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Ferdinand Magellan (birth name in , ; ; 1480April 27, 1521) was a Portuguesemarker explorer. He was born around 1480 at Sabrosamarker, near Vila Real, in the province of Tras-os-Montes in Portugal. He obtained Spanishmarker nationality in order to serve the Spanish Crown, so that he could try to find a westward route to the Spice Islandsmarker of Indonesiamarker. He thereby became the first European to lead an expedition across the Pacific Oceanmarker. This was also the first successful attempt to circumnavigate the Earth. Although he did not complete the entire voyage (he was killed during the Battle of Mactanmarker in the Philippines), Magellan had earlier traveled eastwards to the Malay Peninsula. So he became one of the first explorers to cross all of the meridians of the globe.

Magellan and his crew were the first Europeans to enter the Pacific from the eponymous Strait of Magellanmarker, which he discovered. However it is clear they were not the first Europeans in the Philippines, parts of which were known to the Portuguese before their landing. Arab traders had established commerce within the archipelago centuries earlier. A number of geographic features and biological species have been named for Magellan, including the eponymous Magellanic Penguin, which Magellan was the first European to note.

Of the 237 men who set out on five ships to circumnavigate the earth in 1519, only 18 completed the circumnavigation of the globe and managed to return to Spain in 1522. They were led by the Basque navigator Juan Sebastián Elcano, who took over command of the expedition after Magellan's death. Seventeen other men arrived later in Spain: twelve men captured by the Portuguese in Cape Verdemarker some weeks earlier and between 1525 and 1527, and five survivors of the Trinidad.

Early life and first voyage

Magellan, because of his family's heritage, became a page to Queen Leonor at the Portuguese royal court after the death of his parents during his tenth year. He was the son of Rui de Magalhães (son of Pedro Afonso de Magalhães and wife Quinta de Sousa) and wife Alda de Mesquita and brother of Duarte de Sousa, Diogo de Sousa and Isabel de Magalhães. Soon after arriving in Spain he married Beatriz Barbosa and had two children: Rodrigo de Magalhães and Carlos de Magalhães, both of whom died at a young age.

In March 1505, at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host D. Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Although his name does not appear in the chronicles, it is known that he remained there eight years, in Goa, Cochin and Quilon. He participated in several battles, including the battle of Cannanoremarker in 1506, where he was wounded. In 1509 he fought in the battle of Diumarker and later sailed under Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in the first Portuguese embassy to Malaccamarker, with Francisco Serrão, his friend and possibly cousin. In September, after arriving at Malacca, the expedition fell victim to a conspiracy ending in retreat. Magellan had a crucial role, warning Sequeira and saving Francisco Serrão, who had landed. This performance earned him honors and a promotion.

In 1511, under the new governor Afonso de Albuquerque, Magellan and Serrão participated in the conquest of Malacca. After the conquest their ways parted: Magalhães being promoted, with a rich plunder, and in the company of a Malay he had indentured and baptised Enrique of Malacca, returned to Portugal in 1512. Serrão departed in the first expedition sent to find the "Spice Islandsmarker" in the Moluccasmarker, were he remained, having married a woman from Amboina and becoming a military advisor to the Sultan of Ternatemarker, Bayan Sirrullah. His letters to Magellan would prove decisive, giving information about the spice producing territories.

After taking a leave without permission, Magellan fell out of favour. Serving in Azemmourmarker he was wounded and got a permanent limp, he was also accused of trading illegally with the Moors. Several of the accusations were proved and there were no further offers of employment after May 15, 1514. Later on in 1515, he got an employment offer as a crew member on a Portuguese ship, but rejected it, having left Portugal after a quarrel with king D. Manuel I. In 1516 he left for Spain, where he soon married Beatriz Barbosa. Meanwhile he devoted himself to studying the most recent charts, investigating a gateway from the Atlantic to the South Pacific and the possibility of the Moluccas being in the Spanish Treaty of Tordesillas side, in partnership with cosmographer Rui Faleiro.

