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Archive for December 7th, 2016

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by Sam Juliano

The most celebrated trip around the world by ship judiciously remains the first official one on record.  In August of 1519 the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan left the Spanish port city of Saville with a fleet of five ships, manned by around 270 men, with each vessel led by a commander.  Though Magellan was only interested in negotiating a route to trade for spices, the marathon journey proceeded down to the coast of South America where the ships moved through a straight later named for the explorer and across the vast Pacific to the island now known as the Philippines, where Magellan was killed in a battle.  Almost three three years later the one last remaining ship, the Victoria, returned to Saville, with only eighteen men , having traveled around the Cape of Good Hope and back north to Europe.  While this maiden voyage set the stage for further travel and exploration, and remains historically significant, it wasn’t until 1831 when a five year investigative trek around the South American continent was completed, that a claim could be made that a tangible change was made as to how people see the world.

Charles Darwin’s Around-the-World Adventure, written and illustrated by Jennifer Thermes chronicles a trek launched from England on a ship named the Beagle.  Darwin was recommended by his botany professor, though the initial focus was aimed at taking map measurements of the continent.  A brief biographical framing of Darwin’s birth -he was born on the same day as Abraham Lincoln, February 12, 1809 in a scenic country hamlet – and his days as an average student who was obsessive about collecting insects almost invite comparison with the spiritual devotion of St. Francis of Assisi, though of course Darwin was pragmatic, if passionate.  An attempt to follow his father in the field of medicine was dashed because of the young Darwin’s queasiness to blood, and an alternate decision to become a clergyman, but he finds his purpose in life while taking long walks with his Cambridge University professors.  As Thermes relates: the Beagle, “only ninety feet long and packed tight with supplies and sailors” set sail south west.  Though Darwin easily succumbed to seasickness, his fascination with the palm tress and islands proved the perfect panacea. (more…)

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