If you take a list of history's greatest explorers, and hold it up to a list of history's greatest bullshitters, you quickly find out they're the same list.
That's right; guys like Magellan and Marco Polo opened up new frontiers of human exploration and when they returned, told stories that were laugh-out-loud ridiculous. Why? Just for the hell of it, apparently.
Ever hear of a little thing called the world? Yeah, Magellan discovered that. Well, maybe that's a slight exaggeration but between 1519 and 1522, Ferdinand Magellan did lead the first successful expedition to sail around the damn thing.
This damn thing.
We use the term "successful" loosely, since he didn't exactly "survive" it, but he was still pretty close. And since history books are like horseshoes and hand grenades in that "close enough" usually counts (we're looking at you Thomas Edison), Magellan gets full credit. He not only found a route to the East, he also took invaluable surveys of his route, documenting things like the Strait of Magellan and the Magellanic Penguin. He, uh... he really took advantage of that whole "if you're the first to see it, then you get to name it" thing didn't he?
Please Magellanites, throw down your Magellan sticks and get off of Magellan Beach!
So What Did He Lie About?
Giants. A race of giants.
While traveling around the southern tip of South America, Magellan and his men claimed that they came across "a naked man of giant stature" who was "so tall that we reached only to his waist."
He was also FABULOUS!!
Not only was the alleged native freakishly tall, he was also "dancing, singing, and throwing dust on his head,' which is probably a 16th century euphemism for "acting totally retarded." So Magellan and company recorded meeting the world's first tribe of gargantuan naked ravers and, because the world was a "simpler" place back then, everyone just took his word that enormous dirt-heads populated the tip of South America. And they continued to take his word for 200 years. It gets better when you find out that Magellan dubbed this fictional race of huge idiots the Patagons, a name that stuck for the entire area for quite some time. As in, to this very fucking day.
Patagonia: It's like a whole country of Karl Malones.
What really gets our goat is that Magellan probably did meet a tribe of natives on the tip of South America, but they already had a name. They were the Tehuelche tribe and they probably averaged a towering 5'11. That was slightly tall by European standards of the day, but by no means giant. However, when you came back from traversing the great unknown, and all you have to regale the court with are your tales of people who were "kind of tall" and "didn't have an exceptional amount of dirt on their heads," you're going to lose your audience pretty fast.
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world. It was once surrounded by a rainforest full of hostile natives, not to mention some of the most horrifying creatures ever designed by the twisted hand of a mad God. So surely the first person to navigate the entire river was some sort of big-cajoned Adonis, right?
Oh! That actually wasn't disappointing! All right then!
This grizzled motherfucker right here is Fransisco de Orellana. Charged with exploring the Coca River, Orellana and his men decided, much like The Grateful Dead, to just keep on truckin' even when the Coca ran out. As a result of their audacity, they navigated the Amazon River in two months.
So What Did He Lie About?
His violent encounters with characters from Greek mythology.
In ancient Greek stories, the Amazons were an entirely female nation of warriors who disposed of male children and cut off their right breasts in order to shoot bows and spears better. So how did a river on the other side of the planet get named after Mediterranean femi-Nazis? Simple. Francisco de Orellana fought some dudes with long-hair on his voyage.
Not large, one breasted women. Not even a tribe composed entirely of women. Likely not even a single woman, actually. The warriors that he mistook as savage tribes of mythological female warriors were most probably Icamiabas, a tribe of South American natives who didn't take kindly to white guys establishing a Spanish colonial presence on their river. Which wasn't, obviously, called the Amazon at that point. Orellana named it that later, because he was the kind of guy you didn't fuck with. Because if you did, he'd convince the entire world that your band of fierce, macho warriors were just angry Greek lesbians.
"I'm sorry, did you say something? I can name this river Fagtonia if you want. Yeah? Thought not."
Are you from America? Do you speak English? If so, you have Sir Walter Raleigh to thank.
English, motherfucker! Doth thou speaketh it?
In 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh decided that it was England's turn to get a piece of the Americas. He was given permission to establish the colony of Roanoke, the first English settlement in the New World. Despite being a hilarious failure, America may have been completely taken over by the Spanish or French without it.
Oh dear God, no!
So What Did He Lie About?
A race of freakshow monstrosities, and a city made entirely out of gold.
Once he was done adventurin' in the Colonies, Raleigh wandered down to Orellena's River of Fancyboys, the Amazon. Rolling with the joke, he confirmed de Orellana's fantasy that the forest was populated by one-breasted man-haters, then straight made up his own creatures to get the folks at home super excited about the strange and magical place he hoped to get lots of funding to visit over and over again.
The people he reported finding there were equal parts Marvel Comics' Modok and Clive Barker's Cenobites; he called them the Ewaipanoma and described them as having "eyes in their shoulders, and their mouths in the middle of their breasts, and that a long train of hair groweth backward between their shoulders."
And lo, did they loveth BDSM as much as they hateth Captain America.
An example of a modern South American. Notice the existence of a head and absence of horror.
On top of headless, chest-faced Humpty Dumpty looking aberrations, Raleigh's account of his expedition was riddled with El Dorado references. As in, "he was totally there and saw it" kind of references. As in, the kind that might just send royalty into a voyage-funding greed-frenzy.