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"). 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.
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) and wife Alda de Mesquita and brother of Leonor or Genebra de Magalhães, wife with issue of João Fernandes Barbosa.
In March 1505 at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host D. 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 proved 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 left for Spain. In Seville he befriended his countryman Diogo Barbosa and soon married the daughter of Diogo's second wife, María 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.
Christopher Columbus's voyages to the West (1492–1503) had the goal of reaching the Indies and to establish direct commercial relations between Spain and the Asian kingdoms. The Spanish soon realized that the lands of the Americas were not a part of Asia, but a new continent. The 1494 Treaty of Tordesillas reserved for Portugal the eastern routes that went around Africa, and Vasco da Gama and the Portuguese arrived in India in 1498.
Castile (Spain) urgently needed to find a new commercial route to Asia. After the Junta de Toro conference of 1505, the Spanish Crown commissioned expeditions to discover a route to the west. Spanish explorer Vasco Núñez de Balboa reached the Pacific Ocean in 1513 after crossing the Isthmus of Panama, and Juan Díaz de Solís died in Río de la Plata in 1516 while exploring South America in the service of Spain.
In October 1517 in Seville, Magellan contacted Juan de Aranda, Factor of the Casa de Contratación. Following the arrival of his partner Rui Faleiro, and with the support of Aranda, they presented their project to the Spanish king, Charles I, future Holy Roman Emperor Charles V. Magellan's project, if successful, would realize Columbus' plan of a spice route by sailing west without damaging relations with the Portuguese. The idea was in tune with the times and had already been discussed after Balboa's discovery of the Pacific. On 22 March 1518 the king 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.
A fifth of the gains of the travel.
The right to levy one thousand ducats on upcoming trips, paying only 5% on the remainder.
Granting of an island for each one, apart from the six richest, from which they would receive a fifteenth.
The expedition was funded largely by the Spanish Crown, which provided ships carrying supplies for two years of travel. Expert cartographer Jorge Reinel and Diogo Ribeiro, a Portuguese who had started working for Charles V in 1518 as a cartographer at the Casa de Contratación, took part in the development of the maps to be used in the travel. Several problems arose during the preparation of the trip, including lack of money, the king of Portugal trying to stop them, Magellan and other Portuguese incurring suspicion from the Spanish, and the difficult nature of Faleiro. Finally, thanks to the tenacity of Magellan, the expedition was ready. Through the bishop Juan Rodríguez de Fonseca they obtained the participation of merchant Christopher de Haro, who provided a quarter of the funds and goods to barter.
The fleet provided by King Charles V included five ships:The flagship Trinidad (110 tons, crew 55), under Magellan's command
San Antonio (120 tons; crew 60) commanded by Juan de Cartagena
Concepción (90 tons, crew 45) commanded by Gaspar de Quesada
Santiago (75 tons, crew 32) commanded by João Serrão
Victoria (85 tons, crew 43), named after the church of Santa Maria de la Victoria de Triana, where Magellan took an oath of allegiance to Charles V; commanded by Luis Mendoza.
The crew of about 270 included men from several nations, including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Belgium, Greece, England and France. Spanish authorities were wary of Magellan, so that they almost prevented him from sailing, switching his mostly Portuguese crew to mostly men of Spain. It included about 40 Portuguese, among them Magellan's brother-in-law Duarte Barbosa, João Serrão, a relative of Francisco Serrão, Estêvão Gomes and Magellan's indentured servant Enrique of Malacca. Faleiro, who had planned to accompany the voyage, withdrew prior to boarding. Juan Sebastián Elcano, a Spanish merchant ship captain settled at Seville, embarked seeking the king's pardon for previous misdeeds. Antonio Pigafetta, a Venetian scholar and traveller, asked to be on the voyage, accepting the title of "supernumerary" and a modest salary. He became a strict assistant of Magellan and kept an accurate journal. The only other sailor to report the voyage would be Francisco Albo, who kept a formal logbook. Juan de Cartagena was named Inspector General of the expedition, responsible for its financial and trading operations.
