Ferdinand Magella

Ferdinand Magella


Magellan was a Portuguese explorer who was in the service of the Spanish Crown. He tried to find a westward route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia and in doing this he made the first successful attempt to circumnavigate the Earth. He was trying to find a new route to India and China for trading of Spiices. On 10th August, 1519, five ships under Magellan's command – Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepción, Victoria, and Santiago – left Seville and traveled from the Guadalquivir River to Sanlúcar de Barrameda at the mouth of the river, where they remained more than five weeks. Magellan set sail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda with about 270 men on 20th September. On 27th November, the expedition crossed the equator; on 6th December the crew sighted South America.

At 52°S latitude on 21st October, the fleet reached Cape Virgenes and concluded they had found the passage, because the waters were brine and deep inland. Four ships began an arduous trip through the 373-mile (600 km) long passage that Magellan called the Estrecho (Canal) de Todos los Santos, ("All Saints' Channel"), because the fleet travelled through it on November 1, or All Saints' Day. The strait is now named the Strait of Magellan.

Magellan never made it to the Spice Islands as he was killed by natives with a poisoned arrow in his foot and a spear through his heart. Magellan’s crew loaded both ships with a rich cargo and headed for Spain. On the way home, the Portuguese who had claimed the Spice Islands captured the Trinidad. The Victoria was the only ship to make it safely back to Spain. Out of the five ships that began the journey, only one ship made the voyage around the world.

The course that Magellan charted was followed by other navigators, all of whom met with failure until the voyage of Sir Francis Drake more than fifty years later, in 1577.

Ferdinand Magellan

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