Importance of the Science of
Sailing became global; it ceased being
Discovery of the American continents by the rest of
the world was inevitable.
- A little known Genoese mariner (named Christopher Columbus)
who frequented the Azores-to-Africa route for Portugal, took the
increasingly westward route followed by Portuguese boats after
Bartholomew Dias in 1487, and ran into several Atlantic
islands--which would become known as the Caribbean.
- Two Portuguese navigators--the Gonzalo Coelho brothers--in
1501 and 1502--discovered the existence of two vast
continents--North and South America--mapping most of the coastline
of Brazil and a good portion of eastern Canada. (See the Maggiolo map.) A pushy publicity seeker who had traveled on
a Gonzalo Coelho expedition announced in print that he had
found new continents. Since the Portuguese king judged all
scientific information about sailing to be state secrets he forbad
the public release of any information. Thus the continents became
named America for their publicist, Amerigo Vespucci.
A Navigable Globe
- Once the South Atlantic had been mastered, all the world's
oceans, were potentially navigable. A Portuguese navigator known
as Fernão Magalhães, better known as
Magellan, in 1519-1521,
- the first to sail around the southern tip of the Americas
(latitude 52' 50" south) and
- the first to navigate the entire Pacific Ocean from West to
Magalhães (Magellan) thus became the first to prove the
world was, in fact, a navigable globe.
Africa's narrow continental ledge |
South China Sea's Coastal Shelf |
Ocean Currents | Atlantic
Ocean Winds | Home page
Magellan was killed in a battle with
Philippine natives in 1521, but not before he had first overcome all
the major obstacles to circumnavigation. The route from the
Philippines to Indonesia could be navigated by traditional methods ,
and the voyage from Indonesia to Lisbon had become routine. An
exhaustive history of his life can be found on
line in English.