On 10 August 1519, the five ships under Magellan's command left Seville and descended the Guadalquivir River to Sanlúcar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the river. There they remained more than five weeks. Finally they set sail on 20 September 1519 and left Spain.
King Manuel I ordered a Portuguese naval detachment to pursue Magellan, but the explorer evaded them. After stopping at the Canary Islands, Magellan arrived at Cape Verde, where he set course for Cape St. Augustine in Brazil. On 27 November the expedition crossed the equator; on 6 December the crew sighted South America.
On 13 December anchored near present-day Rio de Janeiro. There the crew was resupplied, but bad conditions caused them to delay. Afterwards, they continued to sail south along South America's east coast, looking for the strait that Magellan believed would lead to the Spice Islands. The fleet reached Río de la Plata in early February, 1520.
For overwintering, Magellan established a temporary settlement called Puerto San Julian on March 30, 1520. On Easter (April 1 and 2), a mutiny broke out involving three of the five ship captains. Magellan took quick and decisive action. Luis de Mendoza, the captain of Victoria, was killed by a party sent by Magellan, and the ship was recovered. After Concepción's anchor cable had been secretly cut by his forces, the ship drifted towards the well-armed Trinidad, and Concepcion's captain de Quesada and his inner circle surrendered. Juan de Cartagena, the head of the mutineers on the San Antonio, subsequently gave up. Antonio Pigafetta reported that Gaspar Quesada, the captain of Concepción, and other mutineers were executed, while Juan de Cartagena, the captain of San Antonio, and a priest named Padre Sanchez de la Reina were marooned on the coast. Most of the men, including Juan Sebastián Elcano, were needed and forgiven. Reportedly those killed were drawn and quartered and impaled on the coast; years later, their bones were found by Sir Francis Drake.
The journey resumed. The help of Duarte Barbosa was crucial in facing the riot in Puerto San Julian; Magellan appointed him as captain of the Victoria. The Santiago was sent down the coast on a scouting expedition and was wrecked in a sudden storm. All of its crew survived and made it safely to shore. Two of them returned overland to inform Magellan of what had happened, and to bring rescue to their comrades. After this experience, Magellan decided to wait for a few weeks more before resuming the voyage with the four remaining ships.
At 52°S latitude on 21 October 1520, 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 1 November or All Saints' Day. The strait is now named the Strait of Magellan. He first assigned Concepcion and San Antonio to explore the strait, but the latter, commanded by Gómez, deserted and headed back to Spain on 20 November. On 28 November, the three remaining ships entered the South Pacific. Magellan named the waters the Mar Pacifico (Pacific Ocean) because of its apparent stillness. Magellan and his crew were the first Europeans to reach Tierra del Fuego just east of the Pacific side of the strait.
Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on 13 February 1521. On 6 March they reached the Marianas and Guam. Pigafetta described the "lateen sail" used by the inhabitants of Guam, hence the name "Island of Sails", but he also writes the inhabitants "entered the ships and stole whatever they could lay their hands on", including "the small boat that was fastened to the poop of the flagship." "Those people are poor, but ingenious and very thievish, on account of which we called those three islands the islands of Ladroni."
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.
Magellan relied on Enrique, his Malay servant and interpreter, to communicate with the native tribes. He had been indentured by Magellan in 1511 after the colonization of Malacca, and had accompanied him through later adventures. They traded gifts with Rajah Siaiu of Mazaua who guided them to Cebu on 7 April.
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. Afterward, Rajah Humabon and his ally Datu Zula convinced Magellan to kill their enemy, Datu Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan wanted to convert Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Humabon, but Lapu-Lapu rejected that. 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.
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.
Magellan provided in his will that Enrique, his interpreter, was to be freed upon his death. But after the battle, the remaining ships' masters refused to free the Malay. Enrique escaped his indenture on 1 May with the aid of Rajah Humabon, amid the deaths of almost 30 crewmen.
