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On the Heels of Magellan in Umatac Bay

Fact: In March, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, landed three ships off the coast of Guam. An Italian nobleman also present on the voyage, Antonio de Pigafetta, noted that Magellan called the Marianas the Islands of Lateen Sails, then renamed them the Islands of Thieves after Chamorus in swift proas sailed out to meet the European vessels and helped themselves to some of what they found on board. Not to be outdone by a bunch of glad handlers, Magellan seized the entire island chain in the name of the Spanish crown. Take that, canoe boys.

Also fact: In November, 2022, a gringo explorer from Long Island also traveled to Guam. He crossed the island's southern flank, arriving by air conditioned taxi to Umatac Bay, where he met a couple of sleepy island mutts and took a selfie in front of the bay. He stole nothing, seized no land in the name of some distant government, and eventually went home. Instead of circumnavigating the southern oceans in a state of near starvation, he flew coach class on United Airlines and enjoyed a nice chicken salad, suffering nothing worse than some severe jetlag upon arrival.

Umatac is Magellan's landing spot by tradition only. In reality it may have been elsewhere and may well have been in Saipan, not Guam. Either way, the tall, swarthy islanders are nowhere to be found. Though 700 years later, the Chamorru still wish you adios on your departure.

Unlike Magellan, who sailed on to visit the Philippines where he took a poisoned arrow in a skirmish and was left to die by his retreating comrades, the Long Island gringo hopes to return some day, if only to go visit those mutts.


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