Magellan’s meticulous planning definitely gives him the claim to organizing the first journey around the world.
Magellan’s meticulous planning definitely gives him the claim to organizing the first journey around the world.

“When did I start calling Kerry Magellan?”

Well, on the original story this morning I (falsely) remembered that perhaps the moniker had sprung soon after I read this blurb and noted it in my diary.

You can take it with you

Ferdinand Magellan. 1519. Destination: Spice Islands. 5 ships, 277 sailors, 213,800 pounds of biscuits, 72,000 pounds of salted beef, 10,080 pounds of chickpeas, 500 pounds of gunpowder, lead shot, cannon balls of iron and stone, 100 corselets with breastplates and helmets, 4,300 arrows, 60 crossbows, 120 skeins of wire for bows, 50 arquebuses, 1 set of astrological predictions of a successful voyage. Lapham’s Quarterly, Volume II Number 3, Summer 2009.

It turns out that was wrong—and the true story, which Lynn reminded us of, began sooner and is much better. Like the story of Magellan the discoverer, history is in constant revision!

For a couple of years on Pender Island she recalls Kerry talking about wanting to kayak around South Pender. Ward started saying “okay Magellan” in reference to his proposed circumnavigation, as the rest of us were all sceptical about his ambitious plan! As you may recall from a previous blog,  after a lot of research, each of us accompanied Kerry on a leg of the journey, a successful navigation that earned him the name Magellan.

“Una aventura de locos.” That’s what the four of us originally thought of circumnavigating South Pender. It’s also what people called Magellan’s crazy-ambitious trip to discover and seize lucrative spice routes in Africa and India. (Some would say the same of a few of the ventures of Magellan and Spice. My Magellan, tired of all the hummus I serve for lunches, might say Portugal’s epic explorer was locos to take 10,080 pounds of chickpeas.)

I’m sticking with my nickname for Kerry—even though the epic explorer’s reputation is now raft with contradiction. Starting with Ferdinand Magellan’s name: he was born Fernão de Magalhães. Hero/conquesidor. Formidable/brutal. First to circumnavigate the globe/technically false as he was killed by a poison arrow halfway through the trip in the Philippines 500 years ago on April 27, 1521.

In Lisbon we visited the Monument to the Discoveries, a sculptural tribute to Portugal’s glorious era of overseas expansion. It stands alone in a striking position on the bank of the Tagus River.

Originally erected in a temporary form in 1940 as part of the Portuguese World Exhibition, the Monument to the Discoveries was reconstructed in 1960 to mark the 500th anniversary of the death of Henry the Navigator. But as you can see, its concrete and rose-tinted Leiria stone masonry looks exceptionally modern.

On each side of a stylised mast oriented north-south is the Portuguese coats of arms, its five small shields surrounded by a band with twelve castles and a fleur-de-lis in the centre.

To give the illusion of sails blown out by the wind each side has three triangular, curved structures.

On the two lateral ramps, 32 sculptures of navigators, cartographers, warriors, colonizers, missionaries, chroniclers and artists carved from Sintra limestone ascend to Henry the Navigator.

The Centro Cultural das Descobertas, giving the monument a viewpoint, auditorium and exhibition hall, opened in 1985.

But let’s talk about Magellan.

In his book Over the Edge of the World: Magellan’s Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe, Laurence Bergreen describes Magellan’s journey as “the greatest sea voyage ever undertaken, and the most significant. That’s not hyperbole.”

Magellan’s contemporaries thought his quest impossible and “feared that everything from sea monsters to killer fogs awaited anyone foolhardy enough to try.” Although the expedition’s diarist wrote of a place plagued by “an infinite number of parrots,” (Rio De Janeiro) it was starvation, mutiny, weather and battles with the natives that after three years had destroyed all but one ship and eighteen emaciated, exhausted men.

Technically, Magellan did complete a round-the-world trip. But in two trips and in two separate directions—eastward from Europe to the Spice Islands via the Indian Ocean and then his famous westward trip through a strait in southern South America and over the vast expanse of the Pacific.

He was killed 1,000 miles and 20 longitudinal degrees short of completing a circumnavigation. At the age of only 41.

Ten years later, his slave Enrique, one of the eighteen survivors of the expedition, returned to Mallaca by ship and completed the westward route. So, some historians now say Enrique was the first person to circumnavigate the world in one direction. Still other historians credit Sir Francis Drake as the first captain to circumnavigate an entire journey around the world in 1580…

Yet on September 6, 1522, the world was forever changed. Magellan’s expedition established Earth’s dimensions. For the first time, the largest ocean in the world was crossed, and named, Mar Pacifico “Peaceful Sea.” The spherical nature of the planet was confirmed. That all the seas on the globe are connected to each other was realized. Different zones of time were noted. An endurance record on the high seas was reached. The way for planetary communication was opened. And Magellan’s meticulous planning definitely gives him the claim to organizing the first journey around the world. (And meeting his goal of finding the Spice Islands.)

Time for my Magellan to start organizing our next trips. Thanks to Fernão de Magalhães I have the cardamom and caraway, amchur and turmeric and many other spices to flavour tasty meals to fuel his organizing. Non-astrological predictions include trips to Newfoundland, the Dolomites, Iceland…


Diaz, Itxu. “Bizarre, Bawdy and Brave: The Survivors’ Tales of Magellan’s Round the World Horror Story.” The Daily Beast. April 14, 2019.

Blakemore, Erin. “Magellan was first to sail around the world, right? Think again.” National Geographic. September 19, 2019.

“Ferdinand Magellan.” October 22, 2019.

McFadden, Christopher. “It Turns Out Ferdinand Magellan Might Not Have Actually Circumnavigated the World.” September 21, 2019.

Monument to the Discoveries website.

7 Responses

  1. Nice history lesson refresh.

    To say they led an interesting life is truly an understatement.

    Very awesome giant compass and the rock work is truly beautiful.

    Enjoyed the pictures and story line, now we know the true story of your namesakes and indeed they are incredibly accurate.

    Cheers, Safe Travels

    1. History lesson for me when researching this story; I didn’t know about the controversy of Magellan’s voyage being considered incomplete. Reminds me of your mother’s astonishment, in Scotland, of how little we “kids” knew about Scottish history. “I guess I missed that day at school,” was Heather’s smarty reply when your mom was reiterating the story of Bonnie Prince Charlie. I just have missed a whole semester…

      1. Oh yes there were a few quips on that trip…I love Lisbon as well, and that particular many pics have been taken there and trips starting and ending there! Love this presentation, and indeed a lesson. Thanks. Cheers, Heather

  2. Loved this blog! The ‘Monument to the Discoveries’ is beautiful. I didn’t know how your nicknames came to be but suits you both to a tee!

    1. When choosing Spice, I wasn’t making a conscious reference to the fact that Magellan #1 was on a mission to find the Spice Islands: serendipity!

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