3Ferdinand Magellan's Voyage of Horrors
You know what else your history teacher probably left out? That time Ferdinand Magellan had to drink piss to survive.
You probably heard all about Portuguese explorer Admiral Ferdinand Magellan in school and promptly got him mixed up with Marco Polo and forgot why either of them were important. But while you might have pictured Magellan's voyage as a Disney-style high seas adventure, they never told us just what a bleak, scurvy-ridden nightmare it turned out to be.
Ferdinand would make men practice for the trip by forcing them to eat their own pants.
Magellan's biggest problem, along with the rest of Europe, was not realizing just how freaking huge the Pacific Ocean was, so naturally he brought an utterly insufficient supply of food and water. After several months, supplies began to dwindle and eventually ran out completely, which is a huge problem when you're floating on a hunk of wood in the middle of the Pacific. According to Magellan, after three months without fresh food, the crew had resorted to eating maggot-infested crumbs. After that, they were forced to drink "yellow water" (yes, unfortunately that's what you think it is) and had to tear the leather from the ship to cook it. After that, it was sawdust, and any rats that they weren't too lethargic to catch.
"There's one! Quick, punch it in the face and eat its head off!"
Eventually, they did make landfall on the island of Guam, and there were still some people alive enough to stumble off the ship. It was a short time later, in the Phillipines, when they were (predictably) attacked by natives. The Battle of Mactan wasn't so much a battle as a slaughter, due to the fact there were 1,000 natives versus this small crew of malnourished, probably half-mad Europeans. During the skirmish, Magellan was stabbed in the face with a spear, which by some freak chance proved fatal.
"Listen! Could we just, like, eat some plants or something before we continue?"
However, the expedition survivors did manage to cram their holds full of spices and begin making their way home. When they finally made it back in 1521, there were only 18 survivors of the original 260. On the plus side, everyone got a much, much bigger cut of the treasure, pretty much all of which must have been spent on 16th century therapy.
2Ernest Giles vs. Australia
When the British first discovered and colonized Australia, naturally they spent most of their time trying not to be murdered by it. Ernest Giles, desert explorer extraordinaire, had no such fear of the great red continent, even though its deserts are hot enough to kill camels. Giles didn't just make it his life's quest to cross the great expanse; he was downright impatient about it, leading four expeditions in four years, even though each one nearly killed him.
The top of his head must have been around four shades darker than the rest of him.
His first, in 1872, saw him wandering for five months around the landscape with two other men, discovering various rocks and lakes and other rocks. Although this was considered one of the more successful expeditions through spiderworld, Giles considered it a failure, possibly because everyone made it back without so much as a trace of Gulf War syndrome. When he returned in early 1873, he waited less than a year before heading out again.
This time he was accompanied by Alfred Gibson, a man who by all accounts shouldn't have been there, considering he had no experience with desert exploration. But Giles liked to live life on the edge, so they set out to cross the vast nothing between Adelaide and Perth.
"We must map this emptiness so modern man may continue to avoid it."
Things went about as smoothly as could be hoped until eight months into the journey, when Gibson's horse died of thirst. With only one horse between them, it was decided that Gibson should ride on ahead while Giles traveled alone and on foot. Gibson was no doubt extremely happy with this arrangement, and so he rode off into the sunset, presumably with a final shout of "So long, sucker!" That was the last time anyone saw him alive.
In the meantime, Giles was forced to walk for eight days through the scorching desert without any food, and carrying a massive keg of water on his back. According to his own journals, toward the end of his journey, he came across a baby wallaby, and "pounced upon it and ate it, living, raw, dying -- fur, skin, bones, skull and all."
It came with a built-in salad.
Giles survived just fine, and named the area the Gibson Desert after his less badass comrade. Then, over the next couple of years, he did it all again twice more. How many wallabies he ate alive during that time remains undocumented.