Unheard Voices of the First Circumnavigation: The Magellan Project with James K. Foster
Where: The Explorers Club
46 E. 70th St.
212-628-8383 Price: $25
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In 1519 the Armada de Moluccas departed the SW coast of Spain to discover the westward route to the Spice Islands. Five ships with a combined crew of 270 souls made their way to the coast of South America with the intention to reach the expedition goals of Columbus by finding a way around the ‘New World’ he had discovered for the Europeans. Three years later, 1 ship with 18 of the original souls onboard appeared offshore of San Lucar de Barrameda, the port of departure. The Victoria, loaded with spices and barely afloat, had closed the circle. The first documented circumnavigation of the Earth had occurred.
Big water and ferocious storms pounded the expedition. Scurvy and starvation decimated the crews. Mutiny, shipwreck, and a massacre were all a part of the backstory. Juan Sebastian de Elcano had replaced Magellan as expedition leader. One ship officer had been charged, convicted, and garroted for sodomy within the first few months of the expedition.
In 1492 Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain had sponsored Columbus. 27 years later their grandson, the 18 year old King Charles, sponsored the expedition of Ferdinand Magellan. A competition between the two super powers of the day, Spain and Portugal, was waged over control of the spice trade. When the Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 divvyed up the world between Spain and Portugal, the exact longitude of the Spice Islands on the backside of the line of demarcation was unknown. Magellan pitched the expedition to the young king and his courtiers as a way to provide proof the Spice Islands were in the hemisphere of the Spanish domain.
The young King Charles had been crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 1519, exactly 500 years ago. At the time, the Renaissance and the Age of Exploration were in full bloom. Only three years after his coronation, in 1522, the world’s first circumnavigation connected the East to the West.
In commemoration of the 500th anniversary of the expedition, The Magellan Project will retrace the route of the circumnavigation, conducting public engagement along the way and producing a documentary. The story of the original circumnavigation will serve as the underpinning of the documentary. Educational content will inform the public on related topics in geography, history, anthropology, navigation, marine biology, and weather. Open-access content will be available via iTunes U. Notably, the often neglected indigenous voices and oral tradition about the harrowing impact the circumnavigation had on their lives for generations will be highlighted and researched.
A Victoria 67 catamaran will serve as the project vessel and documentary platform. A crew of 4 will complete the retracing with accommodations available for 4 additional passengers; researchers, educators, journalists, sponsors, and guests. There are 12 ports of call along the way and thus, 12 legs to the retracing.
The Magellan Project Board of Directors includes National Sailing Hall of Fame member Randy Smyth, Alan Neigher Esq, Michael K. Levy MD, Secretary/Treasurer Richard Hitchcock, and Steven Bunker.
Learn more at MagellanProject.org.
Explorers Club Member James K. Foster MN’19, founder and project manager of the project, has been preparing for retracing the route of the circumnavigation since 1993, studying the history of the Magellan expedition with field research in Spain and Portugal, Italy, southern Argentina, Guam, the Philippines, and Malacca. Foster is also an active member of the Circumnavigators Club.
In 2005, Foster crewed on the heavy weather leg of the Mahina Expedition aboard a Hallberg-Rassy 46, the Mahina Tiare, from Auckland, New Zealand to Papeete, Tahiti. He is a USCG licensed 25-ton master, with decades of experience in trans-oceanic sailing and emergency medical training in extreme conditions. Foster has been a firefighter paramedic, EMS Battalion Chief and Operations Fire/Rescue Battalion Chief at the Anchorage Fire Department. He was adjunct faculty at the University of Alaska Anchorage, teaching an Emergency Medical Technology course each fall and spring semester for 19 years, during which time he served as an Assistant Professor and Coordinator of the Fire and Emergency Services Program.
Time: 6:00 pm Reception, 7:00 pm PresentationBuy tickets/get more info now