By Ryan Liebe
Ferdinand Magellan, pronounced Me-jel-an and in Portuguese, Fernando de
Megalnaes, was born in Oporto of noble parentage. Magellan was a page for the Queen,
when he entered the Portuguese service in the East in 1505.
Magellan went to East Africa and was in the battle of Dju. The Portuguese
destroyed the Egyptian Naval Fleet in the Arabian Sea at the battle of Dju.. He went
twice to Malucca, the Malayan spice port. There he participated in its conquest by the
Portuguese. He may also have gone on an exploratory mission to the Molucca Island
(Spice Islands) which was the original source of some of the most valuable spices.
In 1513, Magellan was wounded in one of the many frustrating battles against the
Moors in North Africa. His services brought him little favor from the crown. In 1517,
accompanied by his friend, a Cosmographer, Ruy Faleiro, Magellan went to Seville where
he offered his services to the Spanish Court.
King Charles V of Spain (the Emperor Charles V) endorsed the plans of Magellan
and Falerio. On September 20, 1519, after preparing for a year, Magellan led a fleet of
five ships out into the Atlantic Ocean. Unfortunately, the five ships were full of men who
were barely sea worthy. But with the loyalty of the men to their leader, Magellan, they
successfully sailed down the South American coast to the Patagonian Bay of San Julian.
At the Bay of San Julian they wintered from March to August, 1320. There was an
attempted mutiny, but the mutiny was squelched. Only the top leader’s were punished.
Thereafter, however, the ship, Santiago, was wrecked and its crew had to be taken aboard
the other vessels.
Leaving San Julian, the fleet sailed southward. On October 21, 1520, the fleet
entered what is now called the Strait of Magellan. There they proceeded cautiously,
taking over a month to pass through the Strait. During this time, the master of the ship,
San Antonio, deserted and sailed back to Spain. Only three of the original five ships
entered the Pacific and it was March 6, 1521 that the fleet finally anchored at Guam.
Magellan then passed eastward to Cebu in the Philippines. There, in an effort to
gain the favor of a local ruler, he became embroiled in a local war. He was slain in battle
on April 27, 1321. Two men that sailed with Magellan, Barbosa and Serrao, were killed
shortly thereafter. With the crew wasted from sickness, the survivors were forced to
destroy the ship, Concepcion.
The great voyage circling the world was completed by a courageous former
maritimer, a Basque named Juan Sebastian del Cano. Commanding the ship, Victoria,
Juan Sebastian del Cano picked up a small cargo of spices in the Moluccas, crossed the
Indian Ocean, and traveled around the Cape of Good Hope from the East. With a greatly
reduced crew, he finally reached Seville on September 8, 1522.
In the meantime, the ship, Trinidad, was considered unfit to make the long voyage
home. The Trinidad had tried to beat its way against cross winds back across the Pacific
to Panama. The voyage revealed the vast extent of the Northern Pacific, but their attempt
to reach Panama failed. The Trinidad was forced back to the Moluccas. There its crew
was jailed by the Portuguese. Only four men returned to Spain after 3 years.
Magellan’s project brought little in the way of material benefit to Spain. The
Portuguese were well entrenched in the East. Their trans-African route, at the time,
proved to be the only feasible maritime connection to the Indian rights held by Portugal.
These rights were later, in part, resumed with the Spanish on their colonization of the
Philippines.Yet, though nearly destroying itself in the process, the Magellan fleet, for
the first time, revealed a navigable way to circle the world. His route brought the Spanish
explorers to South America, northward to Mexico and the western United States.In this,
its scientific aspect, it proved to be the greatest of all of the “conquests” undertaken by the
overseas adventurers of early modern Europe which were seeking gold, slaves and spices.