Ferdinand Magellan is acknowledged as being the first explorer to go around the world although he did not complete the journey.  In fact, the first person to sail around the world was a Malaysian, who had travelled back to Europe with Magellan many years earlier. Later, he accompanied Magellan as an interpreter on the circumnavigation.


Ferdinand (Fernao de Magalhaes) was a Portuguese sailor. He was born in 1480 at Sabrosa and died in 1521. He discovered the strait of Magellan.


Columbus landed in the 'new world' of the Americas in 1492. Explorers coming after him in the 16th century brought the news to Europe that the Pacific Ocean lay beyond the western coast of America. Suddenly people began to understand that they could reach the East by sailing westwards from Europe.





Europeans wanted silks, gems and spices from the East in increasing quantities. At the end of the 15th century, the Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama had found a route from Europe to India by sailing round the southern tip of Africa, but people thought there might be another route.
  Magellan wanted to try to reach south-east Asia, where many spices grew, by sailing westwards across the Atlantic Ocean. As his own king wouldn't finance the voyage, he got the help he needed from Spain instead. He hoped to find a passage through South America so that he could sail all the way from the Atlantic to the Pacific.


AKA Fernão de Magalhães

Born: 1480
Birthplace: Sabrosa, Trás-dos-Montes, Portugal
Died: 27-Apr-1521
Location of death: Philippines
Cause of death: War

Gender: Male
Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Explorer, Military

Nationality: Portugal
Executive summary: Circumnavigated the globe


Magellan was born of Portuguese nobility, though in his late thirties he renounced his Portuguese citizenship and came into service to the Spanish King Charles I.  It was to Charles that he announced his idea of  avoiding the well-entrenched Portuguese positions along the route to the East Indies by sailing west from Spain across the Atlantic and continuing in that direction (by-passing the Americas) until he arrived at the Indies from the East!  He received Charles' support and on September 20, 1519, he set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with five ships.


Magellan convinced Charles V of Spain (1500-1558) to fund an expedition to the southern part of the American continent where he discovered Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. On November 28, 1520 Magellan crossed the strait that was later named after him, venturing into a vast ocean where no westerners had ever sailed before. For the entire three months of north-westerly navigation, the ocean remained calm, prompting the travelers to call it the Pacific (the name means that it is a calm, peaceful ocean).  Magellan sailed on to the Philippines.





He crossed the Atlantic and in November arrived at modern-day Argentina, exploring the Río de la Plata and coming ashore for the winter at Patagonia.  Late the next spring he then continued southward around the storm-tossed and rocky straits off the southern tip of South America (the "Straits of Magellan") taking 38 days to make that dangerous passage, then headed westward across the Pacific.  He arrived at the Marianas.  He then continued on to the Philippines, arriving there in March of 1521.

He left Spain in 1519 with five ships and about 260 men. At first he did not tell his men where they were going because he thought they would be too frightened to obey him.
Magellan found the strait that is now named after him, but only by chance. When two of his ships were driven towards land in a storm, the men feared they would be dashed against the shore. Then, just in time, they spotted a small opening in the coastline. Fortunately for them, it was the passage for which they had been searching since they left home.

The new ocean was extraordinarily calm and peaceful when Magellan finally entered it, hence the PACIFIC OCEAN. By now one of his ships had deserted, but the other four started the journey across their newly discovered sea. To everyone's amazement, the crossing was to take three months and 20 days.

Nut it was not all plain sailing, for Magellan and his men suffered terrible hunger. They ran out of fresh food and many died of scurvy, an illness caused by a lack of the vitamin C found in fresh fruit and vegetables. One of the crew wrote:


'We ate only old biscuit reduced to powder, and full of grubs, and stinking from the dirt which the rats had made on it when eating the good biscuit, and we drank water that was yellow and stinking. The men were so hungry that if any of them caught a rat, he could sell it for a high price to someone who would eat it.'


Magellan was born in Northern Portugal (either in Sabrosa or in Oporto). His parents, Pedro Ruy de Magalhaes and Alda de Mezquita, were members of the nobility (they were wealthy and powerful).





Early in his career, Magellan sailed to India and to the Far East many times via Africa's Cape of Good Hope. He sailed for his native Portugal, but a dispute with the Portuguese King Manoel II turned him against the Portuguese. Thereafter, he sailed for Spain.

