(1480 – 1521)
On 10 August 1519, five ships under Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan’s command left Seville and descended the Guadalquivir River to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the river. After further preparation 5 weeks later the ships set sail for the very first circumnavigation of the earth.
Ferdinand Magellan gained his first experiences on board a Portugese ship in 1505. He took part in several battles and left his position for Spain eight years later studying contemporary maps of the sea and researching for a gateway from the Atlantic Ocean to the South Pacific.
When the Spanish noticed, that the Americas were not directly connected to Asia, but a whole new continent, Portugal reserved the eastern routes around Africa and Spain had to find another route to Asia for commercial uses. Magellan then got the idea of realizing Columbus’ spice route plans which he presented to Charles I. With many promises, the king granted their request and the preparations began.
The provided fleet consisted of five ships of which the flagship Trinidad sailed under Magellan’s command. The crew consisted of 270 men across the continent and took off on August 10, 1519, arriving in South America in December. In October of the following year, the crew continued their journey and believed to have found the needed passage which they sailed through one month later. The fleet continued and in early 1521 they reached the equator and later Guam. The cities they traveled to were named by Magellan according to the features he observed. For instance he renamed the island to the ‘Island of Thieves’ since his small boats on board of the Trinidad were stolen.
At the Philippines, Magellan got into fights with native tribes and was attacked with a bamboo spear that killed him in April 1521. The tragedy the whole crew faced here worsened when they realized that there were too few men left to sail all remaining boats home. They began their journey home with the flagship and the Victoria, arriving in September, 1522.
Through interviewing some of the survivors, Europe learned about the first circumnavigation. Also during this journey, the crew observed numerous animals that were completely new to Europeans. Afterwards, several straits and locations were named after Magellan and even craters on the Moon and Mars have been named after him.
At yovisto, you may enjoy a video lecture [in German] by Jörg Dünne about Magellan and other circumnavigators.
References and Further Reading
- Magellan at Britannica
- Stefan Zweig (2007), Conqueror of the Seas – The Story of Magellan
- The Voyage of Ferdinand Magellan
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- Jeanne Baret – An Intrepid Woman of Discovery
- The Expedition of Lewis and Clark
- Carsten Niebuhr and the Decipherment of Cuneiform
- Alfred Wegener and the Continental Drift
- Vasco da Gama and his Route to India
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- The Discovery of Nefertiti
- Marco Polo – the great Traveler and Merchant
- Hoist the Sails! The Mayflower and its Journey to the New World
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