Al's Reviews > Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe

Over the Edge of the World by Laurence Bergreen
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's review
Jan 03, 2009

really liked it
Read in January, 2009

A very readable description of the historic circumnavigation of the globe by Magellan and his crew, 1519-1522. Well, some of them made it, anyway. In writing this book, the author benefited from the fact that there are numerous contemporaneous accounts of the voyage, at least one of which was quite detailed, so he doesn't have to imagine what happened. His writing style is lively, and he adds much helpful side information to help the reader understand the context of the times. He bogs down occasionally in the details (TMI available, I guess), but for the most part stays right on track and moves the story briskly along.
And what a story it is. Magellan, for all his faults, had to be a man in a million to conceive of this voyage, get it funded, and then lead it successfully, overcoming major problems with his men, violent storms and sailing conditions, and lack of navigational aids. Next to Magellan, Columbus was a day sailor. Surely the trip would have ended better had Magellan not allowed himself to be sidetracked several times from his main purpose, and ultimately killed by natives; those who followed him in command were not of his caliber. Still, one ship made it back, so Magellan's place in history is secure.
We all learned a bit about Magellan somewhere along the way in school, but the details were new to me (or perhaps forgotten), and well worth knowing.

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