To the Pacific

Magellan appears to have given his captains the option of returning to Spain, pointing out that rations were short and the distance they would have to travel if they pressed on was unknown. He, however, had no intention of turning back, and the others agreed to continue. 

It took all of Magellan’s skill to steer between snow-capped mountains, cliffs, and treacherous currents. Passage of the 580-kilometre strait, one of the world’s most stormy waterways, took thirty0eight days, a short time considering the many channels that had to be investigated. 

The wind was coming from the west, and they sailed straight into it. At times the wind was so strong that they had to use rowing-boats to tow the ships along.  During the passage of the straits the San Antonio mutinied and made off back to Spain, and they lost some time searching for her. The San Antonio’s departure caused the difficulties they experienced over the next three months. 

The sailing and charting continued for hours as even in October the night at that latitude only lasts for three hours - a fact which astonished the crew. She had taken most of the supplies. 

Finally, Magellan and his ship broke out of the channels into the ocean on November 28. By that time supplies were a source of considerable anxiety, and there was talk of turning back, but Magellan insisted they should continue even if they had to eat the leather on the ship’s yards, an accurate description of their future diet. 

As the Trinidad, Concepción, and Victoria emerged onto the ocean, Magellan named it "Pacific" because it looked calm. Balboa, when he first spied this sea after crossing the isthmus of Panama seven years before, had called it the Southern Ocean. Luckily it remained peaceful. If storms had been added to the hardships faced by the Spaniards, they might never have crossed it. 

Across the Pacific

© Ian Hughes 2017