had nearly sunk the fleet, and realizing he could not find the magical strait to the Spice Islands before winter fell on his fleet in its full fury, he resolved to find a safe place to spend the winter. This turned out to be a protected harbor near the tip of Argentina, known today as Puerto San Julian. Besides weather, Magellan was challenged by mutiny, lost one ship in a storm, and had another ship desert and return to Spain. The remaining three vessels eventually traversed the strait that bears his name and made it across the Pacific, reaching Guam on March 6, 1521.

A year and a half later—on September 6, 1522—a heavily damaged vessel was observed approaching southern Spain. It was the Victoria, the last of Magellan’s ships, his remaining crew finally making it home to tell the story of his epoch voyage. The other two ships had been lost in storms; Magellan himself had been killed and buried in the Philippines, the victim of an ill-advised fight with natives. The 18 surviving crewmen on the Victoria could claim the first circumnavigation of the world. Not only that, as proof of Magellan’s acumen, they unloaded a cargo of 381 sacks of cloves, sufficient to make the trip profitable despite the loss of three vessels.8

Today, the oceans continue to serve as a vital component of human existence, not only as means of transport and sources of food, but more importantly as essential elements of the earth’s climate control system, which makes the planet habitable. Water fills in deep canyons and broad plains, except in those areas where the continents or islands extend above the surface. The deepest points of the oceans surpass the highest points on land. The Challenger Deep, in the Philippine Sea, lies an incredible 36,000 feet (nearly 7 miles) below the surface of the sea! By comparison, Mount Everest, the highest point on land, is only 29,055 feet high.


With the discovery of new worlds and the growing importance of maritime trade, better understanding of wind, waves, and weather took on new importance. Certainly the earliest shipbuilders concerned themselves with staying afloat, constructing vessels that would not swamp

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