Ferdinand Magellan, in a 16/17th century anonymous portrait
Fernão de Magalhães
|Died||April 27, 1521 (aged 41)|
|Known for||The first circumnavigation of the Earth|
Ferdinand Magellan (// or //; Portuguese: Fernão de Magalhães, IPA: [fɨɾˈnɐ̃w dɨ mɐɣɐˈʎɐ̃jʃ]; Spanish: Fernando de Magallanes, IPA: [feɾˈnando ðe maɣaˈʎanes]; c. 1480 – 27 April 1521) was a Portuguese explorer who organised the Spanish expedition to the East Indies from 1519 to 1522, resulting in the first circumnavigation of the Earth, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano.
Born into a family of the Portuguese nobility in around 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer and was in service of the Portuguese crown in Asia. After King Manuel I of Portugal refused to support his plan to reach India by a new route, by sailing around the southern end of America, he was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the "Spice Islands"). Commanding a fleet of five vessels, he headed south through the Atlantic Ocean to Patagonia, passing through the Strait of Magellan into a body of water he named the "peaceful sea" (the modern Pacific Ocean). Despite a series of storms and mutinies, the expedition reached the Spice Islands in 1521 and returned home via the Indian Ocean to complete the first circuit of the globe. Magellan did not complete the entire voyage, as he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines in 1521.
Magellan had already reached the Malay Archipelago in Southeast Asia on previous voyages traveling east (from 1505 to 1511–1512). By visiting this area again but now travelling west, Magellan achieved a nearly complete personal circumnavigation of the globe for the first time in history.
The Magellanic penguin is named after him, as he was the first European to note it. Magellan's navigational skills have also been acknowledged in the naming of objects associated with the stars, including the Magellanic Clouds, now known to be two nearby dwarf galaxies; the twin lunar craters of Magelhaens and Magelhaens A; and the Martian crater of Magelhaens.
Early life and travels
Magellan was born in the Portuguese town of Sabrosa in or around 1480. His father, Pedro de Magalhães, was a minor member of Portuguese nobility and mayor of the town. His mother was Alda de Mezquita. He was brought up as a page of Queen Eleanor, consort of King John II. In 1495 he entered the service of Manuel I, John's successor.
In March 1505 at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Although his name does not appear in the chronicles, it is known that he remained there eight years, in Goa, Cochin and Quilon. He participated in several battles, including the battle of Cannanore in 1506, where he was wounded. In 1509 he fought in the battle of Diu. He later sailed under Diogo Lopes de Sequeira in the first Portuguese embassy to Malacca, with Francisco Serrão, his friend and possibly cousin. In September, after arriving at Malacca, the expedition fell victim to a conspiracy ending in retreat. Magellan had a crucial role, warning Sequeira and saving Francisco Serrão, who had landed.
In 1511, under the new governor Afonso de Albuquerque, Magellan and Serrão participated in the conquest of Malacca. After the conquest their ways parted: Magellan was promoted, with a rich plunder and, in the company of a Malay he had indentured and baptized, Enrique of Malacca, he returned to Portugal in 1512. Serrão departed in the first expedition sent to find the "Spice Islands" in the Moluccas, where he remained. He married a woman from Amboina and became a military advisor to the Sultan of Ternate, Bayan Sirrullah. His letters to Magellan would prove decisive, giving information about the spice-producing territories.
After taking a leave without permission, Magellan fell out of favour. Serving in Morocco, he was wounded, resulting in a permanent limp. He was accused of trading illegally with the Moors. The accusations were proven false, but he received no further offers of employment after 15 May 1514. Later on in 1515, he got an employment offer as a crew member on a Portuguese ship, but rejected this. In 1517 after a quarrel with King Manuel I, who denied his persistent demands to lead an expedition to reach the spice islands from the east (i.e., while sailing westwards, seeking to avoid the need to sail around the tip of Africa), he was allowed to leave for Spain. In Seville he befriended his countryman Diogo Barbosa and soon married the daughter of Diogo's second wife, Maria Caldera Beatriz Barbosa. They had two children: Rodrigo de Magalhães and Carlos de Magalhães, both of whom died at a young age. His wife died in Seville around 1521.