Magellan and his friend the astronomer Ruy de Falero proposed to King Charles V (of Spain) that a westward voyage around the tip of South America would take them to the Moluccas (spice-rich islands) and avoid the Portuguese (with whom they were competing fiercely). The voyage began September 8, 1519, and lasted until September 6, 1522 (almost 3 years). Magellan sailed from Seville, Spain, with five ships, the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Victoria, and Santiago. Three years later, only one ship (the Victoria) made it back to Seville, carrying only 18 of the original 270 crew members. Magellan was killed towards the end of the voyage, on the Island of Mactan in the Philippines, during a battle with the natives. The Basque navigator Juan Sebastián de Elcano (del Cano) completed the trip.


Portuguese mariner, honoured with being the first circumnavigator of the globe as a result of his leadership of the Spanish-funded circumnavigation of 1519-22 which comprised 5 ships & 270 men. It is slightly inaccuarate honour to give to Magellan, as he was in fact killed on the Philippine island of Mactan in April 1521 and the final part of the expedition from Asia to Europe was completed under the leadership of Sebastiano del Cano. Magellan's flagship Victoria arrived back in Spain in September 1522 with only 18 remaining survivors. Magellan discovered the Pacific Ocean, via a route through the dangerous Straits at the southern tip of South America, which now bear his name. Much of what is known of Magellan's expedition comes from the account of one of the few survivors, the Italian Antonio Pigafetta.


Ferdinand Magellan, in Spanish Fernando Magallanes, or Fernã de Magalhães, the first circumnavigator of the globe, was born at Sabrosa in the Villa Real district of the Traz-os-Montes province of Portugal. He was a son of Pedro de Magalhães, and belonged to the fourth order of Portuguese nobility (fidalgos de cota de armas). He was brought up as one of the pages of Queen Leonor, consort of King João II. In 1495 he entered the service of Manuel, João's successor, and in 1504 enlisted as a volunteer for the Indian voyage of the first Portuguese viceroy in the East, Francisco d'Almeida. He sailed on the 25th of March 1505; was wounded at Cannanore on the 16th of March 1506; was then sent with Nuno Vaz Pereira to Sofala to build a Portuguese fortress at that place; returned to India early in 1508; and was again wounded at the battle of Diu on the 3rd of February 1509. At Cochin (August 19, 1509) he joined Diogo Lopes de Sequeira on his famous voyage intended for the Spice Islands, when the Portuguese almost fell victims to Malay treachery at Malacca. In this crisis he fought bravely and skilfully (though it is not true, as often asserted, that he discovered the Malay plot); and before the 10th of October 1510 he had been rewarded for his many services with the rank of captain. He again distinguished himself at the taking of Malacca by Albuquerque (July-August 1511), and was then sent on by the viceroy with Antonio d'Abreu to explore the Spice Islands (Moluccas). Leaving Malacca at the end of December 1511, this squadron sailed along the north of Java, passed between Java and Madura, left Celebes on their left, coasted by the Gunong Api volcano, touched at Bura, and so reached Amboyna and Banda. At the last-named they found such abundance of spices that they came straight back to Malacca without visiting Ternate, as had been intended.





Magellan returned to Portugal in 1512. On the 14th of July of that year he was raised to the rank of fidalgo escudeiro; and in 1513 he accompanied a Portuguese expedition against Azamor in Morocco. The city was taken on the 28th-29th of August 1513; but Magellan was subsequently wounded, and lamed for life, in a sortie; he was also accused of trading with the Moors. The accusation was subsequently dropped, but Magellan fell into disfavor with King Manuel, who let him understand that he would have no further employment in his country's service (after the 15th of May 1514). Magellan formally renounced his nationality, and went to offer his services to the court of Spain. He reached Seville on the 20th of October 1517, and thence went to Valladolid to see Charles V. With the help of Juan de Aranda, one of the three chief officials of the India House at Seville, and of other friends, especially Diogo Barbosa, a Portuguese like himself, naturalized as a Spaniard, who had acquired great influence in Seville, and whose daughter he now married, he gained the ear of Charles and of the powerful minister, Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, the persistent enemy of Christopher Columbus, the steady supporter of his great successor. 


Magellan proposed to reach the Spice Islands of the East Indies by the west; for that purpose he hoped to discover a strait at the extreme south of South America, and is said to have declared himself ready to sail southwards to 75 degrees to realize his project. Ruy Faleiro the astronomer, another Portuguese exile, aided him in the working out of his plan, and he found an invaluable financial ally in Christopher de Haro, a member of a great Antwerp firm, who owed a grudge to the King of Portugal. On the 22nd of March 1518, Magellan and Faleiro, as joint captains-general, signed an agreement with Charles V, by which one-twentieth of the clear profits were to fall to them; further, the government of any lands discovered was vested in them and their heirs, with the title of Adelantados. On the 10th of August 1519, the fleet of five vessels, under Magellan's command, left Seville and dropped down the Guadalquivir to S. Lucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the river, where they remained more than five weeks. 


