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First global circumnavigation

I knew, but neglected to post at the time, that Monday, 28 March, was the 416th anniversary of the first documented trip around the world by any human being. I remember learning in elementary school that Ferdinand Magellan was this human being. In fact, the Catholic Encyclopedia still says of him:

Ferdinand Magellan

(Portuguese Fernão Magalhaes)

The first circumnavigator of the real world;...

To be fair, the article ends by saying,

Magellan himself did not reach his goal, the Spice Islands; yet he had accomplished the most difficult part of his task. He had been the first to undertake the circumnavigation of the world, had carried out his project completely, and had thus achieved the most difficult nautical feat of all the centuries.

Even here there's enough to argue with.

The Wikipedia article seems, in some ways, more accurate. It says,

He was... the first to lead an expedition for the purpose of circumnavigating the globe. Though Magellan himself died in the Philippines and never returned to Eurpose, 18 members of the crew and one ship of the fleet returned to Spain in 1522, having circumnavigated the globe.

But those 18 were not the first to circumnavigate the world. Magellan beat them to it; he died in Cebu (in the Philippines), well north and slightly west of the Spice Islands (in Indonesia), which he had visited from the West prior to his circumnavigational expedition. This East-West relationship can be clearly seen with this interactive map, if you know where Cebu and the Spice (or Banda) Islands are.

History House Online gets this right in footnote 3 to its article on Magellan's Demise.

Magellan had masterminded and led the first true circumnavigation of the globe3...

3 While Magellan didn't complete the journey, he made it past the farthest eastern point he had travelled in previous journeys....

I, however, like to think that a man best known as Enrique of Malacca (or "Henry the Black") was the first. His real name was Trapobana and he travelled with Magellan from the East to Spain and accompanied him on the circumnavigation expedition as a slave of and interpreter for Magellan's (although I'm not sure slave is the appropriate term for their relationship). I read a long but intriguing account of Trapobana that I highly recommend. It is anything but negative toward Magellan himself, though some of his crew don't come off so well. It is, not surprisingly, highly sympathetic toward Trapobana himself, as it was written in support of the thesis that this Malayan was the first to actually make it all the way around the world.

And, as I said, I like to think it's true.

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