There were more satisfying “Well, I never!” nuggets in Voyages of Discovery (BBC Four), the first of five programmes about explorers. On board a replica of the Victoria, the first ship to circumnavigate the globe, Paul Rose related the final journey of the Portuguese sailor Ferdinand Magellan. In five unsuitable ships, Magellan set off in 1519 on behalf of Spain to find an accessible route to the valuable Spice Islands and so best Columbus by reaching east by sailing west.
Rose, favouring a jeans-and- sweatshirt, get-stuck-in approach, appreciated the hardships endured by Magellan’s crew. An Everest climber and polar explorer, Rose once had to survive for four days on soup made out of toothpaste. Starkey, Schama and Niall Ferguson beat that!
But this never came across as bragging. Rose was an affable, if restless, presence. Whether telling us about the politics of the day or Magellan’s ruthless dispatch of mutineers, Rose could be seen hauling ropes, climbing the rigging or gutting fish by a campfire. He combined Michael Wood’s enthusiasm with Ray Mears’s practicality. Welcome to the survivalist historian.