September 20, 2022

Ptolemy World Map: Greco-Roman World View

Ptolemy world map, 1482.
Ptolemy world map created by Lord Nicolas the German in 1482.


It wasn’t Columbus or Magellan who proved the world was round. The flat Earth notion we hear about today was a medieval phenomenon. By 500 BCE the Greeks had established that the planet was a sphere, and in time estimated its size with surprising  accuracy.


September 19, 2022

Enrique of Malacca Completes First Circumnavigation—by Language


World map of Nicolas Desliens, 1566. This version is upside down: North is on top, whereas in the original south is.

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his language was spoken. 

September 17, 2022

Antonio Pigafetta Describes the Coconut and Its Importance


Antonio Pigafetta's account of the Magellan-Elcano voyage gives us both first-hand historical detail and color—the human aspects of the journey. 

The Italian scholar learned all he could about the cultures that Magellan's fleet encountered, even sitting down and recording samples of languages.

September 15, 2022

Magellan's Flagship Trinidad Reaches Spice Islands, then East of Hokkaido

 

The Trinidad tried to cross the Pacific a second time.


The Nao Trinidad was the proud flagship of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet, the Armada de Molucca. Configurations of the five vessels are unknown, but the Trinidad was listed at 110 tons, the second largest next to the San Antonio at 120. Trinidad was the third-most expensive.

September 14, 2022

Enrique of Malacca Online Resources


Contemporary Sources

Many of the contemporary writings about the Magellan-Elcano expedition are available online, translated into English and for free. These include the accounts of Antonio Pigafetta and others who joined the voyage and Maximilian of Transylvania, who interviewed survivors. See the links below. (More coming soon.)

Magellan's Unlikely Explorers: Stories of the First Circumnavigation

Released on the 500-year anniversary of the first circumnavigation, Magellan's Unlikely Explorers tells of the first circumnavigation through stories of the far-fetched individuals who joined the expedition. This was a three-year voyage that circled the globe and crossed wide samples of history along the way. 

Among Magellan’s crew were Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian scholar who passing through Spain in 1519 just happened to hear about a fleet being prepared—and went on to write its history; Duarte Barbosa, who spent fifteen years in India, became fluent in the Malayalam language of Kerala, and wrote a detailed Asian travelogue; Joãozito Lopes Carvalho, a young boy who became the first native of Brazil to cross the Pacific; and Enrique of Malacca, the first person to circumnavigate the globe linguistically, and possibly altogether.

September 10, 2022

First Circumnavigation in the News



September 8 was the 500-year anniversary of the first circumnavigation, the day the Victoria was brought from Sanlúcar de Barrameda up river to Seville. Here’s a look at the headlines surrounding the commemoration.


September 06, 2022

New Book – Magellan's Unlikely Explorers: Stories of the First Circumnavigation

Released on the 500-year anniversary of the first circumnavigation, Magellan's Unlikely Explorers tells of the first circumnavigation through stories of the far-fetched individuals who joined the expedition. This was a three-year voyage that circled the globe and crossed wide samples of history along the way. 

Among Magellan’s crew were Antonio Pigafetta, the Italian scholar who passing through Spain in 1519 just happened to hear about a fleet being prepared—and went on to write its history; Duarte Barbosa, who spent fifteen years in India, became fluent in the Malayalam language of Kerala, and wrote a detailed Asian travelogue; Joãozito Lopes Carvalho, a young boy who became the first native of Brazil to cross the Pacific; and Enrique of Malacca, the first person to circumnavigate the globe linguistically, and possibly altogether.

August 22, 2022

The Fra Mauro Map: for Portugal, a Guidebook to Africa

Cartography: Frau Mauro map in Lisbon shows Africa as a continent.
The Fra Mauro map (1450), one of the first in Europe to
show Africa as a free-standing continent (see top).

(Updated, 8/23/22)

The Fra Mauro map gave Portugal solid reason to turn down Columbus's 1480s proposal to sail west to the Indies. 

The giant map at St. George's Castle in Lisbon was the first in Europe to show Africa as a free-standing continent surrounded by a waterway around the far tip. It challenged the widely accepted view of Ptolemy that the Indian Ocean was a closed-in sea.

August 12, 2022

The San Antonio, Both the Gem and the Rogue of Magellan’s Fleet

Spanish carrack.
Spanish Carrack.

The San Antonio was the largest of the five ships in Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet and the most expensive. While the configurations of the five vessels are not known, the San Antonio was listed at 120 tons and a price of 330,000 maravedis. Compare that with Magellan’s flagship Trinidad, at 110 tons and a cost of 28,890 maravedis.

August 11, 2022

The Film '1521' Makes Enrique of Malacca Spanish?

Bea Alonzo, Maricel Laxa and the cast of 1521. [Handout]

An upcoming film being shot in the Philippines, 1521: The Battle of Mactan, is revisiting some key history of the island nation. Starring Danny Trejo as Magellan and Michael Copen as Lapulapu, the movie is set to attract a wide audience.

One immediate disappointment, though: A key member of Magellan's crew was his slave-interpreter Enrique of Malacca, a young Malay talented with languages. In 1521, conversely, Enrique the interpreter is "a dashingly handsome" Spanish soldier.

August 10, 2022

Borobudur Ships Offer Glimpse of Srivijayan Trade

Image of a ship on Borobudur bas relief.

[Updated from 3/27/22]

Bas-relief* carvings at the Borobudur temple on Java give us a brief look into the lives of eighth-century Javanese, including the ships used in regional trade in the period.

Borobudur ships are eighth-century double outriggers depicted in bas-relief carvings at the Borobudur Buddhist temple in central Java. These are the vessels that carried the flourishing trade around Southeast Asia during the Srivijayan thalassocracy, or maritime empire, that ruled from Java between the seventh and thirteenth centuries.