Compass

March 6, 1521: Magellan makes historic landing on Guam

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Map of the first circumnavigation of the globe. (Creative Commons)

During his fateful trip around the world, Ferdinand Magellan landed on Guam on March 6, 1521. It was the first contact Europeans had with the islands and an important stop during the expedition that had begun in Spain in 1519.

The traditional story has it that Magellan landed at the pristine Umatac Bay, but this is a subject of much scholarly debate based on the route the ships had reported taking to that point. Umatac Bay was, however, the site of many subsequent visits from European explorers and today the nearby village hosts an annual Discovery Day festival, which celebrates native Chamorro culture.

Magellan’s journey had been primarily focused on seeking a westward route to the Spice Islands. He sailed from the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean via the strait at the bottom of South America that now bears his name. He then became the first person to cross the Pacific Ocean, culminating with his arrival in Guam and the Marianas islands. Magellan was killed two months later in the Philippines. The surviving crew eventually made their way around the Cape of Good Hope and back to Spain three years after leaving – completing the first known circumnavigation of the globe.

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