During the three months and twenty days during which Ferdinand
Magellan sailed 12,000 miles through open ocean, he did not
encounter a single storm.
Misled by this one experience he named the ocean of the Pacific.
Magellan sighted the islands on march 1521 when he made his
landfall at Guam. He claimed the islands for Spain and first
christened the archipelago "Las Islas de las Velas Latinas" (The
Island of the Latine Sails), because the triangular shape of the sails
used native canoes were similar to those used on Mediterranean
vessels. In anger over the islanders taking property from his ship,
Magellan renamed the islands "Las Islas de los Ladrones", (The
Islands of the Thieves), a place name which remained on maps for
many years thereafter. In 1668 their name was changed a third time
to Las Marianas in honor of Mariana of Austria, widow of Philip the
4th of Spain.
Through an act of genocide committed in the 17th century by Spanish
colonists against the local inhabitants the Chamorro race was almost
wiped out. In 1815 a new wave of people from atolls west and north of
Truk (chuuk) in the Eastern Carolines migrated to Saipan. The
Carolinians developed unique sailing and navigational skills which,
still today, are utilized by some to carry them vast distances over the
open sea without the aid of charts or modern instruments. These
brave navigators must be ranked with Magellan, Cook and other pacific
explorers as being among the greatest seamen of all time.
The curiosity of man and his desire to explore the stars can be traced
to Pacific island navigators and their desire to explore the vast
emptiness of their world for minute traces of land and other life.