Ferdinand Magellan and me (73)

Magellan strait

Most beautiful and terrible strait

Magellan never doubted that this was El Paso. The water was deep and clear and always salty but progress was slow against the wind, almost always from the west. The strongest evidence was the twice-daily ebb and flood of the tide under the invisible force of the Moon. By the grace of God there seemed to be a safe haven every few leagues, very deep so the ships tied up to trees on shore after each day’s sailing, which left the men exhausted from frequent tacking. All experienced men agreed this was the most beautiful and terrible strait in the world and should be called Magellan’s Strait because the captain general found it when everyone said he could not. His problem was who to trust when so many had proved deceitful and once again he called on the master-at-arms for a vital duty.

“Espinosa, I believe we are approaching the end of El Paso and I want you to take the longboat and survey ahead. If you don’t find the exit in ten leagues come back and report to me.”

“It shall be done, Captain General.”

The ships lay over in a snug cove to await Espinosa’s report, which came in two days. He returned from his expedition in the longboat foaming along with flags flying and a bone in her teeth before the westerly wind. Espinosa clung to the forestay waving an arm and shouting at the top of his voice:
“We’ve found it! We’ve found it! The South Sea. The Ocean.”

Men hauling nets and coopers sealing barrels dropped their work and stared, then gave wild whoops of exultation. Only the captain general, standing like a statue on the quarterdeck, seemed unaffected by the news but Pigafetta was close enough to see the tears rolling down his cheeks and into his black beard. It was the second time he had seen Magellan cry and it moved him deeply but he dare not mention it.

see:A Singular Captain

    El Paso at last


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Sailor from wayback with a Master's degree in Technology Management. Prefer classical music to rap and chicken curry to steak.

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