Meanwhile, Magellan devoted himself to studying the most recent charts, investigating, in partnership with cosmographer Rui Faleiro, a gateway from the Atlantic to the South Pacific and the possibility of the Moluccas being Spanish according to the demarcation of the Treaty of Tordesillas.
Background and preparations
After having his proposed expeditions to the Spice Islands repeatedly rejected by King Manuel of Portugal, Magellan turned to Charles I, the young King of Spain (and future Holy Roman Emperor). Under the 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas, Portugal controlled the eastern routes to Asia that went around Africa. Magellan instead proposed reaching the Spice Islands by a western route, a feat which had never been accomplished. Hoping that this would yield a commercially useful trade route for Spain, Charles approved the expedition, and provided most of the funding.
The fleet left spain on 20 September 1519, sailing west across the Atlantic toward South America. In December, they made landfall at Rio de Jainero. From there, they sailed south along the coast, searching for a way through or around the continent. After three months of searching (including a false start in the estuary of Río de la Plata), weather conditions forced the fleet to stop their search to wait out the winter. They found a sheltered natural harbor at the port of Saint Julian, and remained there for five months.
Shortly after landing at St. Julian, there was a mutiny attempt led by the Spanish captains Juan de Cartagena, Gaspar de Quesada and Luiz Mendoza. Magellan barely managed to quell the mutiny, despite at one point losing control of three of his five ships to the mutineers. Mendoza was killed during the conflict, and Magellan sentenced Quesada and Cartagena to being beheaded and marooned, respectively. Lower-level conspirators were made to do hard labor in chains over the winter, but later freed.
During the winter, one of the fleet's ships, the Santiago, was lost in a storm while surveying nearby waters, though no men were killed.
Following the winter, the fleet resumed their search for a passage to the Pacific in October 1520. Three days later, they found a bay which eventually led them to a strait, now known as the Strait of Magellan, which allowed them passage through to the Pacific. While exploring the strait, one of the remaining four ships, the San Antonio, deserted the fleet, returning east to Spain.
The fleet reached the Pacific by the end of November 1520. Based on the incomplete understanding of world geography at the time, Magellan expected a short journey to Asia, perhaps taking as little as three or four days. In fact, the Pacific crossing took three months and twenty days. The long journey exhausted their supply of food and water, and around 30 men died, mostly of scurvy. Magellan himself remained healthy, perhaps because of his personal supply of preserved quince.
On 6 March 1521, the exhausted fleet made landfall at the island of Guam and were met by native Chamorro people who came aboard the ships and took items such as rigging, knives, and a ship's boat. Magellan sent a raiding party ashore to retaliate, killing several Chammoro men, burning their houes, and recovering the stolen goods.
On 16 March, the fleet reached the Phillipines, where they would remain for a month and a half. Magellan befriended local leaders on the island of Limasawa, and on March 31, held the first Mass in the Philippines, planting a cross on the island's highest hill. Magellan set about converting the locals to Christianity. Most accepted the new religion readily, but the island of Mactan resisted. On 21 April, Magellan and members of his crew attempted to subdue the Mactan natives by force, but in the ensuing battle, the Europeans were overpowered and Magellan was killed.
Following his death, Magellan was initially succeeded by co-commanders Juan Serrano and Duarte Barbosa (with a series of other officers later leading). The fleet left the Philippines (following a bloody betrayal by former ally Rajah Humabon) and eventually made their way to the Moluccas in November 1521. Laden with spices, they attempted to set sail for Spain in December, but found that only one of their remaining two ships, the Victoria, was seaworthy. The Victoria, captained by Juan Sebastián Elcano, finally returned to Spain by 6 September 1522, completing the circumnavigation. Of the 270 men who left with the expedition, only 18 or 19 survivors returned.
After several weeks in the Philippines, Magellan had converted as many as 2,200 locals to Christianity, including Rajah Humabon of Cebu and most leaders of the islands around Cebu. However, the island of Mactan, led by Lapu-Lapu resisted conversion. On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small force. During the resulting battle against Lapu-Lapu's troops, Magellan was struck by a bamboo spear, and later surrounded and finished off with other weapons.
