History Nerd Girl Rants Again...
Ralph Waldo Emerson so brilliantly said, "Life is a Journey, Not a Destination." I believe the same, for the most part. The growth I’ve experienced throughout my life has been gained during my journey. However the sense of accomplishment and/or failure is always waiting for me at my set (and at times not so set) destination, which in turn teaches me new things as well.
I try to keep my destinations in a plethora of bite size morsels so my journey can stretch out into three lifetimes, ensuring I will never grow bored. There are many people that see life the same as I do. Most go through their lives not being recognized for their feats, but there are the lucky few that have their tales told through history.
With that being said, my history nerd girl needs haven’t been met in some time. So it’s a perfect moment to let her out to play, as today is the day in the year 1520 Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan entered the Pacific Ocean with three ships, becoming the first European explorer to reach the Pacific from the Atlantic.
His journey led him through the dangerous straits below South America that now bear his name, making him the epitome of Mr. Emerson's quote. Let me explain why.
It was on September 20, 1519 when Magellan's journey began. He set sail from Spain determined to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. In command of five ships and 270 men, Magellan sailed to West Africa and then to Brazil, in search of a route of a South American strait that would take him to the Pacific. He was first faced with failure in this pursuit. However he never gave up, continuing south of South America.
There were many in his crew that had started to lose faith by the end of March. While the expedition’s stay in their winter quarters at Port St. Julian, the Spanish captains mutinied on Easter at midnight. Luckily for Magellan, he was able to snuff out the revolt. However, not without bloodshed, one the captains had to be executed while another was left ashore when his ship left St. Julian in August.
It wasn’t until October 21, 1520 he finally discovered the strait he had been yearning for. It now holds his name, the Strait of Magellan. It’s found near the tip of South America, separating Tierra del Fuego and the continental mainland. Only three out of his five ships entered the passage.
It took the crew of the three remaining ships 38 days to navigate the perfidious piece of sea. It’s noted that when they came out of the strait and the new ocean was sighted Magellan wept with joy. In that one act he revealed the doubt of ever succeeding he must’ve held.
His crippled convoy accomplished the westward crossing of the ocean in 99 days. Magellan named the new waters “Pacific,” from the Latin word pacificus, meaning “tranquil” since the new ocean was tame compared to the waters they had come from. By the end of their journey they were out of food, chewing on the leather parts of their gear to keep themselves alive. It wasn’t until March 16, 1521 when the expedition landed at the Philippine island of Cebu. Magellan was only about 400 miles from his goal destination, the Spice Islands.
However his final destination wasn’t where he had intended it to be. After Magellan’s meeting with the chief of Cebu, he agreed to help in conquering a rival tribe on the neighboring island. It was in that very fight that Magellan was hit by a poisoned arrow and left to die.
Magellan’s left over men set sail and made it to their captain’s intended destination without him, loading the two remaining ships with precious cargo. From there they parted ways; one deciding to go back the way they had come and the other opting to keep west. The westward ship was the only ship to make it home, arriving at the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522. That date marked the first ship to circumnavigate the globe!
It was because of his overzealousness that he found the first route around the globe. It was also that same fervent nature that led to his death, cheating himself out of the satisfaction of reaching his destination. Was it worth it? That’s only a question he could answer. However it’s a firm example of how the journey is ultimately what’s important and how the destination is only where you (might) end up. Here’s to the journey! Happy Saturday everyone!