On the 20th of September the armada put to sea. Of the vessels which composed it, the "Trinidad" was the flagship, and the "Vittoria" the only one which accomplished the circumnavigation. The crew, officers, volunteers, etc., numbered about 270-280, of whom the names of 268 are preserved; 237 of these received pay; at least 37 were Portuguese, 30 or more Italians (mostly Genoese), 19 French, 1 English, 1 German. Only 31 returned in the "Vittoria"; 4 survivors of the crew of the "Trinidad" reappeared later. Antonio Pigafetta of Vicenza, an Italian gentleman who has left the best history of the voyage, went as a volunteer in Magellan's suite. Faleiro stayed behind, having cast his horoscope and found that the venture would be fatal to him. The fleet was well armed, and the total cost of equipment was 8,751,000 maravedis, or £5032. Three-quarters were defrayed by the Spanish Crown, one-quarter by Christopher Haro and his friends. Before starting, Magellan made his will and addressed a memorandum to Charles V, assigning geographical positions connected with the controversy he was intending to settle: viz., the proper drawing of a demarcation-line between the spheres of Spain and Portugal in the East Indies, and the inclusion of the Moluccas within the Spanish sphere.





Steering southwest and calling at Teneriffe (September 26 to October 3), Magellan sighted South America at Cape St. Augustine, near Pernambuco on the 29th of November; thence he followed the east coast of the New World down to the La Plata estuary, which he examined in the hope of finding a passage at this point (January 11 to February 6, 1520). On the 31st of March following, he arrived at Port St. Julian where he wintered. Here he crushed a formidable mutiny (April 1-2), and made acquaintance with the natives, whom he called Patagonians ("Big Feet"), whose great size and lofty stature are magnified by Pigafetta to gigantic proportions. Leaving Port St. Julian on the 24th of August 1520, he discovered on the 21st of October the cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, the eastern entrance of the long-sought passage. Through this strait, 360 miles long, often narrow and very tortuous, fringed by snow-clad mountains, he guided his armada for thirty-eight days, weakened by the desertion of one vessel, the "S. Antonio.". 


On the 21st of November a council of pilots and captains was held to consider the continuation of the voyage, and on the 28th of November the fleet rounded Cabo Deseado, the "desired" western terminus of the strait, variously called by the first discoverers, "Victoria Strait", "Strait of the Patagonians", "of all Saints", "of the Eleven Thousand Virgins", or "of Magellan", now only known by the last of these names. To the south of the passage lay the forbidding land "stark with eternal cold", which from the many fires here observed Magellan named "Tierra del Fuego." The expedition now entered the "Great South Sea", first sighted by Vasco Nuñez de Balboa, which, from the steady and gentle winds that drove the fleet across the immeasurable expanse, was by Magellan called "Pacific." For ninety-eight days Magellan crossed this sea, almost beyond the grasp of man's mind for vastness (as Maximilian of Transylvania puts it), from Cabo Deseado to the Ladrones. On the whole transit he discovered only two islands, sterile and uninhabited, which he called "St Paul's" (January 24, 1521) and "Shark Island" (February 3). The first of these has been identified with Puka Puka in the Tuamotu Archipelago, the second with Flint Island in the Manihiki group; neither identification seems convincing. For most of these ninety-eight days the explorers had no fresh provisions, little water (and that bad), and putrid biscuit; the ravages of scurvy became terrible.


The worst anticipations of Magellan ("he would push on, if they had to eat the leather of the rigging") were realized; ox-hides, sawdust, and rats became coveted food. At last, on the 6th of March 1521, the Ladrones (so named by Magellan from the thievish habits of the natives) came in sight, Guam being probably the first port of call. Here the fleet rested, watered, revictualled and refitted; on the 9th of March they started again westward; and on the 16th of March sighted the southern point of Samar Island in the archipelago, since 1542 called the Philippines, but named by Magellan, its first discoverer, after St. Lazarus. On the 7th of April the squadron arrived at Cebu, southwest of Samar, in the heart of the Philippines; here Magellan contracted a close friendship and alliance with the treacherous native sovereign, who professed Christianity the better to please and utilize his Catholic friends. 


