plants, especially bamboos and cactuses which have been brought from different parts of the world.


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