National Geographic : 1932 Dec
THE GREATEST VOYAGE IN THE OF THE ANNALS SEA By J. R. HILDEBRAND AUTHOR OF "EDINBURGH, ATHENS OF THE NORTH," "THE PATHFINDER OF THE EAST," "BUDAPEST, TWIN CITY OF THE DANUBE," ETC., ETC., IN THE NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE ONE summer evening of the early nineties in the fifteenth century, most probably in the magic year 1492, an undersized, awkward boy wan dered down to the water front at Lisbon and beheld a sight that held him spell bound. Ships! Ships nosing and warping into docks. Ships loading and ships weighing anchor. Ships half built and dirty, bar nacled ships undergoing repair. Haughty officers in gaudy uniforms min gled with begrimed sailors. Dock hands, tarred from their own buckets, calked and sang. The boy's nostrils were assailed with the sweet odors of Eastern spices and the salty smell of oakum and hawsers. He was yelled at by scurrying roustabouts and nearly deafened by the din of saws and mallets. All this activity was the day's work for one of the Peninsula's busiest ports of the Portuguese maritime trade. All was incomprehensible to the lad, just come down from a hill town of the wild, wooded province, Traz-os-Montes. He had ridden horses of a breed still famous and he had herded sheep and goats that still abound in those stony mountains. But ships were a novelty. Only kings and the clergy had books and pictures; he probably had not even seen a picture of a ship. The country boy must have asked ques tions-his was ever a restless, inquiring mind-but the seamen's scorn for a land lubber was restrained by the lad's uniform. He was a queen's page. Wide-eyed and wondering, the lad drank it all in-glamorous tales of new places, strange tribes, tropical riches! WHEN GOING TO COURT WAS LIKE GOING TO COLLEGE Was it even then, fresh from Portugal's only province that does not touch the sea, stunned and fascinated by this new world of ships and sails and cargoes, that the boy we now know as Ferdinand Magellan first dreamed of being first to encircle the ex panding seas ? Had he lived to-day, or even a century later than he did, Fernao de Magalhaes would have been sent to college; for his was a noble family. "Of the oldest in the kingdom" was his own word for it. Then it was the custom for heirs of the nobility to receive their education at the court of their sovereign. Magellan was an early Lisbon comer among thousands of boys who trooped down from hill farms and pastures to join the gold rush, the slave rush, the palm-oil rush, the spice rush. They swarmed aboard the ships they never before had seen to go places their sovereign hoped might bethere. Under Magellan's youthful eyes, for the first time in history, virtually a whole na tion took to the sea. During his lifetime he saw three major deeds of geographic discovery, Diaz rounding the Cape, Colum bus sailing to a new hemisphere, Vasco da Gama first voyaging to India,* and he crowned these with the fourth by circum navigating the world. BIG NEWS STORIES OF GEOGRAPHY King Manoel, whose reign was to reap the ambitious dreams and constant recon naissances of four kings, came to the throne in 1495. Magellan, then about 15 years old, was transferred to his service. Nine years followed that are blank in our knowledge of the young courtier's prog ress. Like his most authoritative biogra pher,t we would gladly trade some of our minute knowledge of his famous voyage, such as records of the count in dozens of the darts he stocked, the number of fish hooks provided, the name of his youngest cabin boy, for a few more scraps of infor mation about the circumnavigator's youth. Those were nine years of momentous events in geography, years like the sum mer when Lindbergh, and later Byrd, flew the Atlantic. * See, also, "The Pathfinder of the East," by J. R. Hildebrand, in the NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE for November, 1927. t F. H. H. Guillemard, author of "The Life of Ferdinand Magellan and the First Circum navigation of the Globe."