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Magellan's Expedition Was the First Circumnavigation

In 1519, Portugal was the first country to circumnavigate the globe. Some parts of the world could, but most were not able to circumnavigate past South America. Some parts of the world had advantages that allowed them to build ships, but other parts of the world were incapable due to the lack of resources. However, there was one person who eventually was able to circumnavigate, Ferdinand Magellan.

Becoming the first to circumnavigate the globe was not something on China’s list. Although the country was powerful and had the resources, they were more focused on protecting their people. The Barbarian invasion threat made China create better protection on its northern boundaries. Improving their protection meant rebuilding and extending the Great Wall. China’s multistoried ships were large, compared to Western ships. What stopped its people from being the first to circumnavigate the globe was the anti-marine policy that was made in the 1500s, making it a crime to build a ship with two masts or bigger, and if disobeyed would lead to death. China created this policy so none of its people could be in danger.

Apart from China, Arab Muslims wanted to be the first to circumnavigate but they faced challenges. Individual Muslims navigated the Indian Ocean for centuries which helped them master the shifting direction of the moon. Navigating the Indian Ocean made them discover that another sea, south of Africa, was linked to the Indian Ocean. The Arabian Peninsula could not produce wood, resin, iron, and textiles which were the essentials to building a ship. Not having these products gave them the defeat they did not want. Arab Muslims, not having the supplies needed, gave Spaniards an advantage.

In 1519, the extent of the Pacific Ocean was still unknown, along with the precise location of the Spice Islands. Spaniards needed to discover if the islands were on the western side or to the east of the Meridian line. Portugal sent Ferdinand Magellan to resolve this issue for them. Five poorly-equipped ships left Spain, holding 250 crew members. The crew included Portuguese, Italians, French, Greeks, and one Englishman. By November 28, 1520, there were only three remaining ships. They sailed into the Pacific, and for the next three months and twenty days, the ships traveled 12,000 miles. The calm sail led Magellan and the ships to decide that the new ocean should be called “Pacific.” In September 1522, only one ship, the Victoria, arrived in Seville with 18 men who had rounded the Cape of Good Hope at the tip of Africa.

The Earth had been circumnavigated for the first time. It was a combination of resources, beliefs, and location that allowed Portugal to win the title. In addition to this, their ships were left in poor condition, which made it more difficult for Portugal to achieve their title. Nevertheless, Magellan and his crew managed to survive these circumstances, which led to more future expeditions around the Earth.

[Source: Days That Changed the World]

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