Pigafetta had been jotting down words in both Butuanon and Cebuano languages – which he started at Mazaua on 29 March and his list grew to a total of 145 words. He continued communications with indigenous peoples during the rest of the voyage.
"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."
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. They left that island on 21 June and were guided to Brunei, Borneo, by Moro pilots, who could navigate the shallow seas. They anchored off the Brunei breakwater for 35 days, where Pigafetta, an Italian from Vicenza, recorded the splendour of Rajah Siripada's court (gold, two pearls the size of hens' eggs, porcelain from China, eyeglasses from Europe etc.). In addition, Brunei boasted tame elephants and an armament of 62 cannons, more than five times the armament of Magellan's ships. Brunei people were not interested in the Spanish cargo of cloves, but these proved more valuable than gold upon the return to Spain.
When reaching the Maluku Islands (the Spice Islands) on 6 November, the total crew numbered 115. They traded with the Sultan of Tidore, a rival of the Sultan of Ternate, who was the ally of the Portuguese.
The two remaining ships, laden with valuable spices, tried to return to Spain by sailing westwards. However, as they left the Spice Islands, the Trinidad began to take on water. The crew tried to discover and repair the leak, but failed. They concluded that Trinidad would need to spend considerable time being overhauled, but the small Victoria was not large enough to accommodate all the surviving crew. As a result, Victoria with some of the crew sailed west for Spain. Several weeks later, Trinidad departed and tried to return to Spain via the Pacific route. This attempt failed. Trinidad was captured by the Portuguese and was eventually wrecked in a storm while at anchor under Portuguese control.
Victoria set sail via the Indian Ocean route home on 21 December, commanded by Juan Sebastián Elcano. By 6 May 1522 the Victoria rounded the Cape of Good Hope, with only rice for rations. Twenty crewmen died of starvation before Elcano put into Cape Verde, a Portuguese holding, where he abandoned 13 more crew on 9 July in fear of losing his cargo of 26 tons of spices (cloves and cinnamon). On 6 September 1522, Elcano and the remaining crew of Magellan's voyage arrived in Spain aboard the Victoria, almost exactly three years after the fleet of five ships had departed. Magellan had not intended to circumnavigate the world, but rather had intended only to find a secure route through which the Spanish ships could navigate to the Spice Islands. After Magellan's death, Elcano decided to push westward, thereby completing the first known voyage around the entire Earth.
Maximilianus Transylvanus interviewed some of the surviving members of the expedition when they presented themselves to the Spanish court at Valladolid in the autumn of 1522. He wrote the first account of the voyage, which was published in 1523. Pigafetta's account was not published until 1525, and was not published in its entirety until 1800. This was the Italian transcription by Carlo Amoretti of what is now called the "Ambrosiana codex." The expedition eked out a small profit, but the crew was not paid full wages.
Four crewmen of the original 55 on Trinidad finally returned to Spain in 1522; 51 had died in war or from disease. In total, approximately 232 sailors of assorted nationalities died on the expedition around the world with Magellan.
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. Martino de Judicibus (Spanish: Martín de Judicibus) was a Genoese or Savonese Chief Steward. His history is preserved in the nominative registers at the Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain. The family name is referred to with the exact Latin patronymic, "de Judicibus". Martino de Judicibus, initially assigned to the caravel Concepción, one of five ships of the Spanish fleet of Magellan, had embarked on the expedition with the rank of captain.
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 1602 Ming Chinese world map, "Kunyu Wanguo Quantu", produced by Matteo Ricci and his Chinese collaborators, named the waters off the southwestern coast of Chile "the Sea of Magellan" (墨瓦蠟泥海), the passage between the tip of South America and islands off Antarctica "the Strait of Magellan" (墨瓦蠟泥峡), and Antarctica plus Australia "Magellanica" (墨瓦蠟泥加).
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 Magellan probe, which mapped the planet Venus from 1990 to 1994, was named after Magellan. 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.
A replica of the Victoria, the only ship of Magellan's to survive the entire voyage, can be visited in Puerto San Julian.
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.