x Ferdinand Magellan was born in Portugal around 1480. The exact location and date are unknown, however sources state he was the son of Rodrigo de Magalhaes and Alda de Mesquita, wealthy Portuguese nobles. His parents died around the time Ferdinand turned ten years of age, and Magellan was taken into Queen Leonora’s court as a Page, where he studied celestial navigation, cartography and astronomy, all of which would help with his later career.
In 1505 when at the age of 25, Magellan was on board a vessel bound for East Africa. In 1509 he took part in the Battle of Dui, in the Arabian Sea, and in 1511 was part of the conquest of Malacca’s Port in what is now Malaysia, and during this period he acquired a native indentured man-servant whom he baptised Enrique. It is possible that from here, Magellan may well have sailed as far as the Spice Islands (Moluccas) in Indonesia.
Magellan’s friend from the conquest of Malacca, Francisco Serrao, whose life Ferdinand has saved, later was part of the expedition to Moluccas, where he remained, whilst the ship returned to Portugal. Serrao married a local woman and befriended the Sultan of Ternate, and was given the job of military advisor. Serrao gained a lot of useful information regarding the local production of spices which he wrote about to Magellan.
In 1514, after taking an unauthorised break from his exploring duties, Magellan was accused of trading illegally with the Moors, later proof was found to exonerate him of the accusation, but despite this he fell out of favour with the Portuguese court, and further offers of expedition were withdrawn. He was offered a private job crewing a ship in 1515 which he turned down.
In 1517, after an argument with King Manuel, Magellan left Portugal for Spain, where he befriended fellow Portuguese exile, Diogo Barbosa, and later married his daughter, Maria. Ferdinand and Maria quickly had two sons, Rodrigo and Carlos, who both sadly died as infants, Maria died in Seville in 1521, while Ferdinand was at sea. (Logic suggests he must have been aware of her death, and those of his children, as the crew took this into account when Magellan himself was murdered a few months later.)
Late in 1517, with the assistance of Juan de Aranda, and accompanied by his friend and fellow explorer, Magellan was able to obtain an audience with Charles I, (Later Holy Roman Emperor Charles V), nephew to English Queen Catherine of Aragon, whose parents had sponsored previous exploration by Christopher Columbus. Charles was eager to learn if Columbus’ prediction of a western route to the Indies was possible, which would remove the need to sail around the Portuguese held East African route.
Charles agreed to sponsor the proposed expedition, and provided five fully stocked vessels for the trip. Despite some delays, including Portuguese interference, which made Charles somewhat suspicious, leading to a mass change of crew, the expedition finally departed on the 10th August 1519 and after reaching the mouth of the Guadalquivir River, set sail on open water after a wait of five weeks, on 20th September 1519.
King Manuel sent a Portuguese naval vessel to track and impede Magellan, however he managed to evade this. His route took the ships via the Canary Islands, to Cape Verde, then on to Rio de Janiero, avoiding the Portuguese-held Brazilian territory, which they reached on December 13th and re-supplied the vessels. Bad weather caused a delay, but they were subsequently able to follow the Eastern coast of South America, looking for the strait that Magellan believed would take them to the Spice Islands. They reached Rio de la Plata in February 1520 and made temporary settlement for the harsh weather in Puerto San Julian the following month. Unfortunately over the Easter period, a mutiny involving three of the ships captains broke out, and action ordered by Magellan to break the mutiny caused the death of Luis de Mendoza, captain of the Victoria. The other two captains involved surrendered. Gaspar de Quesada of the Concepcion and his main band of mutineers were subsequently executed, by drawing, quartering and their remains impaled on the coast, the captain of the San Antonio, Juan de Cartagena and a priest, Padre Sanchez de la Reina were marooned on the coast with the bodies, which were allegedly found many years later by Sir Francis Drake during his voyage and exploration of the area. The rest of the crews were forgiven for their part in the mutiny. Duarte Barbosa was given command of the Victoria for his part in putting down the mutiny.
After losing the Santiago in a storm, shortly after, whilst on a scouting mission, (the crew made it to safety on land) two of the men were able to make it over land to camp and alert Magellan who made the decision to sit out the bad weather, and the remaining four ships departed, to eventually arrive at Cape Virgenes on 21st October 1520, where they concluded they had found the entrance to the sought after passage, due to the colour of the water, and that it seemed deep inland. They travelled through on All Saints Day, 1st November, christening the passage All Saints Passage, later the name was changed to the Strait of Magellan. It was 373 miles long. Magellan later issued orders for further exploration of the strait to the Concepcion and the San Antonio, however the San Antonia subsequently deserted and sailed back to Spain. Eight days later on November 28th 1520, the three remaining ships exited the Strait into the Pacific Ocean. They headed Northwest, reaching the equator on February 13th, and on 6th March reached Marianas and Guam, the Islands of Sails, where they were robbed blind in the night by the islanders. Ten days later they reached the Island of Homonhon in the Philippines, where they were greeted enthusiastically by Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua, who in turn led them to Cebu where they met Rajah Humabon and his wife, who Magellan converted to Christianity and baptised. Along with his ally, Datu Zula, Humabon persuaded Magellan to kill his enemy Datu Lapu-Lapu on the nearby island of Mactan, who Magellan also wanted to convert, but he refused.
On the morning of 27th April, Magellan took a small attack force to the island but, after leaving 11 men to guard the ships, and wading inland, he was confronted with an armed force of approximately 1500 islanders, equipped with bamboo spears, cutlasses and other weapons, according to the journal of Pigafetta, expedition recorder. After being hit in the face with a spear, the enemy realised who he was, and swarmed him. He was cut badly on the arm with a cutlass, which brought him face down and then a large number dived on him and hacked him to pieces, Magellan fought bravely, all the time looking back to see that his men got back to the ships safely, before succumbing to his brave death. Rajah Humabon later offered Datu Lapu-Lapu a payment for the remains of Magellan but he refused, intending to keep what little was left as a war trophy. As they knew his wife and children were dead, they knew that there was not much reason to push for the remains.
Magellan had apparently willed the freedom of his servant Enrique, but the remaining captains refused, so another battle led by Humabon took place which claimed the lives of a further 30 crew. Due to loss of crew, the remaining men were forced to abandon the Concepcion and burned her, and the remaining crew of 115 men from 240, finally reached the Spice Islands on 6th November 1521, where they were greeted by and traded with the Sultan of Tidore, rival of the Portuguese ally Sultan of Ternate. After embarking for Spain, the Trinidad began to take on water. After attempts to find and fix the leak were unsuccessful, it was decided some of the crew would remain with the Trinidad, and put her in for a major service before completing the journey home. The rest of the crew joined the Victoria. The Trinidad was subsequently captured by the Portuguese on her way home and later wrecked during a storm.
The Victoria took the route via the Indian Ocean, after setting sail on December 21st 1521. The Captain was Juan Sebastian Elcano, one of the forgiven mutineers from earlier in the voyage. By the 6th May as they rounded the Cape of Good Hope, they were down to rice rations and before they pulled into Cape Verde on 9th July, 20 further crew members had succumbed to starvation. At the Cape, Elcano was reluctant to lose his precious 26 ton cargo of spices and so he abandoned another 13 crew. On 6th September 1522, Elcano and the remaining crew reached Spain, on the Victoria three years after setting sail. They had successfully completed the first single-voyage circumnavigation of the globe. It had cost four ships and all but 18 crew members of the original 237 crew that set sail. Plus the life of the man whose dream it was.