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Showing 1-10 of 394 reviews(Verified Purchases). See all 571 reviews
on December 6, 2016
A pioneering 60k mile ocean journey chock full of the highs and lows of life itself. Brought to us by meticulous 16th century record-keeping, and a talented 21st century writer. A page turner --whether you're a connoisseur of history, science and anthropology, or you're just a casual reader of quests for riches and glory, violent mutinies, tropical sexcapades, European/Islander encounters, maritime superpower clashes, and all-around high seas adventures.
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on August 23, 2017
I love reading about history! This book delivers so much information about Magellan's voyage and the surrounding political machinations and difficulties. There was so much additional information that I now want to visit Patagonia and go through Magellan Strait.
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on March 16, 2015
This is a book to be savored and then re-read. Imagine a real life story that involves not only the world's very first circumnavigation of the globe, but also of politics (not too different from ours today), personalities, ego's, high adventure, suffering, murder, stubborn determination, torture, deceit, mutiny, lying, redemption and discovery. Clearly the author worked hard on deep and detailed research, for the reader is left with no questions. Histories regarding the players, political backgrounds, and all other details involved in this environment are broadly discussed and one can only be left breathless by the sheer tenacity and instinctual knowledge that Magellan was endowed with. Ultimately, his ego failed him and the reader is carried to the conclusion of this incredible saga. Once again, we remind ourselves of the awful role Europeans have played in the interaction with indigenous peoples. This book is also a grand plus in that it also includes an interview with the author about the subject, as well as a timeline for Magellan's fantastic voyage. The Notes on Sources is also fascinating reading. Even if one doesn't care too much for history, this book is a must to read.
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on June 4, 2017
A excellent account of the amazing and admittedly terrifying travels of one of histories most misunderstood mariners. I love books in this genre and feel this book does well to explain the travels and suffering of the explorers.
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on July 25, 2017
Reading about a man whose name I have been hearing for a lifetime but really knew nothing about, other than he was an explorer, was an interesting and surprising read for me. Well written, enjoyable read.
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on November 9, 2014
This book gives a wonderfully detailed account of Magellan's world, from the treachery he had to overcome to get the voyage supported by the King of Spain to the brutality of life aboard ship. The main reason I didn't give it 5 stars was the author's clear misunderstanding of the concept of "latitude," which is astonishing in a book about exploration. Latitude is measured north and south from the equator, so low latitudes are near the equator and high latitudes are near the poles, north and south. Yet in many places the author shows that he thinks that the farther south Magellan went, the lower the latitude. In fact, when Magellan went through the strait he discovered, he was at a high (South) latitude, not at a low latitude as the author seems to think.
Another probable error is when the author refers to the ships being infested with "termites." He probably means toredos or shipworms, actually a species of mollusk, which bore into the hulls of wooden ships.
I have to hope that these errors are not indicative of the accuracy of the rest of the account.
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on May 5, 2017
What a story. In school you learn a couple of tidbits aboit this epic journey. There is so much drama, geography, ethnography, and nautical knowledge contained in this well told story.
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on February 15, 2012
Laurence Bergreen does an excellent job of narrating the riveting tale of Magellan's incredible journey around the world in search of a maritime route to the Spice Islands. The author bases most of his details on the comprehensive journal of Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian brought along by Magellan for the express purpose of maintaining a diary. Pigafetta's writings are exhaustive and endearing, and add a truly human element to the story. The Italian's self-imposed role as an amateur anthropologist gives us some of the most interesting tidbits of the book, including pornographic portrayals of the bizarre sexual habits of many native cultures.

More than once I had to remind myself that I was reading an historic chronicle instead of an adventure novel. Bergreen fully develops a fascinating, if tragically flawed, protagonist in Ferdinand Magellan, whose indefatigable thirst for greatness resulted in an adventure of epic proportions. The world of the early 16th century was a mysterious and ambiguous place, and it boggles the mind to imagine the courage of the Captain General and his crew in the face of the dangerous unknown. Many sailors of the day expected literally to fall from the earth's edge, burn in boiling waters of the Equator, or have their ships' hardware devastated by magnetic rocks. The existence of the Pacific Ocean was not yet on the public consciousness.

Bergreen inserts a number of tangential stories when additional explanation is warranted, such as a brief overview of China's short-lived Treasure Fleet; these asides add an invaluable layer of detail.

