Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan

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Ferdinand Magellan was born circa 1480 in Sabrosa, Portugal. His father was Dom Ruy Magellan, a nobleman and sheriff. He was married to Donha Alda De Mesquite. He was born Fernão de Magalhães, but changed it later. Ferdinand Magellan had 2 siblings: a sister named Isabel and a brother named Diago De Souse.

This aspiring explorer and adventurer spent his childhood as a page at the Portuguese court doing errands and chores. He also went to school at a monastery. When he was only 10 years old, Magellan’s parents died. About 5 years later, the King of Portugal died, and Magellan’s brother-in-law, Duke Manuel (sometimes called Emanuel), was made the king.

In 1506, Magellan went to the East Indies, taking part in many exploratory and military expeditions in the Spice Islands. By 1510 he had been promoted to the rank of captain. However, his military glory ended after he secretly sailed a ship east without permission. Because of that, Magellan lost his command and had to return to Portugal.

Magellan was expecting a decent job when he returned, but was in for a surprise. He only managed to get a lowly job at court, much like the one he spent in his childhood. Magellan asked the king for a higher paying and more respected job, but the king refused. From that experience, Magellan concluded that the King of Portugal didn’t like him one bit.

It seems that Magellan got his plan for his famous exploration from his voyages in 1506 to the Spice Islands. It must have sparked the idea that maybe there was a west route to the Spice Islands, instead of the already-proven east route. Magellan proposed this idea to the Portuguese king, but funding from Portugal was refused.     

Magellan, fed up with refusals from Portugal, moved to nearby Spain and became a citizen there. It was here that Magellan changed his name from Fernão de Magalhães to Fernando de Magallanes. He married a woman named Barbosa there. Magellan, determined, brought his plan to King Charles, the king of Spain, in 1517. The King approved of it and provided Magellan with funding!

On September 20th, 1519, Magellan set out from Sanlucar de Barrameda with 250 men and 5 ships: the Trinidad, San Antonio, Victoria, Conceptio, and the Santiago. They started by sailing down the west coast of Africa, until they got to the equator. Then Magellan’s fleet turned west, to cross the Atlantic.

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They reached South America in February of 1520 in a place near Recife, Brazil.

The fleet then went to the Rio de la Plata estuary. On March 31st, 1520, the fleet ported at San Julian. They rested there for 6 months. During that time, there was a mutiny on one ship, and it was destroyed. After the mutiny was settled, Magellan’s crew continued south to find a passage through South America.

Finally, they reached the strait that led through South America, and the one named for the explorer who led his crew through it: Magellan’s Strait. The waters were rough and rocky, so during the voyage through the Strait of Magellan, another ship was lost. At last, after 38 days and traveling about 330 miles, they finally reached the Pacific Ocean. The date was November 28th, 1520.

Magellan named the Pacific Ocean for its seemed calmness after turbulent waters. However, the Pacific wasn’t as tranquil and innocent as it seemed to be at first. During the voyage, much of the crew got scurvy, a wasting disease caused by lack of vitamin C. Many died from this. By then, their food had run out, so they resorted to eating leather strips, sawdust, and rats living aboard the ship.

At long last, after 98 days from their start of reaching the Pacific, Magellan’s crew stopped at the Mariana Islands. The date of their stop was March 6th, 1521. Magellan named these islands Islas de Ladrones, because while they were trading, some of the natives stole goods from the ships.

After that, Magellan’s fleet sailed to the island of Cebu. There, Magellan converted the Cebu king, Huambon to Christianity. They became allies, and soon Magellan promised to help fight Cebu’s rival, Lapu-Labu, on the island of Mactan, a nearby island. The fight began on April 7th, 1521. It was during this battle that something tragic happened which affected the whole crew: Magellan was killed.

A man name Juan Sebastian Del Cano took over in the place of the crew’s lost captain. Two of the three remaining ships managed to escape, but the third was burned. The two ships sailed home, in peace, until the Portuguese captured one. The last ship, the Victoria, sailed through the Cape of Good Hope. It had only 18 men left when it sailed back into port in Seville on September 6th, 1522. Even though 4 ships were lost, the Victoria’s cargo of cloves paid for that and still had a profit.

Since Magellan had passed the longitude line from where he started before he died, he is considered the first person to circumnavigate, or completely go around, the world. Magellan’s new route was of no use to Spain, because it was simply too long to get to the Spice Islands, and sold the land that Magellan had claimed to the Portuguese. Although Magellan’s voyage wasn’t of much use to Spain, he was still an important person who changed history.
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