Ever the nobleman, he got himself involved in a political alliance with the ruler of Cebu island, and joining his Spanish forces with his ally's he launched an attack on the Mactan islanders and was killed in the process.  Undertaking an expedition to conquer, for the Catholic faith and the king of Cebu, the neighbouring island of Mactan, Magellan was killed there in a fight with the islanders (April 27, 1521).  The king of Cebu after this got into his power several of the leading personages of the squadron, including Juan Serrano, one of the two admirals elected to replace Magellan, and murdered them. The survivors, burning one of the three remaining vessels, left the Philippines, and made their way to the Moluccas (November 6), visiting Borneo on the way (July 9 to September 27, 1521). 





At Tidor a heavy cargo of cloves was taken in the "Trinidad", becoming leaky, stayed behind with her crew; and the "Vittoria", under Juan Sebastian del Cano, proceeded to Europe alone (December 21, 1521). To double the Cape of Good Hope the "Vittoria" reached between 40 and 41 degrees S. (April 7-16, 1522) and suffered from contrary winds, heavy seas, scurvy and starvation. In the Cape Verde Islands (July 9-15, 1522) thirteen of the crew were detained prisoners by the Portuguese. Only thirty-one men returned with del Cano to Seville in the first vessel that had ever made the tour of the earth. 


Though Magellan had not quite reached the Spice Islands when he fell at Mactan, his task had then been accomplished. He had already reached and passed the longitude of the Moluccas, where he had already been; the way home from the Philippines by the Indian Ocean and the Cape of Good Hope was perfectly known to the Portuguese, himself included. Magellan's name has never received its due recognition in general history. It ranks with those of Columbus, Marco Polo, and Henry the Navigator. The circumnavigation of the globe is as great an event as the discovery of America. Magellan achieved what Columbus planned - the linking of west Europe with east Asia by direct transit over the western ocean. Had America not intervened, the project of 1492 must have failed; by 1519 European pioneers had formed a more adequate notion of the task and its magnitude.


Magellan's Straits, the Magellanic clouds (not first observed by him), and Magellan's Land - a name long given to Patagonia and that hypothetical southern continent of which Tierra del Fuego was considered only a portion, and now again bestowed by Chile on her territory in the extreme south -- preserve the memory of the first circumnavigator. The largest of the oceans has also kept the flattering name given to it by the man who first crossed it.

No record of his exploits was left by Magellan himself; and contemporary accounts are less detailed and consistent than could be wished. 


The best is that of Antonio Pigafetta, a volunteer in the fleet. It is printed in Ramusio, and exists in four early manuscript copies, one in Italian and three in French. The latter was perhaps the original language of this work, which was addressed by Pigafetta, as a knight of Rhodes, to the Frenchman Villiers de l'Isle Adam, grand master of the order of the Hospital of St. John. But this view is rejected by J. A. Robertson, who believes the Ambrosian manuscript to be the ultimate text. See the Primo viaggio intorno al mondo, otherwise the Navigation et descouvrement de la India supérieure faicte par moi Anthoyne Pigapheta, Vincentin, chevallier de Rhodes, probably published in 1524 (in August of that year Pigafetta obtained leave to print his book in Venice). Of the three French manuscripts two are in the Bibliotheque Nationale, Paris (5650 and 24,224 Fr.), the latter is wrongly supposed by Thomassy, followed by Lord Stanley of Alderley, to have been the copy presented by Pigafetta to the regent of France, Marie Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis I. 




The third French manuscript, often called the Manuscript of Nancy, first noticed by Thomassy in 1841, was bought by Sir Thomas Phillipps at Libri's sale, and became Manuscript Phillipps 16,405. The Italian manuscript is in the Ambrosian library at Milan. From this Carlo Anoretti, prefect of the Ambrosiana, published his Italian edition of Pigafetta in 1800; a French translation of this, by Amoretti himself, was issued by H. J. Jansen, 1801. An English version of Pigafetta was made by Richard Eden in his Decades of the Newe Worlde (London, 1555). The earliest printed edition, apparently a summary of the Italian manuscript, was issued in French by Simon de Colines of Paris about 1525. The earliest Italian edition is of 1534 (or 1536).