Spanish search of the Spice islands

The aim of Christopher Columbus' voyage to the West was to reach the coasts of the Spice Islandsmarker (or the Indies) and to establish commercial relations between Spain and the several Asian kingdoms. The Spanish soon realised after Columbus' voyages that the lands of the Americas were not a part of Asia, but a new continent. Once Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498, it became urgent for Spain to find a new commercial route to Asia. The Treaty of Tordesillas reserved for Portugal the routes that went around Africa. The Spanish Crown then decided to send out exploration voyages in order to find a way to Asia by travelling westwards. Since the Junta de Toro in 1505 the Crown set out to discover the western route which would lead the Spaniards to Asia. Vasco Núñez de Balboa sailed the Pacific Ocean in 1513 and Juan Díaz de Solís died in Río de la Platamarker some years later, trying to find a passage in South America in 1515-1516 at the service of Spain.

Preparation of the fleet - 1517 / 1519

In October 1517 in Seville, Magellan contacted Juan de Aranda, Factor of the Casa de Contratación. Then, following the arrival of his partner, Rui Faleiro, and with the support of Aranda, they presented their project to the Spanish king, Charles I, future Charles V[18]. Magellan's project was particularly interesting, since it would open the "spice route" without damaging relations with the neighbouring Portuguese. The idea was in tune with the times.

On March 22, 1518 the king named Magellan and Faleiro captains so that they could travel in search of the spice islands in July and raise them to the rank of Commander of the Order of Santiago. The king granted them :
  • Monopoly of the discovered route for a period of ten years.
  • Their appointment as governors of the lands and islands met, with 5% of the resulting net gains.
  • A fifth of the gains of the travel.
  • The right to levy one thousand ducats on upcoming trips, paying only 5% on the remainder.
  • Granting of an island for each one, apart from the six richest, from which they would receive a fifteenth.
The expedition was funded largely by the Spanish Crown and provided with five ships carrying supplies for two years of travel. Several problems arose during the preparation of the trip, including the lack of money, the king of Portugal trying to stop them, Magellan and other Portuguese incurring in suspicion from the Spanish and the difficult nature of Faleiro . Finally, thanks to the tenacity of Magellan, the expedition become ready. Through the bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca they got the participation of merchant Christopher de Haro, who provided some funds and goods to barter.The fleet left Seville on August 10, 1519, but waited until September 20, 1519 to sail from Sanlúcar de Barramedamarker, with a crew of 237 men from several nations, including Spanish, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks and French, on five ships: the Trinidad flagship commanded by Magellan, the San Antonio commanded by Juan de Cartagena, Concepcion commanded by Gaspar de Quesada, Santiago commanded by Juan Serrano and the Victoria, commanded by Luis Mendoza.


On August 10, 1519, five ships under Magellan's command – Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria and Santiago – left Seville and travelled from the Guadalquivir River to Sanlúcar de Barrameda at the mouth of the river, where they remained more than five weeks.

Spanish authorities were wary of Magellan, who was originally Portuguese. They almost prevented the admiral from sailing, and switched his crew from mostly Portuguese men to mostly men of Spain. Nevertheless, Magellan set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 20 with about 270 men, of which about 40 Portuguese including is brother in law Duarte Barbosa and João Serrão, brother or cousin to Francisco Serrão. King Manuel I ordered a Portuguese naval detachment to pursue Magellan, but Magellan avoided them. After stopping at the Canary Islandsmarker, Magellan arrived at Cape Verdemarker, where he set course for Cape St. Augustine in Brazilmarker. On November 27 the expedition crossed the equator; on December 6 the crew sighted South America.

Magellan's ship Victoria.

As Brazil was Portuguese territory, Magellan avoided it and on December 13 anchored near present-day Rio de Janeiromarker. There the crew was resupplied, but bad conditions caused them to delay. Afterwards, they continued to sail south along South America's east coast, looking for the strait that Magellan believed would lead to the Spice Islands. The fleet reached Río de la Platamarker on January 10, 1520.

