Today has been a “day at sea” when we made progress towards the Falkland Islands.
The weather was good with a slight chop and we followed a direct course of 185 degrees towards (Port) Stanley. It will take another day to get there. During the afternoon we were under the influence of a high pressure system which provided us with a nearly calm sea, clear skies and only passing seabirds for company.
As we navigate the South Atlantic Ocean we should consider the efforts that early mariners took to find sea routes across these vast expanses of water. The names Columbus, Henry the Navigator, Magellan and Drake are synonymous with the “Age of Discovery”. This was a period driven by colonialisation and the command of every day commodities such as spices. This was the start of globalisation, but only for Europeans as people from as long ago as 5000 BC had been making similar voyages and encountering other civilisations.
When we left Montevideo yesterday we followed in the wake of Ferdinand Magellan who had been here around 1520. He was born in 1480 and at the age of 12 when Columbus landed in the “New World” (new to Europeans!) he eventually as a young man served in the court of King John of Portugal. Apparently he was given freedom to roam the world but seems to have got himself into many tight corners and so fell out of favour with the Portuguese. He may have had friends in high places because he convinced the new King Charles of Spain that he knew how to get to the Spice Islands in the east by going west and doing better than Columbus. Reading the reports of earlier travellers he had a specific place in mind – the Rio del Plata. He entered the estuary in early 1520 and spent two or three weeks trying to find a route west before giving up at the muddy brown confluence of the Paraná and Uruguay Rivers.
He did have another plan and headed south clinging to the coast in search of his sea route to the west. We will catch up with him later.