Other authorities are: (1) The narrative of an unknown Portuguese in Ramusio's Navigationi et viaggi; (2) the Derrotero or Log-Book in the Seville Archives, supposed to be the work of Francisco Albo, contramaestre of Magellan's flagship, the "Trinidad"; this consists mainly of nautical observations; (3) the narrative of the so-called Genoese pilot, written in excellent Portuguese, and printed in vol. iv. of the Collecão de noticias of the Lisbon Academy; (4) various informaciones and other papers in the Seville Archives, especially bearing on the mutiny; (5) the letter of Maximilian of Transylvania, under-secretary to Charles V, to the cardinal of Salzburg; (6) the references in Correa and Herrera, often based on good information, and adding points of interest to other records. Of these 1-3, 5, and an instance of 6 are translated in the Hakluyt Society's volume. Magellan's two wills (i) executed at Belem on the 17th of December 1504, on the eve of his departure with Almeida, (ii) executed at Seville on the 24th of August, 1519, just before starting on his voyage round the world, are both of some value for his life.






Juan Sebastian Elcano, from Getaria


Francisco Albo, from Axio


Miguel de Rodas


Juan de Acurio, from Bermeo


Antonio Lombardo (Pigafetta), from Vicenza


Martín de Judicibus, from Genoa

Chief Steward

Hernándo de Bustamante, from Alcántara


Nicholas the Greek, from Naples


Miguel Sánchez, from Rhodes


Antonio Hernández Colmenero, from Huelva


Francisco Rodrigues, Portuguese from Seville


Juan Rodríguez, from Huelva


Diego Carmena


Hans of Aachen


Juan de Arratia, from Bilbao

Able Seaman

Vasco Gomez Gallego the Portuguese, from Bayona

Able Seaman

Juan de Santandrés, from Cueto

Apprentice Seaman

Juan de Zubileta, from Barakaldo




18 men returned to Seville with Victoria in 1522



Of all the men who sailed with Magellan, only 18 returned to Spain in 1522. People were amazed when they saw those on board the one remaining ship, Victoria, for they looked starved and filthy.  Odly enough, the western sea route to the Spice Islands was not used for many years. Spain was too busy taking land in South America, and it was easier for the Portuguese to get to the East by sailing eastwards around the Cape of Good Hope at the southern tip of Africa.


His fleet, or what was left of it, arrived at the Moluccas on November 6, 1521.  The sole ship to survive the entire voyage, the Victoria, commanded by Juan Sebastián del Cano, finally arrived at Seville on September 6, 1522.







Ferdinand Magellan (Sabrosa (Portugal), printemps 1480 - île Mactan (Philippines), 27 avril 1521) était un navigateur et explorateur portugais.


Au XVe siècle, le fait que la terre était ronde n'était certainement pas de notoriété publique. Bien que Christophe Colomb avant Magellan ait pu l'affirmer ou du moins s'approcher de cette vérité, le doute existait toujours. À cette époque également, l'Europe avait développé un goût pour les épices, peu communes dans la région. Ce qui a développé l'intérêt de certains géographes, explorateurs et commerçants. L'un de ceux-ci, Magellan, croyait fortement qu'il pouvait trouver d'autres terres vers l'ouest, et même sur des terres que l'Espagne pouvait considérer siennes d'après le traité de Tordesillas. 


Il proposa donc premièrement ces services au roi de Portugal. Il faut se rappeler qu'en ces temps éloignés, des commandites était nécessaires pour envisager des expéditions d'aussi grande durée.


Le roi de Portugal n'a pas semblé être très impressionné par les arguments de Magellan. Magellan fit donc la même proposition au roi d'Espagne, Charles Quint (Charles Ier d'Espagne), qui à ce moment n'était qu'un adolescent (il n'avait que 18 ans), avec toutefois beaucoup de responsabilités ; ce dernier fut convaincu par les arguments de Magellan.





Father: Rui de Magalhães
Mother: Alda de Mesquita
Brother: Diogo de Sousa
Sister: Isabel
Wife: Beatriz Barbosa (m. 1517, 1 son)
Son: Rodrigo







Tales about the terrible conditions endured by Magellan's men ensured that for more than 50 years no other sailors attempted a circumnavigation. However, in 1577 Francis Drake left England to rob Spanish treasure ships on their way home from South America. He was also hoping to find a northern short cut to the East.


After stealing much gold and silver, he decided not to return the way he had come in case Spanish ships were waiting to attack him. Instead, he decided to set sail across the Pacific to the Spice Islands then back to England by rounding Africa. When he reached London in 1580, he was knighted by Queen Elizabeth I for his exploit. He had brought back spices and treasure worth a fortune in the money of the time.












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