In all, I highly recommend this read. One complaint - the Kindle version could certainly benefit from the inclusion of maps at regular intervals in the story to help the reader appreciate the magnitude of the journey.
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VINE VOICEon July 4, 2013
This book is a good effort to capture the extraordinary, harrowing, three-year-long journey made by a Spanish armada of five ships in 1519, led by the determined Portuguese captain Ferdinand Magellan, in finding a westward path from Spain to the Spice Islands near the Philippines. Magellan's voyage is a part of the Age of Discovery that saw a concerted exploration of the Americas by the Europeans in the decades prior to 1519, at which point King Charles of Spain agreed to finance Magellan due to the possibilities of profiting handsomely from tons of exotic spices from the Spice Islands.

The fact that Magellan's armada actually circumnavigated the globe and did locate the Spice Islands almost defies belief. Huge obstacles were encountered at every turn. And, the fact that only one ship and 18 of the original 260 men who embarked on the journey actually made it back to Spain, testifies to the extreme difficulties and to their courage and perseverance. The biggest difficulty for the voyage was the sheer ignorance of what lay ahead. There were few maps and charts and most of them were wrong. The vast majority of people in that era believed in sea monsters and the flatness of the earth. The men of this voyage had to constantly deal with something new and usually dangerous.

They frequently encountered raging seas for days on end in creaking, leaking ships, being tossed about as toys. Their dealings with native peoples were tentative, never knowing whether they were friend or foe. The food supply for months on the open ocean was entirely inadequate with many sailors dying from scurvy - a lack of vitamin C. And then there was the politics of the voyage - the division between the Portuguese and the Spaniards, which resulted in constant mutinous behavior.

Little would be known about this journey were it not for a detailed pilot's log and the journal of a man who came along just to chronicle the journey. Magellan is depicted as resolute and rigid with complete devotion to King Charles and the Catholic Church. There is no doubt that his unbending personality got him into trouble with the crew and the other captains, and most certainly led to his death in Philippines as he attempted to coerce a native leader. However, it is his strength and his ability to deal with any situation that enabled the voyage to achieve some measure of success.

The book is interesting but does get bogged down at various times in the course of the journey - a violent storm is a violent storm. A definite shortcoming of the book is the absence of maps that would permit the reader to follow Magellan's wanderings. There are interesting details such as the brief dominance of the seas by the Chinese in the century before Magellan and the more lurid details of methods of torture and the sexual practices of various native cultures. The author's task is difficult: to make real a journey occurring 500 years ago stretching over three years with limited information available. It would leave anyone open to criticism.
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on November 8, 2004
History comes vividly alive in author Laurence Bergreen's rendition of Ferdinand Magellan's trip to circumnavigate the earth in search of the wealth of the Spice Islands. Starting out with five ships and over two hundred men there remained only one ship and twenty-two survivors as they returned to Seville, Spain, three years later. In between there was mutiny, jealously, disease, starvation, sex orgies, executions, tumultous navigation of the waters, and battles with natives to name a few things to keep the reader interested. According to respected historian Samuel Eliot Morison the three greatest explorers during the Age of Discovery were Ferdinand Magellan, Christopher Columbus, and Vasco da Gama. Of the three he feels Magellan stands supreme. This is a story that will interest anyone who enjoys great adventure. To me, the unsung hero of this epic adventure is the man who kept the diary, Antonio Pigafetta. Without his astute observations, much of what we know of this trip would be lost to history. Magellan's fatal mistake was in forgetting why he was making this trip in the first place, namely to locate the strait, which he did, to get the spices from the spice islands, and circle the globe. However, his desire to force Christianity down the throats of people rather than through diplomatic means ultimately cost him his life. Had Magellan not needlessly lost his life at Mactan in the Phillipines, it is likely discipline would not have disintegrated and his flagship Trinidad would have been repaired when repairs were desperately needed rather than have the ship destroyed. How frustrating to have the precious cargo yet not be able to take it home. Magellan, unfortunately, was viewed as a traitor to both the countries of Portugal and Spain as he was not there to plead his case. I have read Morison's account of Magellan, and I must say, I equally enjoyed Laurence Bergreen's account of this advanture as well. This book is great reading. You won't be disappointed.
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