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Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe Audio Download – Abridged

4.6 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Format: Hardcover
Mr. Bergreen writes with style and learning; it is an excellent book and the narrative makes for compelling reading. He describes the conditions of the Age of Discovery and the motivations that drove men to take great risks in the expectation of great rewards. He brings to life the myths and superstitions that seafarers of the time believed in, the fear of the unknown, the perils at sea, the hopelessly unseaworthy condition of the ships, scurvy, mutiny, betrayal and all that happens when 234 sailors set out and only 18 return. The first voyage around the globe lasted two weeks short of three years and they sailed some sixty thousand miles, which was some fifteen times longer than the distance covered by Columbus in his first voyage to the New World, thirty years before.
The book contains a useful cast of the principal characters; excellent notes on sources, a scholarly bibliography and a useful index. Each chapter is headed by remarkably apposite quotations from Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner".
The book needs to be read, not as a biography of Magellan, but as an account of the first circumnavigation of the globe. Given the number of survivors it is not surprising that witnesses' first hand accounts are few and far between. Antonio Pigafetta, from Vicenza, a loyal supporter of Magellan who had been taken on as a supernumerary, left a very detailed journal and this is the principal direct source. Francisco Albo, a pilot, left a log book and Gines de Mafra, a navigator, who was captured by the Portuguese and incarcerated in Lisbon for five further years, left some memoirs written long after the event. No wonder then that it is Pigafetta who leaps from the page and comes across as a very interesting personality.
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Format: Paperback
This is a superbly written book which I found difficult to put down. I feel I can add but little to the review already posted here. It is a brilliant historical narrative about the first circumnavigation of the world when, among other aspects, it was not known just how 'wide' the Pacific Ocean was and just when landfall would be made after leaving the Americas. The secondary title refers to a 'Terrifying Circumnavigation' and indeed it was: this is not a tale of noble heroes but of mutinies, shipwrecks, murder, executions, massacres, drowning, starvation, bigotry, betrayal ... all human life is here! The book is so well produced with index, notes, maps, bibliography and at the beginning a 'cast list' of the men and the ships: ideal, if like me, the reader finds non-English names hard to remember. Mr Bergreen has achieved something few writers are able to: writing interesting history.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How 260 men set out from Seville in September 1519 to find a new route to the Spice Islands, and how a mere 18 returned having completed the first circumnavigation of the globe after nearly 60,000 miles and three years is an epic story that has found a worthy author. Laurence Berggreen rewards the reader by marrying scholarly research with eloquent, readable prose.

There is no attempt to portray the achievement as heroic, astounding though it was. This is an account of hardship, disease, torture, murder, betrayal, but it is also a vivid tale of discovery and observation of previously unknown places, people and things. Framing it all, and giving the narrative a shape that might translate to a novel, is the rivalry between Spain and Portugal for commercial domination of the oceans.

Even as the end is almost within reach, there is no certainty of success for the single remaining ship of the five that set out. Berggreen writes, "... the weather continued to batter the boat by night too, so there was no rest for the crew, nor safe harbour, nor cooking fire, nor soft dry blanket, nor guarantee that their misery would end any time soon ... And so they tried again and again, fleeing for their lives, hoping to cheat death just one more time."

This is history as thriller. Simply magnificent.
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Format: Paperback
Most people know who Magellan was and know that the Magellan Strait is named after him, that he never actually made it around the world himself, and that some of his crew were the ones who actually got all the way around. There's far more to Magellan and his Armada de Molucca than this which is told in great style by Laurence Bergreen in this gem of a book.

Magellan had great difficulty in raising the money to fund the trip and he seems to have cleverly benefited from the rivalry between Spain and Portugal at the time. Indeed, this rivalry is a feature of the book throughout and contributed to mutinies and disputes between Magellan (who was Portuguese) and his (mainly Spanish) crew.

Magellan was an inspiring character and Bergreen paints him in a very flattering light. While stubborn, Magellan got his crew as far as the Philippines against monstrous odds. Bergreen describes the cruelty, disgusting conditions, suffering, and fears of the crew in great style and makes the reader feel part of an epic journey.

For me the real star of the book is Antonio Pigafetta who was one of the few who made it around the world back to Spain. His eye witness account, while very flattering to Magellan (he was a Magellan loyalist) provides the backbone of the story.

Some parts of the story are lightly dealt with - the Indian Ocean crossing and the last leg of the journey from the Cape of Good Hope to Spain are low in detail compared to the rest of the book.

The is a very useful reference section at the end which is also worth going through, if only to see the level of in depth research carried out by Bergreen. The index is also quite detailed. It is a great resource for others who may want to study Magellan some more.

This book is highly recommended. It is easy to read and very informative.

Enjoy!
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