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Science News: 500 years since Magellan’s circumnavigation

– G.A., Senior Editor

September 20th 2019, marked an important anniversary. On that date in 1519, Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Spain in a quest to circumnavigate the globe. In the exactly 500 years since Magellan and his crew set sail, the world has gone through incredible changes and this once-thought impossible feat has become a regular part of our global economy.

Although he left Spain with a crew of more than 270 men aboard a fleet of 5 ships, only 18 men survived the 3-year voyage and returned to Seville aboard a single ship, the Victoria. Magellan himself was killed in a battle on Mactan Island in the Philippines. Sadly, similar battles between European explorers and the peoples they encountered during the Age of Discovery would be repeated for centuries.

Widely regarded as one of the greatest sea voyages in history, the achievement of Magellan’s increased the thirst of European nations for wealth from the far reaches of our planet. The trade networks that were subsequently established and the resulting shifts in population directly contributed to the world that we see around us today.

On the anniversary of this major historical event, it is important to consider how much our world has changed in such a short period of time. Rapid globalization was achieved at incredible human and environmental costs. When thinking about how our actions today affect our planet, perhaps we should be considering how our decisions now will be viewed by people living 500 years from now.

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