Ferdinand Magellan was born in about 1480 at Saborosa in Villa Real, Province of Traz os Montes, Portugal. He was the son of Pedro Ruy de Magalhaes, mayor of the town, and of Alda de Mezquita. His parents died when he was about ten years old. At age 12 he was sent to work as a page in the court of Queen Leonor of Portugal. She lived for several years at Obidos, mourning her only son who was killed in a riding accident. His upbringing at the Court of Portugal not only allowed him to learn of new discoveries, but because Portugal possessed a significant seafaring tradition, Magellan learned to make maps and how to find his way when sailing astronomy and the nautical sciences under good teachers, among whom may have been Martin Behaim. His studies filled him at an early age with enthusiasm for the great voyages of discovery which were being made at that period. He fell immediately in love with the sea. Magellan made his first voyages under the Portuguese flag.

In 1493 when Ferdinand was about 13 years old, Christopher Columbus returned from his voyage to the Carribean, believing he'd discovered a westerly route to the spices and jewels of the orient.

Ferdinand Magellan made his first voyage on the sea at the age of 25 in 1505, when he was sent to India to install Francisco de Almeida as the Portuguese viceroy. The voyage gave Magellan his first experience of battle when a local king, who had paid tribute to Vasco da Gama three years earlier, refused to pay tribute to Almeida. In the battle, Magellan received a severe knee wound. After taking leave without permission, he fell out of favor with Almeida and was also accused of trading illegally with the Moors. Several of the accusations were subsequently proved and there were no further offers of employment after May 15, 1514.

In 1511 he performed important services in the Portuguese conquest of Malacca. The Maluku Islands (also known as the Moluccas, Moluccan Islands, the Spice Islands or simply Maluku) are an archipelago in Indonesia, and part of the larger Malay Archipelago. They are located on the Australian Plate, lying east of Sulawesi (Celebes), west of New Guinea, and north of Timor. The islands were also historically known as the "Spice Islands" by the Chinese and Europeans, but this term has also been applied to other islands.

Magellan returned to Portugal in 1512, was promoted to captain, and fought against the Moors in Morocco, where he received wounds that left him lame for life. After his request for an increase in his royal allowance was rejected by Emanuel, King of Portugal, who was indifferent also to Magellan's proposal for a voyage to the Moluccas. On account of a personal disagreement with the commander-in-chief, he left the army without permission. This and an unfavourable report that had been made upon him by Almeida led to his disgrace with the king. He believed some damaging rumors concerning Magellan--among them that he had deserted, that he sold horses to the Moroccan enemy,and that he was corrupt.

As Magellan continued his journeys, he became fascinated with the Spice Islands. Since this was the place that spices were grown, he thought it was the best place to purchase them. He felt that if he could find a strait through the newly discovered continent, he could just sail across the new sea all the way to the Spice Islands. Before he could do that thought, he needed full support from the king. The problem was that King Manuel did not like Magellan's idea and rejected it. When it became clear that the king would not support him, he asked permission to leave and work for a different king. King Manual made it obvious that he didn't want anything to do with Magellan. Eventually he won back his good name.

ORIGINS & MARRIAGE Little is known about Magellan's background. He was the son of Rui de Magalh�es (son of Pedro Afonso de Magalh�es and wife Quinta de Sousa) and wife Dona Alda de Mesquita, and brother of Duarte de Sousa, Diogo de Sousa and Isabel de Magalh�es, but exactly how he is related to the respective families it is not known. He married Diego Barbosa's daughter Beatriz Barbosa and fathered two children, one of whom was called Rodrigo de Magalh�es. And the other was Carlos de Magalh�es. He became a Spanish citizen.

After his marriage Magellan went to the king of Spain, Charles I. He presented a plan that he felt could not fail. He said that he knew of a secret strait through the new continent. He would sail through that strait and go to the Spice Islands. If for some reason he was unable to find the strait, he would turn back and sail the usual way around Africa. The king could not disagree with a plan that meant that one way or another, Magellan would get to the Spice Islands.


Believing yet that there was a way around the Americas to the spice islands, in 1513 Magellan asked King Manuel of Portugal for permission to sail to the Spice Islands in the Far East. These islands grew cloves and many other spices which would be very valuable if brought back to Spain. His best maps convinced him that he could sail to the Spice Islands (which are now part of Indonesia) by going around the southern tip of South America. He thought that this route would be shorter than the eastward trip to the southern tip of Africa and across the Indian Ocean. Of course, he thought that the Spice Islands were very close to South America. He didn't realize how big the Pacific Ocean was. Nobody knew at that time. King Manuel refused Magellan's proposal because he didn't like Magellan.