On 30 March the crew established a settlement they called Puerto San Julian. On April 2 a mutiny involving two of the five ship captains broke out, but it was unsuccessful because most of the crew remained loyal. Juan Sebastián Elcano was one of those who were forgiven. Antonio Pigafetta, an Italian from Vicenzamarker who paid to be on the Magellan voyage, related that Gaspar Quesada, the captain of Concepcion, was executed; Juan de Cartagena, the captain of San Antonio, and a priest named Padre Sanchez de la Reina were instead marooned on the coast. Another account states that Luis de Mendoza, the captain of Victoria, was executed along with Quesada. Reportedly those killed were drawn and quartered and impaled on the coast; years later, their bones were found by Sir Francis Drake.

The journey resumed. The Santiago was sent down the coast on a scouting expedition and was wrecked in a sudden storm. All of its crew survived and made it safely to shore. Two of them returned overland to inform Magellan of what had happened, and to bring rescue to their comrades. After this experience, Magellan decided to wait for a few weeks more before again resuming the voyage.

At 52°S latitude on October 21 the fleet reached Cape Virgenesmarker and concluded they had found the passage, because the waters were brine and deep inland. Four ships began an arduous trip through the long passage that Magellan called the Estrecho (Canal) de Todos los Santos, ("All Saints' Channel"), because the fleet travelled through it on November 1 or All Saints' Day. The strait is now named the Strait of Magellanmarker. Magellan first assigned Concepcion and San Antonio to explore the strait, but the latter, commanded by Gómez, deserted and returned to Spain on November 20. On November 28 the three remaining ships entered the South Pacific. Magellan named the waters the Mar Pacifico (Pacific Ocean) because of its apparent stillness. Magellan was the first European to reach Tierra del Fuegomarker just east of the Pacific side of the strait.


Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on February 13, 1521. On 6 March they reached the Marianasmarker and Guammarker. Magellan called Guam the "Island of Sails" because they saw a lot of sailboats. They renamed it to "Ladrones Island" (Island of Thieves) because many of Trinidad's small boats were stolen there. On 16 March Magellan reached the island of Homonhonmarker in the Philippinesmarker, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Spaniards to reach the Philippine archipelago, but they were not the first Europeans.

Magellan was able to communicate with the native tribes because his Malay interpreter, Enrique, could understand their languages. Enrique was indentured by Magellan in 1511 right after the colonization of Malacca and was at his side during the battles in Africa, during Magellan's disgrace at the King's court in Portugal and during Magellan's successful raising of a fleet. They traded gifts with Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua who guided them to Cebumarker on April 7.

Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards, both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians. Afterward, Rajah Humabon and his ally Datu Zula convinced Magellan to kill their enemy, Datu Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan had wished to convert Datu Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Rajah Humabon, a proposal to which Datu Lapu-Lapu was dismissive. On the morning of April 27, 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with an army of men. During the resulting Battle of Mactanmarker against native forces led by Datu Lapu-Lapu, Magellan was shot by a poisonous arrow and later surrounded and finished off with spears and other weapons.
Pigafetta and Ginés de Mafra provided written documents of the events culminating in Magellan's death:

"When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, [the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred people. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries... The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly... Recognizing the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... A native hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the native's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off."

Magellan provided in his will that Enrique, his interpreter, was to be freed upon his death. However, after the Battle of Mactan, the remaining ships' masters refused to free Enrique. Enrique escaped his indenture on May 1 with the aid of Rajah Humabon, amid the deaths of almost 30 crewmen. Pigafetta had been jotting down words in the Visayan language, both Butuanon and Cebuano—which he started at Mazaua on Friday, 29 March and grew to a total of 145 words—and was apparently able to continue communications during the rest of the voyage. The Spaniards offered the natives merchandise in exchange for Magellan's body, but they were declined and so his body was never recovered.

Circumnavigation and return

The casualties suffered in the Philippines left the expedition with too few men to sail all three of the remaining ships. Consequently, on May 2 they abandoned Concepción and burned the ship. The fleet, reduced to Trinidad and Victoria, fled westward to Palawanmarker. They left that island on June 21 and were guided to Bruneimarker, Borneomarker by Moro pilots who could navigate the shallow seas. They anchored off the Brunei breakwater for 35 days, where Pigafetta, an Italian from Vicenzamarker, recorded the splendour of Rajah Siripada's court (gold, two pearls the size of hens' eggs, etc.). In addition, Brunei boasted tame elephants and armament of 62 cannons, more than 5 times the armament of Magellan's ships, and Brunei disdained cloves, which were to prove more valuable than gold, upon the return to Spain. Pigafetta mentions some of the technology of the court, such as porcelain and eyeglasses (both of which were not available or only just becoming available in Europe).

