The Magellan Effect (cont.)
By Doug Fisher
The Magellan Effect
On his 1515 map of the Antarctic continent, Schöner had sifted through a collection of ancient maps armed only with the report of a strait as the singular geographical feature on which to base his selection. Once this match was found Schöner was left with the task of deducing the secondary scaling point himself, settling on the center point of a circular sea. With his 1524 globe, Magellan had provided Schöner two separate and distinct discoveries or two potential scaling points. We have already established Atka Bay, Antarctica as the first scaling point which Schöner fit to Magellan's newfound strait, but for the Unfortunate Islands to be considered a secondary point and further verify that Schöner was indeed referencing an ancient map of Antarctica, we have to establish that there is a set of matching islands located similarly along the actual Antarctic continent… and there is.
The similarities are extraordinary and a bit uncanny. Nestled along the coast of Western Antarctica and enveloped within the Getz Ice Shelf under layers of ice and snow, there exist two islands, Siple and Carney. There is absolutely no mistaking the marked similarities between these two islands and Schöner's depiction of the Unfortunate Islands (Fig. 5). And just as Schöner opts for a bay within the Strait of Magellan that more closely resembles Atka Bay than the waterway either described or drawn by Pigafetta, he again ignores Pigafetta's description and adopts a design for the Unfortunate Islands that more closely resembles Siple and Carney Island in Antarctica.
Figure 5 - Schöner's rendering of the Unfortunate Islands (left) which more closely mimics Carney and Siple Island off the coast of modern Antarctica (right) than conforming to Pigafetta’s description. In both versions not only do the islands align parallel to the flattened far coast of Western Antarctica, they also are positioned right of center.
According to Pigafetta and other varied accounts of the voyage, the Unfortunate Islands were located some 600 to 800 miles apart east to west, and all accounts agree that there was also a separation of 4 to 6 degrees latitude; Pigafetta declares the island of San Pablo to be located at 15 degrees south latitude and the island of Tiburones to be 600 miles west of San Pablo at 9 degrees south latitude. Other 16th century maps like the Hadji Ahmed Map of 1559 (Fig. 6) conform precisely to these parameters while Schöner's map places the two islands on the same parallel and also disregards the stated 600-mile distance between islands, locating them an extremely insufficient 100 miles apart. The end result being that not only does Schöner provide a respectable portrayal of Siple and Carney as paired islands, but even the channel running between the two islands is relatively accurate in proportion and alignment. Schöner even accurately replicates the two islands' correlation to the Antarctic continent, placing the islands along and parallel to Western Antarctica's flattened westernmost coastline while offsetting the pair toward the northern end of the flat where the coastline begins to taper away in the direction of the Weddell Sea. This is all the more compelling considering the uniqueness of a paired, similar sized island set placed in the only place on the continent that they actually exist.
Figure 6 - Hadji Ahmed’s 1559 rendering of the Unfortunate Islands (right) which matches Pigafetta’s description, placing the islands at latitudes of 9° and 15° south while distancing them roughly 600 miles apart east to west. Schöner's rendering (left) places the islands on a shared parallel at less than 100 miles apart. While Schöner had clearly seen Pigafetta's map of the strait, he obviously had very little detail on the Unfortunate Islands aside from being located high in the Pacific.