In 1518 renouncing his Portugeuse citizenship, Magellan left Portugal, journeying to Spain in hopes of transferring his services to Spain's King Charles of Castile. On March 22, 1518, King Charles approved Magellan's plan and granted him generous funds. The king promised Magellan one-fifth of the profits from the voyage to the Spice Islands. With money from the king, the explorer was able to obtain five ships called the Trinidad, the San Antonio, the Concepcion, the Victoria, and the Santiago. Unfortunately the ships - the San Antonio, Trinidad, Concepcion, Victoria, and Santiago - were barely seaworthy, and the crews, including some officers, were of international composition and of dubious loyalty to their leader. With Magellan went his brother-in-law, Duarte Barbosa, and the loyal and able commander of the Santiago, João Serrão. Unfortunately the ships - the San Antonio, Trinidad, Concepcion, Victoria, and Santiago - were barely seaworthy, and the crews, including some officers, were of international composition and of dubious loyalty to their leader. With Magellan went his brother-in-law, Duarte Barbosa, and the loyal and able commander of the Santiago, João Serrão. Getting the voyage ready took more that a year.

Magellan's backers arranged an audience with Spain's 17 year old King Charles I, who had to approve the expedition. From the start everything went well. The youthful king was impressed by the limping veteran's passionate ambition, his geographical logic, and his personal knowledge of the Indies. Most likely, Magellan's past exploits and the drama of the proposed voyage itself also appealed to the young king's sense of adventure. In any case, he was well aware of the profits Spain could expect to reap if it broke the Portuguese monopoly of the spice trade by opening a new westward route to the Indies. On March 22, 1518, King Charles approved the financing of "a voyage to discover unknown lands" by way of the unexplored strait and appointed Magellan captain general of the expedition.

At Seville, preparations for the voyage took a full 18 months to complete. The long delay was partly the result of the machinations of King Manuel's consul at Seville. Although the expedition's destination was an official secret, Manuel's spies had found out the truth, and the king was determined to undermine this Spanish attempt to poach on the wealth of what he considered his personal realm in the Indies. Even more sinister were the plots of Don Juan de Fonseca, bishop of Burgos and counselor to the Spanish king, and German bankers who were financing the expedition. Appalled by the generous rewards King Charles had promised Magellan and fearing that the expedition was becoming too "Portuguese," they planned to limit Magellan's authority.

In the course of several months of intrigue, Bishop Fonseca succeeded in having his illegitimate son, Juan de Cartagena, appointed captain of one of the ships (the others were commanded by Portuguese officers) and sympathetic Spaniards placed in a number of other key positions.

Through it all, Magellan worked methodically at the task of equipping his fleet for exploration. Five ships were purchased: the Trinidad (Magellan's flagship), the San Antonio, the Concepcion, the Victoria, and the Santiago. "They are very old and patched," the Portuguese consul wrote contemptuously to King Manuel, "and I would be sorry to sail even for the Canaries in them, for their ribs are as soft as butter." He did not realize that Magellan, who was as much a sailor as a soldier, was having the ships expertly reconstructed to withstand the hazards of the coming voyage.

One of the greatest problems was recruiting enough sailors to man the fleet. Haughty Castilian seamen were reluctant to serve under a foreign born commander. More important, the taciturn Magellan refused to say exactly where he was going, and professional mariners balked at signing up for a voyage of at least two years "to an unknown world." The only really willing recruit, in fact, seems to have been Antonio Pigafetta, a young Italian nobleman who wanted to see "the very great and awful things of the ocean." Secretly, he may also have been a spy for Venetian merchants interested in the spice trade. Whatever the case, history is in Pigafetta's debt. His lively, detailed diary is a firsthand account of Magellan's momentous voyage.

Despite the difficulties, the captain-general eventually managed to sign up a full complement of about 250 men, including Italians, Frenchmen, Germans, Flemings, Moors, and blacks, as well as Spaniards and Portuguese. He seemed confident that his iron personality would Weld this motley assembly into a disciplined corps of explorers.


