Magellan, Strait of

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Magellan, Strait of

Strait of Magellan, a narrow body of water, about 330 miles long and 2.5 to 15 miles wide, separating mainland South America from Tierra Del Fuego and the numerous other islands to the south. Named after its discoverer, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator in the service of King Charles I of Spain, the strait, except for the eastern mouth, which is Argentine, lies entirely within Chile. It provides a protected inland waterway between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, but is difficult to navigate because of its winding course and the fog and wind that prevail.

Embarked on a voyage of global circumnavigation, Magellan wanted to establish that the Spice Islands (the Moluccas) lay in the Spanish sphere of influence under the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas. His voyage took him to Brazil, the Rio de la Plata, Patagonia, and, on 21 October 1520, to the strait which bears his name. The passage through the strait was difficult, taking him thirty-eight days. Magellan was killed in the Philippines a few months later, but one of his captains, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, completed the voyage.

In the nineteenth century the Chilean city of Punta Arenas on the strait was an important coaling station, but its value diminished markedly with the opening of the Panama Canal in 1914. In recent years the region has grown in importance as Chile's principal oil and gas production area, as well as the staging base for Antarctic tourism and logistical support. Punta Arenas, along with Ushuaia in Argentina, are the southernmost cities in the world, and were the first to feel the impact of the depletion of the ozone layer over Antarctica.

See alsoBeagle Channel Disputexml .


Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan's Voyage Around the World (1906).

Hubert C. Herring, A History of Latin America (1963).

Additional Bibliography

De Córdoba, Antonio. A Voyage of Discovery to the Strait of Magellan. Stroud, U.K.: Nonsuch, 2006.

Kent, Rockwell. Voyaging Southward from the Strait of Magellan. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1999, 1924 75th Anniversary Ed.

Martini Beros, Mateo, Dahl, Victor, and Rees, Earl L. Voyagers to the Strait of Magellan. Worthington, OH: Renaissance Publications, 1990.

Martinic Beros, Mateo, and Oportot, Mónica. Estrecho de Magallanes: Puerta de Chile. Santiago, Chile: LOM Ediciones, 2002.

Oyarzun Iñarra, Javier. Expediciones españolas al estrecho de Magallanes y Tierra de Fuego. Madrid: Ediciones de Cultura Hispánica, 1999.

Sarmiento de Gamboa, Pedro and Batista, Juan. Viajes al Estrecho de Magallanes. Las Rozas, Madrid: Dastin, 2000.

Valenzuela Solis de Ovando, Carlos. El portugués que descubrió Chile. Santiago de Chile: Edit. Anduijar, 2001.

                                                  Jack Child