Treasure hunting is a popular subgenre of action-adventure films. Its success stems from its ability to stoke our inherent adventurous spirit. A treasure-hunting film is always grounded in history. It gives the narrative a sense of believability that fires up the imagination of the audience, and they start to envision themselves in place of the protagonist. The ‘National Treasure’ films, ‘Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark,’ and ‘Red Notice’ are good examples of this.
‘Uncharted,’ which is based on the namesake video game series published by Sony Interactive Entertainment for PlayStation consoles and developed by Naughty Dog, follows this tradition by anchoring its plot to real-world history. The treasure that the protagonist Nathan Drake (Tom Holland), his allies, and his enemies are searching for supposedly once belonged to the Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and his crew. If you are wondering whether Magellan’s treasure is real, we got you covered. SPOILERS AHEAD.
Is Ferdinand Magellan’s Treasure Real?
No, Ferdinand Magellan’s treasure is probably not real. His expedition is now known for many things, but a secret stash of gold and other precious substances is not one of them. Emperor Charles V was the predominant sponsor of the expedition. He agreed to fund Magellan’s travel because Spain needed a western maritime route to the Spice Islands or the Moluccas, Indonesia. Portugal had gained control of the eastern maritime routes following the implementation of the Treaty of Tordesillas, with which Pope Alexander VI distributed the world beyond Europe between Spain and Portugal in 1494.
Spain urgently needed an alternative route to bring various spices from Indonesia. The expedition was launched from Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, on September 20, 1519, and lasted for three years, ending when the survivors returned to Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522. It is now best known for being the first recorded complete circumnavigation of Earth. However, ironically, Magellan himself was no longer part of the crew when they returned to Sanlúcar de Barrameda. He was killed in the Battle of Mactan on April 27, 1521, in what is now known as the Philippines.
Magellan reportedly began the expedition with five ships — the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria, and Santiago — and 270 men. After Magellan’s death, several of his subordinates succeeded him. Ultimately, only 18 survivors came back to Sanlúcar de Barrameda on the sole remaining ship Victoria under the leadership of Juan Sebastián Elcano, who is also mentioned in the film.
The expedition did manage to find an alternate route, but it was later discovered that the journey through it would be longer and more dangerous. So, it wasn’t a viable alternative for trade. It faced every possible issue that a maritime expedition can face — from scurvy to mutinies to starvation to hostile indigenous populations to storms — and didn’t have much to show for all their sufferings at the end.
Charles V allowed Elcano to add a globe with the words “Primus circumdedisti me” (“You first encircled me”) on his personal coat of arms. Elcano died during the Loaísa expedition on August 4, 1526. While Magellan might not have left hidden treasures, his legacy is nonetheless quite significant. Interestingly, Sir Francis Drake, who is supposedly Nathan’s ancestor in both the film and video game series, followed Magellan’s chart while circumventing Earth between 1577 and 1580.
Read More: Where Was Uncharted Filmed?