After reaching the Maluku Islandsmarker (the Spice Islands) on November 6, 115 crew were left. They managed to trade with the Sultan of Tidoremarker, a rival of the Sultan of Ternatemarker, who was the ally of the Portuguese.

The two remaining ships, laden with valuable spices, attempted to return to Spain by sailing westwards. However, as they left the Spice Islands, the Trinidad began to take on water. The crew tried to discover and repair the leak, but failed. They concluded that Trinidad would need to spend considerable time being overhauled, but the small Victoria was not large enough to accommodate all the surviving crew. As a result, Victoria with some of the crew sailed west for Spain. Several weeks later, Trinidad departed and attempted to return to Spain via the Pacific route. This attempt failed. Trinidad was captured by the Portuguese, and was eventually wrecked in a storm while at anchor under Portuguese control.

Victoria set sail via the Indian Oceanmarker route home on December 21, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano. By May 6 the Victoria rounded the Cape of Good Hopemarker, with only rice for rations. Twenty crewmen died of starvation before Elcano put into Cape Verdemarker, a Portuguese holding, where he abandoned 13 more crew on July 9 in fear of losing his cargo of 26 tons of spices (cloves and cinnamon).

On September 6, 1522, Elcano and the remaining crew of Magellan's voyage arrived in Spain aboard the last ship in the fleet, Victoria, almost exactly three years after they departed. Magellan had not intended to circumnavigate the world, only to find a secure way through which the Spanish ships could navigate to the Spice Islands; it was Elcano who, after Magellan's death, decided to push westward, thereby completing the first voyage around the entire Earth.

Maximilianus Transylvanus interviewed some of the surviving members of the expedition when they presented themselves to the Spanish court at Valladolidmarker in the autumn of 1522 and wrote the first account of the voyage, which was published in 1523. The account written by Pigafetta did not appear until 1525 and was not wholly published until 1800. This was the Italian transcription by Carlo Amoretti of what we now call the Ambrosiana codex. The expedition eked out a small profit, but the crew was not paid full wages.

Four crewmen of the original 55 on Trinidad finally returned to Spain in 1525, 51 of them had died in war or from disease. In total, approximately 232 Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, English and German sailors died on the expedition around the world with Magellan.


18 men returned to Seville aboard Victoria in 1522:
Name Rating
Juan Sebastián Elcano, from Getaria Master
Francisco Albo, from Rodas (in Tuimarker, Galiciamarker) Pilot
Miguel de Rodas (in Tui, Galicia) Pilot
Juan de Acurio, from Bermeomarker Pilot
Antonio Lombardo , from Vicenzamarker Supernumerary
Martín de Judicibus, from Genoamarker Chief Steward
Hernándo de Bustamante, from Alcántaramarker Mariner
Nicholas the Greek, from Nafplionmarker Mariner
Miguel Sánchez, from Rodas (in Tui, Galicia) Mariner
Antonio Hernández Colmenero, from Huelvamarker Mariner
Francisco Rodrigues, Portuguesemarker from Sevillemarker Mariner
Juan Rodríguez, from Huelvamarker Mariner
Diego Carmena, from Baionamarker (Galicia) Mariner
Hans of Aachenmarker, (Holy Roman Empire) Gunner
Juan de Arratia, from Bilbaomarker Able Seaman
Vasco Gómez Gallego, from Baiona (Galicia) Able Seaman
Juan de Santandrés, from Cueto (Cantabriamarker) Apprentice Seaman
Juan de Zubileta, from Barakaldomarker Page

When Victoria, the one surviving ship, returned to the harbor of departure after completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth, only 18 men out of the original 237 men were on board. Among the survivors there were two Italians, Antonio Pigafetta and Martino de Judicibus. Martino de Judicibus ( ) was a Genoesemarker or Savonese Chief Steward. His history is preserved in the nominative registers at the Archivo General de Indias in Sevillemarker, Spainmarker. The family name is referred to with the exact Latin patronymic, "de Judicibus". He was initially assigned to the caravel Concepción, one of five ships of the Spanish fleet of Magellan. Martino de Judicibus embarked on the expedition with the rank of captain.

