MAGELLAN by Tim Joyner


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A straightforward but tepid biography from fisheries biologist Joyner of the great visionary Magellan, whose resolve to reach the Spice Islands by sailing around the lands encountered by Columbus and others prompted the first circumnavigation of the globe. Joyner begins with an overview of the history of seafaring and of Portuguese exploration of sea routes to India. Magellan, member of a rural branch of the Portuguese royal family, emerges from obscurity in the midst of the struggle in the Indian Ocean over control of the spice trade, proving himself a brave and resourceful fighter. But his less endearing demands for greater recognition earn him King Manuel's enmity, forcing him to cut his ties to Portugal in order to try his luck in Spain. With powerful backing, Magellan finds King Charles more receptive to his plans to open a spice route to the West, and in September 1519 five ships set sail under his command. Dissension plagues the voyage almost from the start, but Magellan carries on even with a fleet reduced by mutiny, reaching the Pacific through the icy waters of the strait now bearing his name. After he arrives in the Philippines, his achievements cloud his judgment to such a degree that he is killed in 1521 while leading a pointless assault on the village of a rebellious chief. His crew continues on, arriving back in Spain, emaciated and cramped into one remaining ship with a cargo of spices, three full years after setting out. Research includes original documents and subsequent narratives of the voyage, as well as the author's firsthand experiences along the coast of southern South America, but Joyner proves unequal to the task of conveying either the spirit of this momentous event or of the remarkable man behind it.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1992
Page count: 368pp
Publisher: International Marine/TAB