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Strait of Magellan - Estrecho de Magallanes

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Published on May 16, 2009

The Strait of Magellan (often referred to as the Straits of Magellan and rarely as the Magellanic Strait) comprises a navigable sea route immediately south of mainland Chile and north of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. The waterway is the most important natural passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans, but it is considered a difficult route to navigate because of the inhospitable climate and the narrowness of the passage.

Ferdinand Magellan (the original name, in Portuguese, Fernão de Magalhães), a Portuguese sailor in service to the Spanish King, became the first European to navigate the strait in 1520, during his global circumnavigation voyage. Because Magellan's ships entered it on November 1, All Saints' Day, it was originally named Estrecho de Todos los Santos (Strait of All Saints). Later the Spanish king changed the name to Estrecho de Magallanes in honor of Magellan. Since its discovery the Spanish Empire and the Kingdom of Chile saw it as its southern boundary. The first Spanish colonization attempt was led by Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa who founded Nombre de Jesús and Rey Don Felipe on its northern shores. The cities suffered severe food shortages, and years afterwards in 1587 the English navigator Sir Thomas Cavendish landed at the site of Rey Don Felipe and found only ruins of the settlement. He renamed the place Port Famine. Other early explorers included Francis Drake. The strait was first carefully explored and thoroughly charted by Phillip Parker King, who commanded the British survey vessel HMS Adventure, and in company with HMS Beagle, spent five years surveying the complex coasts around the strait. The result was presented at a meeting of the Royal Geographical Society in 1831.

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