The voyage began on September 20, 1519. His first destination was southern Spain. From his ship Magellan commanded a total of 241 men and a fleet of five ships. Following the coast of Africa to Sierre Leone, they crossed the Atlantic and reached South America. The waters around the tip of South America are among the most dangerous in the world. For eight weeks they battled against storms. Pigafetta recorded that twenty-nine crew members died of scurvy during the long voyage across the Pacific.

Right from the onset the crew conspired to undermine Magellan's authority. This peaked while in the Canary Islands during the early weeks of the voyage. A message from his father-in-law warned him that three captains were planning to murder him.

On November 27, they crossed the equator; on December 6, the crew sighted Brazil. Arriving at Brazil, the fleet sailed down the South American coast to the Patagonian bay of San Julián, where it wintered from March to August 1520. There an attempted mutiny was squelched, with only the top leaders being punished. Juan de Cartagena, one of the captains of Magellans ships was involved in two plots of mutiny, but Magellan stood firm through both. Cartagena is quoted as having said: "No longer am I prepared to follow the hazardous course set by a fool." Cartagena ordered the captains to stab Magellan but was immediately overpowered, dragged across the deck and placed in stocks. Although Magellan had the right to behead Cartagena, he spared his life following the first mutiny, but after the second, decided to maroon Cartagena on the Patagonian coast.

Thereafter, however, the Santiago was wrecked, and its crew had to be taken aboard the other vessels. The ships followed the South American coast. They landed on the bay where Rio de Janeiro now stands. They remained there for two weeks and then sailed south to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean. However, they could not find the passage before the end of summer in the southern hemisphere. In September [1519], he set sail with 270 men.

On Oct. 21, 1520, the ships entered the passage later to be called the Strait of Magellan. They took over a month to travel through the strait, during which time the captain of the San Antonio deserted and returned to Spain with the ship. Professional scientists went along on the sea voyage to help determine the species of some of the animals he found on his voyage. On November 28, however, the three remaining vessels emerged into what Magellan named the Pacific Ocean.

One of the phenomena recorded by Pigafetta was that of St. Elmo's Fire, names for one of the saints said to care for seamen. It's a luminous discharge that occurs during electrical storms. It was seen during Magellan's voyage and was taken by the crew as a sign, that in spite of severe conditions at sea, they were going to be protected.

Two of the closest galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds, were discovered by crew members in the Southern Hemisphere. The full extent of the Earth was also realized, since their voyage was 14,460 leagues (69,800 km or 43,400 mi).

Finally, the need for an International date line was established. Upon their return they observed a mismatch of one day between their calendars and those who did not travel, even though they faithfully maintained their ship's log. However, they did not have clocks accurate enough to observe the variation in the length of the day during the journey. This phenomenon caused great excitement at the time, to the extent that a special delegation was sent to the Pope to explain this oddity to him.

Ferdinand Magellan, is most famous for having conquered the difficulties of the Antarctic Strait. A good deal of what we know of the voyage of Magellan came from an Italian crew member, Antonio Pigafetta. Pigafetta kept a diary of the voyage and remained a staunch supporter of the Portuguese explorer. Like Columbus, Magellan was a foreigner in charge of Spanish captains, and like Columbus, his voyage was fraught with problems. Spanish captains Juan de Cartegena of the San Antonio, Gaspar de Quesada of the Concepcion, and Luis de Mendoza of the Victoria were plotting to kill Magellan.


Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on February 13, 1521. On March 6, they reached the Marianas and Guam. Magellan called the island of Guam the "Island of Sails" because they saw a lot of sailboats. They renamed it to "Ladrones Island" (Island of Thieves) because a lot of small boats of Trinidad were stolen here. On March 16, Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crewmen left. Magellan was able to communicate with the native peoples because his Malay interpreter, Enrique of Malacca, could understand their language. They traded gifts with Rajah Kolambu of Limasawa, who guided them to Cebu, on April 7. Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly to them, and even agreed to accept Christianity. Afterward, Magellan made friends with Datu Zula, and agreed to join forces with him in a battle against Lapu-Lapu.

On March 16, Magellan discovered the Archipelago of San Lazaro, afterwards called the Philippines. He thought to stay here for a time, safe from the Portuguese, and to allow his men opportunity to rest and to repair his ships, so as to arrive in good condition at the now not so distant Moluccas. He was received in a friendly manner by the chief of the island of Cebu. Magellan died during his voyage of discovery on the Island of Mactan in the Philippines, 27 April 1521.

