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To fully grasp the power of each episode of the project and understand the exceptional and epic nature of the adventure, the full treatments for each of the four three-part episodes have been attached to this overview, along with a portfolio of test illustrations to date. To provide a more condensed overview, here are brief summaries of the four episodes that make up the documentary series.


From Magellan’s Birth to his departure day: planning an extraordinary expedition

How did Ferdinand Magellan imagine and lead the greatest maritime adventure of all time? The story of this spectacular odyssey opens with the European ambition to broaden people’s knowledge of the world, to reach and conquer the unexplored lands that lay beyond the ocean. At the time of the Great Discoveries of the 15th century, Spain and Portugal, keen to extend their influence, launched some of the greatest expeditions to America and the Indies. Their drive for hegemony was translated by dividing the world between their kingdoms along an imaginary line that was traced down the Atlantic Ocean: Portugal would have the East, and Spain would have the West. This first chapter tells the story of the remarkable challenge Magellan set himself, along with his determination to see it come to fruition. It explores a unique context in which the hunger for exploration endlessly pushed back the limits of the world, against a backdrop of geopolitical rivalry. Turning his back on his native country, Magellan offered his grand project to Spain: a passage to America by way of Indian treasures in order to access and control the Maluku Archipelago in Indonesia, the land of precious spices, whose value exceeded that of gold. Captain of a crew of 237 men and a fleet of five ships, Magellan launched into the Atlantic on September 20, 1519, heading for the uncharted side of the world, the starting point for a thrilling epic over which he had no control.

Journey to the edge of the world

A single objective: finding a passage through the american continent

Following a three-month voyage, Magellan reached Brazil and began his exploration of its coastline to the south. A new world offered itself to the eyes of his 237 men as they made their way across landscapes and met indigenous peoples from unexplored regions. With the focus of an idée fixe turned obsessive, Magellan kept his mind set on his goal: to find a passageway through the continent and sail to the other side of America across the unknown ocean. To succeed where Christopher Columbus had given up. But the next part of his adventure was no small feat. This second chapter takes us to the heart of an unprecedented epic, a journey studded with terrible hardships and maritime challenges that succeeded each other at a frenetic pace. Spurred on by exemplary courage, Magellan faced violent storms and headwinds that slowed down his ships, before totally immobilizing them for the six-month course of the austral winter. He then had to regain control of his fleet following a rebellion organized by his Spanish captains, and sentence and execute the leaders… decisions which would have heavy consequences. Neither the sailing conditions, nor the latent hostility of his officers, nor even the death of several sailors and the loss of a ship got the better of the unshakable faith that led him to the strait he had long dreamt of, over a year after departing from Seville.


Magellan’s tragic demise before reaching his goal

Having discovered the strait that would open the way to the American continent, Magellan was nearing his goal. He had overcome the first hurdle, but the path to reaching his final goal, the Indonesian archipelago of the Malukus and famous Spice Islands, was to prove long and perilous. This third chapter describes the formidable hardships that awaited Magellan just as he was about to accomplish an extraordinary feat. It was already sheer madness to be sailing through the strait with sailboats, without mentioning the San Antonio’s desertion, the fleet’s largest ship, which also carried most of the expedition’s food. The joy they had felt seeing the vast uncharted stretch of water was to be short-lived. An endless crossing of over three months began, without ever encountering an island, land for berthing, and carrying famished, scurvy-ravaged men. Slowly, death wove its way into their ranks, decimating the crew as Magellan, torn by doubt and powerless, watched his dream come crashing. Not only had he not discovered anything in the Pacific, but he was now convinced that his promise to the King of Spain had been made in vain. Arriving in the Philippines, Magellan clearly saw that he had been wrong all along. The Spice Islands had always lain on the side of the world that belonged to Portugal. What followed was a series of decisions which could only lead him to the deadlock of a journey from which he would not return.

First circumnavigation of the world

Fourth epsiode
The debacle and dramatic comeback of the last survivors

Without their captain or their best officers, who had been killed in a trap set by a Filipino lord, the crew was now reduced to 113 men who still had to keep sailing. They would only reach the Indonesian Maluku Islands and load their holds with the coveted spices after a long period of wandering. On each of the remaining ships, a captain was named, along with a special return itinerary to Seville. The Basque Juan Sebastián Elcano, at the helm of the Victoria, wanted to try his luck at heading west through Portuguese waters, while the opposite route was considered on the Trinidad. Caught in terrible storms during their Pacific crossing, the Trinidad suffered considerable losses before turning back towards the Malukus and being imprisoned by the Portuguese. Meanwhile, Captain Elcano armed himself with courage and despite deplorable sailing conditions, achieved the unimaginable feat of leading the Victoria through the Indian Ocean and along the African coast, despite those waters being off-limits to Spanish ships. Following a five-month race against the elements, the eighteen survivors of the last ship finally set foot in Seville on September 8, 1522. In the manner of an epilogue, this fourth chapter closes the tale of Magellan’s absolute quest, crowned three years later by an accomplishment that would be remembered in the annals, the first complete world circumnavigation, and a feat that was to remain unequaled for years.