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28 November

Ferdinand Magellan Reaches the Pacific Ocean


Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who became known for having organized the expedition that first circumnavigation of the Earth.  On 28 November, the three remaining ships of Magellan’s fleet reached the pacific.  One of the ships was lost during a mutiny earlier in the journey.  Magellan was born in Portugal around 1480. By his mid-20s, he was sailing in large fleets and was committed in combat.  He is known as being the man who proved the the Earth was round back in a time when most people believed it was flat.  You have to remember back in the late-1400s and early 1500s people only knew what they could see and that was only as they could travel.  Seems like the dark ages, but it was just slightly better than that.  In 1505 he travelled all the way to India.  This is probably where he got the idea to travel to the west.

Strait of Magellan

Strait of Magellan

The route he later found is now named for him.  The trip was originally thought to be a very short one, but instead it took them 6 months to get to Guam.  At which point the sailers were starving and pretty upset.  He was killed by poison arrow in the Philippines on April 27, 1521.

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21 July

Prince Henry of Portugal vs. Zheng He

Zheng He

Prince Henry of Portugul is know as ‘Henry the Navigator’, but why? Why not Zheng He? Zheng who? Exactly! He is listed as the 14th most important person in the last 1,000 years by Life magazine. Zheng He was a Chinese mariner and explorer. He made the voyages collectively known as “Zheng He to the Western Ocean’. Known more for being a eunuch (castrated male) then his spectacular voyages.

UPDATE: Tom sent an interesting article that challenges the ideas brought fourth by Gavin Menzies in 1421: The Year China Discovered America (see article information below). Robert Finlay asserts that: “It is impossible to keep track of how many self-confirming assumptions are at work in such citations of alleged evidence. Piling supposition upon supposition, Menzies never considers a question that he does not beg: every argument in 1421 springs from the fallacy of petitio principii. The author’s “trail of evidence” is actually a feedback loop that makes no distinction between premise and proof, conjecture and confirmation, bizarre guess and proven fact.”

Journal of World History, Volume 15, 2004
Finlay, Robert, How Not to (Re)Write World History: Gavin Menzies and the Chinese Discovery of America



Personalities & Problems: Interpretive Essays in World Civilization, Vol II

When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433

Survey Ocean Shores (Hakluyt Society S.)

Henry the Navigator: The Story of a Great Prince and His Times

1421 : The Year China Discovered America (historical facts questionable)

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