Aftermath and legacy

After the return of Magellan's expedition, Charles V sent an expedition led by García Jofre de Loaísa (1525) to occupy the Moluccasmarker, claiming that they were in his zone of the Treaty of Tordesillas. This expedition included the most notable Spanish navigators: Juan Sebastián Elcano, who lost his life then, and the young Andrés de Urdaneta. They reached with difficulty the Moluccas, docking at Tidoremarker. The conflict with the Portuguese already established in nearby Ternatemarker started nearly a decade of skirmishes over the possession.

Since there was not a set limit to the east, in 1524 both kingdoms tried find the exact location of the antimeridian of Tordesillas, which would divide the world into two equal hemispheres and to resolve the "Moluccas issue". A board met several times without reaching an agreement: the knowledge at that time was insufficient for an accurate calculation of longitude, and each gave the islands to their sovereign. An agreement was reached only with the Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 1529 between Spainmarker and Portugalmarker, atributting the Moluccas to Portugal and the Philippines to Spain. The course that Magellan charted was followed by other navigators, like Sir Francis Drake, and the Manila-Acapulco route was discovered by Andrés de Urdaneta in 1565.

Magellan's expedition was the first to circumnavigate the globe and the first to navigate the strait in South America connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean, its name derived from the Latin name Tepre Pacificum (peaceful sea), bestowed upon it by Magellan.

Magellan's crew observed several animals that were entirely new to European science, including a "camel without humps", which was probably a guanaco, whose range extends to Tierra del Fuego, unlike the llama, vicuña or alpaca, whose ranges are confined to the Andes mountains. A black "goose" that had to be skinned instead of plucked was a penguin.

The full extent of the Earth was realized, since their voyage was 14,460 Spanish leagues (60,440 km or 37,560 mi).The need for an International Date Linemarker was established. Upon returning they found their date was a day behind, even though they had faithfully maintained the ship's log. They lost one day because they traveled west during their circumnavigation of the globe, opposite to Earth's daily rotation. This caused great excitement at the time and a special delegation was sent to the Pope to explain the oddity to him.

Two of the closest galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds in the southern celestial hemisphere, were named for Magellan sometime after 1800. The Magellan probe, which mapped the planet Venus from 1990 to 1994, was named after Magellan.

See also

References and footnotes

  1. .
  2. .
  3. .
  4. .
  5. James A. Patrick, "Renaissance and Reformation", p. 787, Marshall Cavendish, 2007, ISBN 0761476504
  6. William J. Bernstein, "A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped the World", p.183-185, Grove Press, 2009, ISBN 0802144160
  7. Zweig, Stefan, "Conqueror of the Seas - The Story of Magellan", p.44-45, READ BOOKS, 2007, ISBN 1406760064
  8. Zweig, Stefan, "Conqueror of the Seas - The Story of Magellan", p.51, READ BOOKS, 2007, ISBN 1406760064
  9. Castro, Xavier de; Hamon, Jocelynn; Thomaz, Luis Filipe de Castro, "Le voyage de Magellan (1519-1522). La relation d'Antonio Pigafetta & autres témoignages", Chandeigne, coll. « Magellane », Paris, 2007, 1088 p. ISBN 2915540322
  10. Xavier de Castro|2007|p=329-332
  11. .
  12. .
  13. .
  14. Thought to be Limasawa, Southern Leyte, though this is disputed
  15. The Death of Magellan, 1521, EyeWitness to History (2001). Retrieved 9 March 2006.
  16. .
  17. .
  18. Documents related to the questioning performed by the Spanish authorities after the 18 survivors of the voyage returned to Seville in 1522 report that de Judicibus was born in Savona, Italy.
  19. A. Pigafetta, «Il viaggio di Magellano intorno al mondo», review by James Alexander ROBERTSON, Cleveland USA, 1906, Ed. Arthur Clark
  20. .

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