Pigafetta and Ginés de Mafra provided written documents 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... Recognizing 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.[better source needed]
"Nothing of Magellan's body survived, that afternoon the grieving rajah-king, hoping to recover his remains, offered Mactan's victorious chief a handsome ransom of copper and iron for them but Datu Lapulapu refused. He intended to keep the body as a war trophy. Since his wife and child died in Seville before any member of the expedition could return to Spain, it seemed that every evidence of Ferdinand Magellan's existence had vanished from the earth."
Aftermath and legacy
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Antonio Pigafetta's journal is the main source for much of what is known about Magellan and Elcano's voyage. The other direct report of the voyage was that of Francisco Albo, the last Victoria's pilot, who kept a formal logbook. Europeans first learned of the circumnavigation through an account written by Maximilianus Transylvanus, a relative of sponsor Christopher de Haro, who interviewed survivors in 1522 and published his account in 1523.
Since there was not a set limit to the east, in 1524 both kingdoms had tried to find the exact location of the antimeridian of Tordesillas, which would divide the world into two equal hemispheres and to resolve the "Moluccas issue". A board met several times without reaching an agreement: the knowledge at that time was insufficient for an accurate calculation of longitude, and each gave the islands to their sovereign. An agreement was reached only with the Treaty of Zaragoza, signed on 1529 between Spain and Portugal. It assigned the Moluccas to Portugal and the Philippines to Spain. The course that Magellan charted was followed by other navigators, such as Sir Francis Drake. In 1565, Andrés de Urdaneta discovered the Manila-Acapulco route.
In 1525, soon after the return of Magellan's expedition, Charles V sent an expedition led by García Jofre de Loaísa to occupy the Moluccas, claiming that they were in his zone of the Treaty of Tordesillas. This expedition included the most notable Spanish navigators: Juan Sebastián Elcano, who, along with many other sailors, died of malnutrition during the voyage, and the young Andrés de Urdaneta. They had difficulty reaching the Moluccas, docking at Tidore. The Portuguese were already established in nearby Ternate and the two nations had nearly a decade of skirmishing over the "possession." (occupied by indigenous peoples.)
Magellan's expedition was the first to circumnavigate the globe and the first to navigate the strait in South America connecting the Atlantic and the Pacific oceans. Magellan's name for the Pacific was adopted by other Europeans.
Magellan's crew observed several animals that were entirely new to European science, including a "camel without humps", which was probably a guanaco, whose range extends to Tierra del Fuego. The llama, vicuña and alpaca natural ranges were in the Andes mountains. A black "goose" that had to be skinned instead of plucked was a penguin.
The full extent of the globe was realized, since their voyage was 14,460 Spanish leagues (60,440 km or 37,560 mi). The global expedition showed the need for an International Date Line to be established. Upon returning the expedition found its date was a day behind, although they had faithfully maintained the ship's log. They lost one day because they traveled west during their circumnavigation of the globe, opposite to Earth's daily rotation. This caused great excitement at the time, and a special delegation was sent to the Pope to explain the oddity to him.
The Order of Magellan was established in 1902 to honour those who complete a circumnavigation and make other contributions to humanity.
Two of the closest galaxies, the Magellanic Clouds in the southern celestial hemisphere, were named for Magellan sometime after 1800. The Ferdinand Magellan train rail car (also known as U.S. Car. No. 1) is a former Pullman Company observation car that was re-built by the U.S. Government for presidential use from 1943 until 1958.
Three craters, two located on the Moon and one on Mars, have been named after Magellan using the spelling "Magelhaens". The names were adopted by the International Astronomical Union in 1935 (Magelhaens on the Moon), 1976 (Magelhaens on Mars), and 2006 (Magelhaens A on the Moon). The asteroid 4055 Magellan, discovered in 1985, and the Magellan probe to Venus (1989–1994) were also named after him.
The five hundredth anniversary of Magellan's expedition and circumnavigation will be commemorated in a series of events organised by the municipal council of Sanlucar de Barrameda in Spain, and supported by philanthropic organisations.
- Portrayed by Oscar Keesee in the 1955 Filipino film, Lapu-Lapu.
- Portrayed by Dante Rivero in the 2002 Filipino film, Lapu-Lapu.
- Portrayed by Dingdong Dantes in the 2011 Philippine TV series, Amaya.
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- Quotations related to Ferdinand Magellan at Wikiquote
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