How to Turn $100 into $100,000
Magellan was a misfit, a visionary with a better idea, a curious explorer of things unknown. He would have fit right in at Wizard Academy.
But a similar outlook on life isn’t the only thing that connects us to Magellan. There’s a tangible connection as well.
More about that later.
Magellan was 13 years old when Columbus returned triumphantly to Queen Isabella and Pope Alexander VI divided the world in half, the eastern half going to Portugal, the western half to Spain (1493.)
Years later, when Magellan asked King Manuel of Portugal if he might sail for him, the king publicly snubbed Magellan. Humiliated, Magellan leaned forward to kiss the king's hand. King Manuel put his hands behind his back.
Remembering that Spain had funded Columbus, a foreigner, Magellan went to Spain and pointed out to King Charles that no one knew exactly where the Pope's boundaries were in the East, so an explorer like himself might be able to establish the boundary between Spain and Portugal on the back side of the world and thereby prove the coveted Spice Islands belonged to Spain.
King Charles liked the idea.
Magellan sailed toward South America in 1519 carrying 280 men in 5 small, wooden ships: the Concepcion, the Santiago, the Victoria, the San Antonio and the Trinidad.
Stay with me. I promise you an interesting twist at the end.
The largest of Magellan’s ships was smaller than the Santa Maria of Columbus or the Mayflower of the Pilgrims. And Magellan didn’t just sail 4,000 quick miles to America. He covered 42,000 miles in 2 years and 11 months, hampered by plots, battles, mutiny, desertion, starvation, disease and murder. And half of those miles were across waters never before seen by any previous explorer.
Only 18 of the 280 sailors made it home to Spain after circumnavigating the globe.
The Santiago was wrecked in a storm at the tip of South America.
The chicken-hearted captain of the San Antonio turned his ship back to Spain during the night with more than a third of the fleet’s provisions.
When the 3 remaining ships finally limped into the Philippines, the islanders enthusiastically accepted Christianity. When chief Lapu-Lapu of Mactan tried to unravel those conversions, Magellan took just 60 men to face the chief’s army of 3,000 natives. And there Magellan died.
There weren’t enough sailors to sail three ships, so the papers, logs, letters and diaries of Magellan were put aboard the Concepcion by the 2 captains that had been guilty of mutiny and that ship was burned in Philippine waters.
(We know these things because an Italian named Antonio Pigafetta kept a secret diary. He was one of the 18 who made it home.)
The Victoria and the Trinidad were headed home to Spain when the Trinidad sprung a leak and had to turn back to the Philippines. There she was captured by the Portuguese who had come to the Philippines along the traditional route, down the coast of Africa. Soon after her capture, the Trinidad was lost in a storm.
FLASH FORWARD: A soldier returning from Viet Nam is stationed at Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines in the late 1960’s. One day he sees a man step off a fishing boat carrying what appears to be a crustacean covered rock. Curious, the soldier investigates. The object is too heavy to be a rock. That’s why the fishermen didn’t chunk it back into the sea when it appeared in their nets.
The soldier buys the curiosity and spends the next several weeks picking away at its concrete-like encasement. It turns out to be an old ship’s bell, 12 inches across and 12 inches high. Bronze.
Upon his return to the states, the soldier sends photos of the bell to an underwater archaeologist who tells him the bell’s style, markings and color (high copper content) indicate it’s probably a Spanish ship’s bell from the first half of the 1500s. The archaeologist assumes the bell was found in the Caribbean. The soldier doesn’t tell him otherwise.
If the soldier had revealed where the bell had been found, the archaeologist would immediately have known the bell could be from Magellan’s flagship, the Trinidad, or possibly his Concepcion, both of which were lost in the Phillipines.
Realizing the bell’s value, the soldier buries it deep in his back yard to keep it from being stolen. The only witness is his little girl. When the old soldier dies, the only person on earth who knows the location of the bell is that little girl, now a mother with a teenage daughter of her own.
Long story short: Pennie and I bought the bell from the soldier’s daughter.
A similar bell was discovered a few years ago that experts believe could be the bell of the Santa Maria. It’s estimated to be worth 30 to 60 million dollars.
Pennie and I will donate our bell to Wizard Academy if a new crew of Magellan can be located to sail into the unknown with us. We’re not asking to be reimbursed for the bell. We’re asking only that 280 people donate $100 apiece to help build a beautiful quarterdeck outside the 3rd floor lecture hall of the academy's landmark tower. This $28,000 – combined with a major gift from acadgrad John Marklin – will be enough to keep the Academy construction crews working throughout the month of August and the first part of September.
Will you sail with John Marklin and Pennie and me? I guarantee we'll arrive home safely. Your name – along with the names of your 279 crewmates – will be printed on parchment in calligraphy, framed behind glass, and permanently displayed with the bell.
Think about it. If it can be established that our bell is from Magellan's fleet and Wizard Academy sells it for just 28 million, your gift of $100 becomes an endowment to the school of $100,000.
Are you gambler enough to make a $100 tax-deductible gift to Wizard Academy?
Do it and you'll receive an instant thank-you by email that contains a hyperlink to photos of our bell: the Mark of Magellan.
You're going to be shocked by its beauty.
Roy H. Williams
PS – IN CASE YOU WERE WONDERING: We gave away 5,279 advance reading copies of The Full Plate Diet last week to Monday Morning Memo readers who requested them. If just 1 of every 19 people who requested a free book steps up to sail around the world with us, we'll have our crew of 280 explorers. What do you think will happen?
Tell Tamara@WizardAcademy.org the number of people you believe will donate $100 before midnight, Saturday (the 31st.) Whoever comes closest wins a full tuition scholarship to the Wizard Academy class of their choice. One guess per person. If more than one person guesses the exact number, the first guess received by Tamara takes the prize. I'll give you the results in next week's PS.
When a ship was lost, it was a big deal,
and meticulous records were kept.
So if our bell is not from Magellan's
Trinidad or Concepcion,
there are only 26 other ships
it could have been.
(The newest one sailed during the time of
Lewis and Clark and the Louisiana Purchase.)
Aroo. – RHW