For some reason I've been reading a lot of books about world travel lately. Maybe because it's January and raining without cease here at home. My most recent pleasant journey: Round About The Earth, by Joyce Chaplin, a history of circumnavigation. The best part of the book: Her description of Magellan's ill-fated trip 'round the globe. Here's a bit from my New York Times Book Review piece:
Magellan departed Spain with a flotilla of five ships carrying about 280 men and a huge store of supplies. To say he was neither well-liked nor trusted would be an understatement verging on fraud. Before he even reached the tip of South America, the masters of three ships conspired, unsuccessfully, to kill him. A fourth ditched the party and sailed home.
If there’s a lesson to be learned from Magellan’s life, it’s that bold doesn’t pair well with stupid. While stopping in the Philippines, Magellan responded to a chieftain’s insult with a rash show of force. He died in the ensuing battle, run through with bamboo spears.
Also worth checking out: Laurence Bergreen's Marco Polo: From Venice to Xanadu, a fascinating biography of one of the world's greatest adventurers. I reviewed that one a few years back, so you can probably find a copy in paperback or used by now. It's worth seeking out.