After having befriended an island king, Magellan foolishly got involved in the natives' tribal warfare and was killed in battle, while defending the withdrawal of his landing party. He was killed while trying to punish chiefs of an outlying island who chose not to give up their heathen religion. They would fight in defence of their right to maintain their original faith. One local chief Cilapulapu,who lived on the nearby island of Mactan, saying he and his people would continue to hold their old beliefs. Led by Magellan, 48 of his remaining crew staggered ashore in water to their waists. Waiting for them were thousands of armed Mactans. Forced back into the water, Magellan fought bravely to defend his crew and the ships, but it proved overwhelming odds against them. He was killed by a group of the islanders led by their chief, Lapu-Lapu. Lapu-Lapu (Kaliph Pulaka) (c.1491-1547) was the earliest known indigenous Visayan Muslim chieftain, and datu (king) of Mactan in the Philippines. He is known as the first native of the archipelago to have resisted Spanish colonization, andis now regarded as the first National hero of the Philippines, for resisting this first European invasion.

One of the folklore about Lapu-Lapu also tells of a man forewarned about the attack. In a council with other people in the tribe over the coming battle, Lapu-Lapu reportedly took his pestle and said he was going to throw it hard and if it would go through three coconut trees then they had nothing to fear because they were going to win. It did and the rest is history and myth.

By the time of Magellan's death in the Philippines, his fleet had been reduced to three vessels and just 120 of the original crew of 270. Juan Lopez Carvalho, who had taken command, decided to burn one of the ships, the Concepcion, because there was not sufficient manpower to sail it. But it was not just the ship that he burned. He ordered every single one of Magellan's papers, his logs, diaries, letters, destroyed. He may have realized that in recording details of the expedition, including mutinies and lack of discipline, particularly among the Spanish, these were not things he wanted told.

The place where Lapu-Lapu and his men triumphed over the Spanish invaders on April 27, 1521 has been turned into a shrine. The shrine sits along the boundaries of the villages of Punta Engaño and Mactan in Lapu-Lapu City on the island of Mactan.

In Cebu, Magellan became friends with Rajah Humabon who prevailed upon the Portuguese explorer to go to Mactan and punish Lapu-Lapu. It is widely believed that Humabon was at odds with Lapu-Lapu and that they fought over control of land.


Antonio Francesco Pigafetta, a Venetian writer kept a journal that survives as the most detailed record of the expedition: This provides the only extant eyewitness account 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... Recognising 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.

After Magellan's death, command of the fleet was first taken by Duarte Barbosa, the brother in law of Magellan and a Spanish captain. Barbosa tried, but was unable to recover the body of Magellan from the ruler in Mactan. The Europeans were invited to a farewell banquet that was a trap. During the attack, 27 of them, including nearly all of the officers died. Command now passed to Carvalho, who seems not to have had the slightest clue as to how to proceed. It's said by some that Carvalho turned pirate, sailing to the South China Sea for many monthes, plundering and overcoming ship after ship. The crew was soon up in arms and Carvalho was relieved of his command. In his place the men elected Gonzales de Espinosa as captain. He had no skill as a navigator, but was well liked, honest and tough enough to restore discipline.

The fleet, now reduced to Trinidad and Victoria, fled westward to Palawan. They left that island on June 21, 1521, 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 the Venetian Pigafetta mentions the splendor of Rajah Siripada's court (gold, two pearls the size of hens' eggs, etc.)

Antonio Pigafetta, chronicler of Magellan’s trip, survived the battle in Mactan and told of how they were overwhelmingly overpowered on the island’s shores by at least 1,500 native warriors, a report that has been held by historians as questionable and grossly exaggerated. . In addition, Brunei boasted tame elephants and armament of 62 cannon, more than 5 times the armament of Magellan's ships. Brunei disdained the 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 (which was not yet widely available in Europe), and spectacles (eyeglasses were only just becoming available in Europe).

Magellan provided in his will that Enrique, his interpreter, was to be freed upon his death. However, after 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. However, Pigafetta had been making notes about the language, and was apparently able to continue communications during the rest of the voyage.

