Bill McStay describes the historic voyage of Ferdinand Magellan
The 15th and 16th centuries are often described as the Age of Discovery, for during those years the great powers of Europe – Spain, Portugal and England – were dispatching their explorers to the very limits of the known world.
By the year 1500 Christopher Columbus had discovered the American continent on behalf of Spain, and the Portuguese navigators Vasco da Gama and Bartolomeo Diaz had rounded South Africa’s Cape of Good Hope, opening up the sea route to India and the fabled Indies.
There lay the Spice Islands, source of a commodity much valued in Europe – cloves and nutmeg. The Pacific Ocean, known as the ‘Great Southern Sea’ when first seen by the Spaniard de Balboa in the 15th century, had never been visited by Europeans. Indeed, there was a common belief that explorers venturing west beyond the vast American continent could fall over the edge of the flat earth.
That belief was not shared by Ferdinand Magellan.