Urgency Led Magellan to the West

The Spanish were aware that the lands of the Americas discovered by Columbus were not part of Asia, but formed a new continent. Also, the eastern routes to Asia that went around Africa were granted to Portugal in the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas drafted by the Pope. The Spanish Crown had no other option than to explore a westward passage to the Spice Islands.

The fleet of captains Magellan and Faleiro left the Spanish harbor on September 20, 1519. It wasn’t until October 21, 1520 that the fleet, with one ship having capsized, reached Cape Virgenes at 52°S latitude.

There, they concluded that they found the southwest passage as the salty waters ran far inland. A second ship mutinied and headed back to Spain before the fleet finished the arduous trip through the 600-kilometer long strait.

This strait is known today as the Strait of Magellan. Magellan named the new body of water the Mar Pacifico(Pacific Ocean) for its apparent stillness.

Magellan’s expedition holds an important lesson for innovators: There was an urgent need to establish direct commercial relations between Spain and the Asian empires. That’s why the expedition got the support of the King of Spain. Be sure there is demand, support, and funding for your innovation expedition before you start.

Columbus Had the Courage to Lose Sight of the Shore

In 1492, Columbus assumed he had discovered a western route to the East. Unfortunately, though, his estimates on the distance he needed to travel were wrong. He estimated the distance from the Canary Islands to Japan to be about 3,000 Italian miles (3,700 km, or 2,300 statute miles), while in fact it was 19,600 km (12,200 miles).

After several weeks, having sailed off the map for some time, the fleet’s crew began to panic. The men were terrified of never making it back home. Columbus faced mutiny only days before reaching the shore of what he believed were ‘The Indies’.

So, what gave Columbus the courage to sail off the map? Columbus came from Genoa and was somewhat of an outsider. He was a passionate sailor who had nothing to lose.

He was also motivated by an interest in personal wealth: Columbus had an agreement with the Spanish monarchs that if he succeeded, he would get a share of the profits. Finally, Columbus was enabled by new techniques of navigation, better knowledge of the Atlantic Ocean currents, and the development of the caravel, which made it possible for him to sail much closer to the wind.

It is true for any innovator: ‘Man cannot discover new oceans unless he has the courage to lose sight of the shore.’­ – Andre Gide

    Note : This post was originally published on LinkedIn    

Gijs van Wulfen

Gijs van Wulfen is a recognised authority and keynote speaker on innovation and Design Thinking. He was chosen as one of the first LinkedIn Influencers and as of 2017, 300.000 people across the globe are following his notably engaging, prolific and insightful posts. In 2016 Gijs came number 2 in the international Top 40 Innovation Bloggers. In 2017 his book ‘The Innovation Maze’ was elected ‘Management Book of the Year’.


Shenzhen Blog Editor