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About Ferdinand Magellan The Explorer

Magellan - The Explorer
Ferdinand Magellan is commonly known as the first western
explorer to circumnavigate the globe in the late Medieval,
Renaissance period. Being the first explorer to lead an
expedition around the world, the name Magellan capturers
the imagination down to this day.

Early Beginning

He was born in 1480 in northern Portugal. Adversity entered
his life at an early age. His parents died when he was only 10
years old. At the age of 12, he was appointed as the queen’s
messenger in the royal court. Young boys were appointed as
messenger as a source of education. At the court, he learned
about many famous explorers and the most important
information about navigating ships. His dreams began to form
in conjunction with his life experiences.

Seeds Of Desire Are Planted On First Expedition

His first time at sea was in 1505 when he was 25 years old. He sailed with Francisco de Almedia, Portugal’s first admiral, and his fleet. In 1511, he went on an expedition to conquer Melaka. After the victory, a Portuguese fleet sailed to the Spice Islands. Portugal claimed the islands at that time. One of his close friends, Francisco Serrao, went on the voyage and wrote to Magellan. In his letters he described the route and the island of Ternate. Association with other explorers was a major part of his life.

Funding The Dream

Serrao’s letters helped build his my mind the location of the
Spice Islands, which later became the destination for his great
voyage. He asked the King of Portugal to support his journey,
but he refused. After that, he asked the King of Spain to
support his journey. He was interested in my plan since Spain
was looking for a better sea route to Asia, than the Portuguese
route around the southern tip of Africa. It was hard for Magellan
to find sailors, though. None of the Spanish sailors wanted to
sail with him because he was Portuguese. He took anybody who
would sign on, whether they were good seamen or not. Some
of his crew were prisoners, who were released from jail in
return for sailing with him. Even after finding financial support
for his endeavor Magellan still had challenges.

Living The Dream Journey Around The Globe

In September of 1519, Magellan and his crew said their prayers and set sail for southern Spain with five ships. The names of the ships were Santiago, the San Antonio, the Conception, the Trinidad, and the Victoria. At first, all went well. The small fleet sailed across the Atlantic Ocean and reached South America. They stocked up with goods and sailed down the coastline looking for a passage through the South American continent. Magellan could not find a route through South America. Why, because there was no route through South America. The expedition sailed further and further south, sailing into every river and bay they came upon. The weather got colder, and they were running out of supplies. The crew revolted against the other captains and Magellan. The men who started the mutiny were hanged, and then the journey continued. Finally, in October of 1520, they found a strait. Magellan named it after himself, calling it the Strait of Magellan. It took 38 days to sail through the dangerous strait. They finally arrived at the ocean that Balboa had discovered several years before. Magellan named it the Pacific Ocean because of its calm waters, at that time. Next, they found themselves sailing for weeks across the Pacific ocean with no sign of land. Shortage of good food and water became a problem. One of the other captains deserted Magellan and sailed the San Antonio back to Spain. In March of 1521, the expedition arrived in Guam, an island in the Pacific. At last, from there, they headed for the Spice Islands. The dreamed of goal was at hand.

Goal Reached Rich Cargo Brought From The Spice Islands To Spain

After three years. The Victoria was the only ship to bring
its rich cargo to Seville, Spain. Out of the five ships that
began the journey, only one ship made the voyage around
the world. Magellan completed his journey in the
Philippine Islands and died from an unforeseen attack.
Pigafetta and Ginés de Mafra provided written documents
of the events culminating in Magellan's death. In the
account Magellan was referred to as; “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.” Magellan himself did not reach his goal, the
Spice Islands; yet he had accomplished the most difficult
part of his task. He had been the first to undertake the
circumnavigation of the world, had carried out his project
completely, and had thus achieved the most difficult
nautical feat of the era. The voyage proved most fruitful
for science and generations to come. It gave the first
positive proof of the earth being a globe and the
verification of the actual distribution of land and water.
The Basque Shipmaster Juan Sebastián de Elcano (del Cano)
completed the trip to Spain, in the company of 17 others,
all who have their names accounted in history along with
Ferdinand Magellan.

More About Magellan and Elcano’s Voyage

Antonio Pigafetta’s journal is the main source for much of what we know about Magellan and Elcano's voyage. The other direct report of the voyage was that of Francisco Albo, last pilot of Victoria, who kept a formal logbook. Europeans first learned of the circumnavigation through a written account by Maximilianus Transylvanus, a relative of sponsor Christopher de Haro. In the account, first published in 1523, Transylvanus interviewed some of the survivors of the voyage, when Victoria returned to Spain in September 1522. Afterwards, he wrote the account that Europeans first widely read.

Ferdinand Magellan 
first western explorer to circumnavigate the globe
Victoria 
first ship to circumnavigate the globe
detail from a map by
Ortelius, 1590
 Ferdinand Magellan
16th or 17th century portrait The Mariner's Museum Collection, Newport News, VA