Over the Edge of the World- Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Five hundred years ago Ferdinand Magellan set sail with a fleet of five ships on what became the first circumnavigation of the world. Meticulously researched this account of the voyage reveals a story of political intrigue, nepotism, mutiny, murder and more.

Published 5 years ago

Over the Edge of the World- Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe
By Laurence Bergreen
Published by Harper Collins

Ferdinand Magellan like Columbus before him tried unsuccessfully to gain the favor of the king of Portugal with his plans to find a westerly route to the Spice Islands. Both gained the patronage of the King of Spain but even before Magellan set sail politics and nepotism almost destroyed the enterprise.

Magellan set sail with five ships in 1519 and successfully discovered, after defeating a mutiny, what became the Strait of Magellan. In doing so one ship was lost and anther returned to Spain after a successful mutiny. The remaining three ships then crossed the Pacific Ocean. Scurvy killed many and more died in the Philippines including Magellan in an unnecessary battle with the natives there.

With a severe shortage of crew, one of the ships was deliberately set on fire, anther departed for the Americas only to be captured by the Portuguese, so only one ship continued westwards from the Spice islands laden with cloves (the purpose of the voyage) and reached Spain.

Of the 260 mariners that left, only 18 returned.

A 50,000 nm ocean voyage in mostly uncharted waters became a three-year odyssey full of adventure, during which the sailors suffered from starvation, disease, torture, and death. Politics and patronage enlisted captains and masters who almost from the start of the voyage were planning to mutiny.

Magellan was a hard task-master with a religious fervor that eventually brought about his demise and so whilst he was instrumental in the world’s first circumnavigation he did not complete it.

This book not only covers Magellan’s incredible voyage but also explores the Chinese voyages of exploration to the Spice islands 100 years before and in ships over 500 ft in length. In essence, it is a fascinating story of sailing, exploration, and discovery in the 16th century.

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