On this day in 1522, the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521) circumnavigated the globe. The spectacular voyage opened the world for mankind, giving cartographers a clearer understanding of earth's geography.
Magellan was born to a noble family in the township of Ponte de Barca in northern Portugal. On behalf of Spain, the goal of his 1519 voyage was to find a westward route to the Spice Islands. He started the nearly three-year expedition with about 270 men on five ships--the flagship Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Victoria, and Santiago.
"There is always a risk in being alive," observed writer Henrik Ibsen, "and if you are more alive, there is more risk."
The voyage was trecherous as Magellan led his men around South America's "sea of graves" through the Straight of Magellan that he discovered in 1520. Antonio Pigafetta, who kept a diary of the expedition, said of the discovery: "I believe that there is not a more beautiful or better straight in the world that this one.
Magellan was killed in the Philippines while defending the retreat of his men. A year later, the last surviving ship of his fleet, the Victoria, captained by Juan Sebastian de Elcano along with 18 crewmen, arrived in Spain.
Magellan's voyage of courage and perseverance was called "the terminal event of the European Renaissance" by writer Tim Joyner. As the ancient Greek playwright Euripides once said, "This is courage… to bear unflinchingly what heaven sends."