Ferdinand Magellan (birth
name in , ; ; 1480 – April
27, 1521) was a Portuguese explorer.
born around 1480 at Sabrosa, near
Vila Real, in the province of Tras-os-Montes in Portugal.
obtained Spanish nationality
in order to serve the Spanish Crown,
so that he could try to find a westward route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. He thereby became the first European to lead
an expedition across the Pacific Ocean.
This was also the first successful attempt
. Although he did not complete the entire
voyage (he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines), Magellan had earlier traveled
eastwards to the Malay
So he became one of the first explorers to
cross all of the meridians
and his crew were the first Europeans to enter the Pacific from the
eponymous Strait of Magellan, which he discovered.
However it is clear
they were not the first Europeans in the
, 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
, 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 Verde 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
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
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 Cannanore in 1506, where he was wounded. In 1509 he fought in
the battle of
Diu and later sailed under Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in the first
Portuguese embassy to Malacca, 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
Islands" in the Moluccas, were he remained, having married a woman from
Amboina and becoming a military advisor to the Sultan of Ternate, Bayan Sirrullah.
His letters to Magellan
would prove decisive, giving information about the spice producing
After taking a leave without permission, Magellan fell out of
favour. Serving in Azemmour 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
side, in partnership with cosmographer Rui
Spanish search of the Spice islands
of Christopher Columbus' voyage
to the West was to reach the coasts of the Spice
Islands (or the Indies) and to
establish commercial relations between Spain and the several Asian
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
Portuguese arrived in India in 1498, it became urgent for Spain to
find a new commercial route to Asia. The Treaty of Tordesillas
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
Plata 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,
of the Casa de Contratación
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
project was particularly interesting, since it would open the
" without damaging relations
with the neighbouring Portuguese. The idea was in tune with the
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
- 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
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
Barrameda, 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 –
Seville and travelled from the Guadalquivir
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
and João Serrão
, brother or
cousin to Francisco Serrão. King Manuel I
ordered a Portuguese naval
detachment to pursue Magellan, but Magellan avoided them.
stopping at the Canary
Islands, Magellan arrived at Cape Verde, where he set course for Cape St. Augustine in
November 27 the expedition crossed the equator
; on December 6 the crew sighted South
was Portuguese territory, Magellan avoided it and on December 13
anchored near present-day Rio de Janeiro.
There the crew was resupplied, but bad
conditions caused them to delay. Afterwards, they continued to sail
south along South America
coast, looking for the strait that Magellan believed would lead to
the Spice Islands. The fleet reached Río de la
Plata 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
Vicenza 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
, was executed along with Quesada. Reportedly
those killed were drawn and
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
latitude on October 21 the fleet reached Cape Virgenes 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
strait is now named the Strait of Magellan.
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
because of its apparent stillness. Magellan was the first European to reach
Fuego just east of the Pacific side of the
Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on February 13,
6 March they reached the Marianas and Guam.
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
Homonhon in the Philippines, 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
, 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 Cebu on April
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.
the resulting Battle of
Mactan 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
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.
fleet, reduced to Trinidad and Victoria, fled
westward to Palawan. They left that island on June 21 and were
guided to Brunei, Borneo by Moro pilots who could navigate the
shallow seas. They anchored off the Brunei breakwater for
35 days, where Pigafetta, an Italian from Vicenza, recorded the splendour of Rajah Siripada's court
(gold, two pearls the size
of hens' eggs, etc.).
In addition, Brunei boasted tame
and armament of 62 cannons, more
than 5 times the armament of Magellan's ships, and Brunei disdained
, 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
(both of which were not
available or only just becoming available in Europe).
reaching the Maluku
Islands (the Spice Islands) on November 6, 115 crew were
left. They managed to trade with the Sultan of
Tidore, a rival of
the Sultan of Ternate, 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
to spend considerable time being overhauled, but the small
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 Ocean route home on December 21, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano.
By May 6
the Victoria rounded the Cape of Good Hope, with only rice for rations. Twenty crewmen died
of starvation before Elcano put into Cape Verde, 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,
, 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
interviewed some of the surviving members of the expedition when
they presented themselves to the Spanish court at Valladolid in the autumn of 1522 and wrote the first account
of the voyage, which was published in 1523.
written by Pigafetta did not appear until 1525 and was not wholly
published until 1800. This was the Italian transcription by
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
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
Elcano, from Getaria
|Francisco Albo, from Rodas (in Tui, Galicia)
|Miguel de Rodas (in Tui, Galicia)
de Acurio, from Bermeo
Lombardo , from Vicenza
de Judicibus, from Genoa
|Hernándo de Bustamante, from Alcántara
|Nicholas the Greek, from Nafplion
|Miguel Sánchez, from Rodas (in Tui, Galicia)
|Antonio Hernández Colmenero, from Huelva
|Francisco Rodrigues, Portuguese from Seville
Rodríguez, from Huelva
Carmena, from Baiona
of Aachen, (Holy Roman Empire)
de Arratia, from Bilbao
|Vasco Gómez Gallego, from Baiona (Galicia)
de Santandrés, from Cueto (Cantabria)
de Zubileta, from Barakaldo
, 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 Genoese or Savonese Chief
Steward. His history is preserved in the nominative
registers at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain.
family name is referred to with the exact Latin patronymic, "de
Judicibus". He was initially assigned to the caravel
, 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
return of Magellan's expedition, Charles V sent an expedition led
by García Jofre de
Loaísa (1525) to occupy the Moluccas, 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 Tidore.
conflict with the Portuguese already established in nearby Ternate started nearly a decade of skirmishes over the
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
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 Spain and Portugal, atributting the Moluccas to Portugal and the
Philippines to Spain.
The course that Magellan charted was
followed by other navigators, like Sir
, 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
bestowed upon it by Magellan.
Magellan's crew observed several animals that were entirely new to
European science, including a "camel
humps", which was probably a guanaco
range extends to Tierra del Fuego, unlike the llama
, 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 Line 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
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
from 1990 to 1994, was named
References and footnotes
- James A. Patrick, "Renaissance and Reformation", p. 787,
Marshall Cavendish, 2007, ISBN 0761476504
- William J. Bernstein, "A Splendid Exchange: How Trade Shaped
the World", p.183-185, Grove Press, 2009, ISBN 0802144160
- Zweig, Stefan, "Conqueror of the Seas - The Story of Magellan",
p.44-45, READ BOOKS, 2007, ISBN 1406760064
- Zweig, Stefan, "Conqueror of the Seas - The Story of Magellan",
p.51, READ BOOKS, 2007, ISBN 1406760064
- 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
- Xavier de Castro|2007|p=329-332
- Thought to be Limasawa, Southern Leyte, though
this is disputed
- The Death of Magellan, 1521, EyeWitness to
History (2001). Retrieved 9 March 2006.
- 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,
- A. Pigafetta, «Il viaggio di Magellano intorno al mondo»,
review by James Alexander ROBERTSON, Cleveland USA, 1906, Ed.