The Longest Voyage: Circumnavigators in the Age of Discovery

The Longest Voyage: Circumnavigators in the Age of Discovery

The Longest Voyage: Circumnavigators in the Age of Discovery

The Longest Voyage: Circumnavigators in the Age of Discovery

Excerpt

AT ANCHOR IN A SPANISH RIVER, FIVE SHIPS, waiting. Old ships, patched, small, untrustworthy. Aboard them 948 cheeses, 1,512 pounds of honey, 3,200 pounds of raisins, much pickled pork, a two-year supply of biscuits. Wine, rice, lentils, flour, provisions for a long journey. A mingled crew, Spaniards, Italians, Frenchmen, Basques, Greeks, a Malayan, an Englishman. For a Spanish fleet, a Portuguese commander: Fern£o de Magalhaes, called Hernando de Magallanes by the Spaniards, Ferdinand Magellan by posterity. Under harsh September sunlight Magellan readies his vessels for departure. The year is 1519. The destination is the Moluccas, the islands where spices are grown, a cluster of fragrant isles in a distant sea.

Grim, limping, austere Magellan expects it to be a long voyage. He goes westward into the Atlantic to seek the Spice Islands, though he knows they lie in other waters. The damnable massive continents of Columbus stand between Magellan and the Moluccas like high green walls cutting ocean from ocean. Never mind; he will find a sea route westward to the Indies, a strait to take him past those two slabs . . .

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