The two remaining ships, laden with valuable spices, attempted to return to Spain by sailing west. The Victoria set sail via the Indian Ocean route home on December 21, 1521. By May 6, 1522, the Victoria, commanded by Juan Sebastien Elcano, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, with only rice for rations. Twenty crewmen died of starvation before Elcano put in to the Cape Verde Islands, a Portuguese holding, where he abandoned 13 more crewmen on July 9 in fear of losing his cargo of 26 tons of spices (cloves and cinnamon). The death of crew members totaled 232 Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French, English and German sailors that died on the expedition around the world with Magellan. Of 270 who set sail, only 18 returned to port.

As they left the Moluccas, however, Trinidad was found to be taking 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. The small Victoria was not large enough to accommodate all the surviving crew members. On June 9, 1522, Juan Sebastian Elcano, navigating Magellan's only remaining vessel La Victoria with eighteen men and 533-hundred weight-cloves on board, successfully returned to Sanl�car de Barrameda in Spain via the Tidorein Maluka (present-day Moluccas), Juan Sebastian Elcano was listed in world history as the first man to have ever completed the circumnavigation of the world. The cargo of spices carried back to Spain by the Victoria alone paid for the expenses of the expedition. The passage through the Strait of Magellan was too long and difficult to be a practical route from Europe to the Moluccas, however, and Spain sold her interests there to Portugal. Nevertheless, the voyage laid the foundation for trade across the Pacific between the New World and the East, and although Spain did not immediately recognize the importance of the Philippines, before the end of the century Manila had become the greatest Spanish trading centre in the East.

Magellan's circumnavigation, together with the earlier voyages of Vasco da Gama and Christopher Columbus, finally re-established in the popular imagination of Europeans that the world was a sphere, and demonstrated that the world's oceans were linked (since ancient Greek times Europeans had thought the Indian Ocean was landlocked). In addition, Magellan enabled cartographers for the first time to make an estimate of the true size and shape of South America, and the full vastness of the Pacific Ocean.

Although Magellan did not complete the voyage, he is considered the first person to circle the world because Cebu is west of the Moluccas. Sailing west, he had reached a point beyond the point he had reached earlier when sailing east.

THE VICTORIA (Ships Log) The eighteen who returned to Seville in the Victoria.

* Juan Sebastian Elcano, captain-general. * Miguel de Rodas, boatswain (contramaestre) of the Victoria. * Francisco Albo, of Axio, boatswain of the Trinidad. * Juan de Acurio, of Bermeo, boatswain of the Concepcion. * Maartin de Judicibus, of Genoa, superintendent of the Concepcion. * Hernando de Bustamante, of Alcantara, barber of the Concepcion. * Juan de Zuvileta, of Baracaldo, page of the Victoria. * Miguel Sanchez, of Rodas, skilled seaman (marinero) of the Victoria. * Nicholas the Greek, of Naples, marinero of the Victoria. * Diego Gallego, of Bayonne, marinero of the Victoria. * Juan Rodriguez, of Seville, marinero of the Trinidad. * Antonio Rodriguez, of Huelva, marinero of the Trinidad. * Francisco Rodriguez, of Seville (a Portuguese), marinero of the Concepcion. * Juan de Arratia, of Bilbao, common sailor (grumete) of the Victoria. * Vasco Gomez Gallego (a Portuguese), grumete of the Trinidad. * Juan de Santandres, of Cueto, grumete of the Trinidad. * Martin de Isaurraga, of Bermeo, grumete of the Concepcion. * The Chevalier Antonio Pigafetta, of Vicenza, passanger.


The thirteen who were arrested at the Cape Verde islands. * Pedro de Indarchi, of Teneriffe, master of the Santiago. * Richard, from Normandy, carpenter of the Santiago. * Simon de Burgos (a Portugese), servant of Mendoza, the traitor captain of the Victoria. * Juan Martin, of Aguilar de Campo, servant of the same Mendoza. * Rooldan de Argote, of Bruges, bombardier of the Concepcion. * Martin Mendez, of Seville, accountant of the Victoria. * Juan Ortiz de Gopega, of Bilbao, steward of the San Antonio. * Pedro Gasco, of Bordeaux, marinero of the Santiago. * Ocacio Alonso, of Bollullos, marinero of the Santiago. * Gomez Hernandez, of Huelva, marinero of the Concepcion. * Felippe de Rodas, of Rodas, marinero of the Victoria. * Pedro de Tolsa, from Guipuzcoa, grumete of the Victoria.

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