Magellan Sets Sail

Today in History, September 20, 1519:

Just shy of 500 years ago, five ships set sail from Spain, led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan, seeking a western passage to the “Spice Islands” of Indonesia.

Magellan persevered through lengthy explorations of rivers that did not lead to his destination, a mutiny by the captains of his ships, and finally…the discovery of the passage at the southern tip of South American which bears his name.

After transiting a straight that suffers some of the worst weather on Earth, his small fleet sailed across thousands of miles across an unknown Ocean which he named “Pacific” for its calm waters until they reached the Phillipines. There, Magellan was killed in combat with a native tribe. Two ships remained.

They made it to the Spice Islands and took on cargo. One made a failed attempt to sail back across the Pacific; the other completed the first circumnavigation of the globe to return to Spain.

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