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Travelers and Explorers, Part 5: Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) and His Terrifying Voyage Across an Endless Ocean

June 29, 2021
00:00 41:42
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Ferdinand Magellan was ready to conquer the natives with nothing but a few loyal soldiers. He had already discovered vast new swaths of the globe and crossed the world's largest ocean. Capturing this small island in the Philippines seemed a trifle by comparison. Magellan's confidence was supreme. He faced down the islanders of Mactan with only 60 crew members, turning down the help of 1,000 natives in battle, offered by an allied Filipino leader, in order to personally avenge an insult.

It proved to be a rash call. The captain, the first to cross the Pacific and lead his crew on a voyage of starvation and death, was killed by believing that he would forever defeat the odds.

Magellan’s reputation has recovered over the centuries. His bravery, innovation, and
perseverance are now considered unparalleled during his time. He discovered and sailed
through one of the most dangerous waterways in the world, named the Pacific Ocean, and circumnavigated the globe, albeit posthumously. His pioneering spirit in an age of discovery lives on in geographic names such as the Strait of Magellan. Despite his poor reputation, he inspired Spanish and Portuguese sailors to open eastern Asia to trade. Magellan accelerated the Age of Discovery and laid the groundwork for European colonialism, which in turn created twenty-first-century globalization.

His legacy carries influence today. New discoveries are associated with this iconic explorer. His crew first spotted the Magellanic Clouds, a cluster of galaxies visible in the night sky. NASA launched the Magellan spacecraft in 1989 to map the surface of Venus and measure the planetary gravitational field. In an unintentional homage to the Portuguese explorer, the oneton probe took the long way to reach Venus, looping around the Sun one and a half times before arriving at the gaseous planet. Craters and landmarks on the moon and Mars bear his name – a testament to a man who fearlessly forged paths into the unknown.

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Meet Your Host
Meet Your Host
Scott Rank is the host of the History Unplugged Podcast and a PhD in history who specialized in the Ottoman Empire and modern Turkey. Before going down the academic route he worked as a journalist in Istanbul. He has written 12 history books on topics ranging from lost Bronze Age civilizations to the Age of Discovery. Some of his books include The Age of Illumination: Science, Technology, and Reason in the Middle Ages and History’s 9 Most Insane Rulers.. Learn more about him by going to scottrankphd.com.
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