Across The World

Ferdinand Magellan 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. Magellan was born in northern Portugal in around 1480, either at Vila Nova de Gaia, near Porto, in Douro Litoral Province, or at Sabrosa, near Vila Real, in Trás-os-Montes e Alto Douro Province. He was the son of Rodrigo de Magalhães, Alcaide-Mor of Aveiro (1433–1500, son of Pedro Afonso de Magalhães and wife Quinta de Sousa). Born into a Portuguese noble family in around 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer and was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the “Spice Islands”).

For that expedition, the Spanish king, Charles I,  named Magellan and Faleiro captains so that they could travel in search of the Spice Islands in July. He raised them to the rank of Commander of the Order of Santiago. The king granted them monopoly of the discovered route for a period of ten years, their appointment as governors of the lands and islands found, with 5% of the resulting net gains etc”. The expedition was funded largely by the Spanish Crown, which provided ships carrying supplies for two years of travel.  Finally they set sail on 20 September 1519 and left Spain. Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on 13 February 1521. On 6 March they reached the Marianas and Guam.

On 16 March Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left. Members of his expedition became the first Europeans to reach the Philippine archipelago. Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly towards Magellan and the Spaniards; both he and his queen Hara Amihan were baptized as Christians and were given the image of the Holy Child (later known as Santo Niño de Cebu) which along with a cross (Magellan’s Cross) symbolizes the Christianization of the Philippines.  On the morning of 27 April 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with a small attack 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. The casualties suffered in the Philippines left the expedition with too few men to sail all three of the remaining ships. Consequently, on 2 May they abandoned and burned Concepción. Reduced to Trinidad and Victoria, the expedition fled westward to Palawan. When Victoria, the one surviving ship and the smallest carrack in the fleet, returned to the harbor of departure after completing the first circumnavigation of the Earth, only 18 men out of the original 237 men were on board. Among the survivors were two Italians, Antonio Pigafetta and Martino de Judicibus.

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