Welcome to this article about Ferdinand Magellan! This Portuguese navigator and seafarer was one of the greatest explorers in history – he is best known for being the first European to cross the Pacific Ocean. He also played a central role in circumnavigating the world which helped to disprove the theories that the Earth was flat. Join us as we take a look at the extraordinary life of this brilliant navigator.
Who was Ferdinand Magellan?
Magellan was born around 1480. His birthplace has not been documented accurately, and he may have been born in either Porto or Sabrosa in Portugal. His father was Rodrigo de Magalhães and his mother was Alda de Mesquita, and the entire family was considered royalty. Unfortunately, both his parents passed away when Magellan was young.
Interesting Facts about Ferdinand Magellan
1. He began his seafaring career by enlisting in a naval fleet.
Magellan enlisted in the fleet that escorted Francisco de Almeida to Portuguese India in 1505. He lived in India for around seven years where he fought in several battles as well. Following this, Magellan sailed to Malacca for a brief period before he returned to Portugal.
2. Ferdinand Magellan moved through different jobs and traveled through cities before settling down with a family.
Magellan served in Morocco for a brief period after Malacca. He was later offered employment as a member of crew aboard a Portuguese ship which he rejected. He went on to marry Maria Caldera Beatriz Barbosa, with whom he had two children. Unfortunately, his family life lasted for a short period, and he lost both his children at a young age, followed by his wife in 1521.
3. He began working towards his eventual expeditions with heavy studying and investigation.
With the time Magellan had following the loss of his family, he dedicated himself to studying nautical charts. He further investigated possible routes and gateways that began in the Atlantic Ocean and stretched towards the Pacific Ocean. He teamed up with the cosmographer, Rui Felaro, who would eventually help Magellan with the plans for the circumnavigation of the globe.
4. The expedition was mostly funded by the Spanish king, Charles I.
Magellan, along with Felaro and his team, presented the project regarding the expedition in October 1517. He presented this to King Charles I, who was soon to become the Emperor Charles V. If granted, the expedition would allow Magellan and his fleet to sail west and avoid any conflict in relations with the Portuguese. King Charles approved of this and funded the expedition for two years of travel, via the Spanish Crown. The fleet also included 5 ships and a crew of around 280 men from multiple nations ranging from Germany to England.
Details of the Circumnavigation
The expedition began its course on the 20th of September 1519. The fleet initially set a course towards South America, crossing the equator and reaching Brazil initially, then sailing down the coast towards Patagonia. Mutinies did occur, during which one of the ships, unfortunately, got wrecked but the voyage continued. In 1520, the fleet had crossed the present Straits of Magellan during which another ship decided to break away from the fleet. The remaining ships crossed the Pacific Ocean and reached Guam in 1521. Later during the March of that year, the fleet reached the Philippines; during this time, only 150 of the original 270 crew members were present.
5. Ferdinand Magellan lost his life halfway through his circumnavigation.
In the Philippines, Magellan’s crew established relations with the King of the islands, Rajah Humabon. With these reasons in mind, the crew assisted the King during a war with a rival army. Unfortunately, it was here that Magellan lost his life after being killed in battle on the 27th of April, 1521. Following this, the crew departed from the Philippines and arrived in Spain on the 8th of September, 1522.
6. There was controversy over who the first person to circumnavigate the globe was.
It was clear that Juan Sebastian Alanco (who headed the expedition along with Magellan) and the remaining crew of the fleet managed the whole expedition from 1519 to 1522. However, there is debate owing to the fact that Magellan’s servant, Enrique was present too. Records of him disappeared after he ran away due to Magellan’s death but the credibility of these views was questioned. If Enrique had survived, it is likely that he would have been the first person to circumnavigate Earth, although not in a single voyage.
7. His expedition disproved the age-old theories of the Earth being flat.
In addition to proving how he was one of the most skilled explorers of maritime expeditions, his exploration had an important purpose. The voyage declared and confirmed the proposition that the Earth was a globe. His accomplishments of crossing the South American Straits of Magellan, that was eventually named after him, was also noteworthy. It is also worth understanding that expeditions during the 16th century without the present technology of today, was extremely dangerous and risky. Therefore, Magellan’s feat and legacy should be considered as one of great importance.
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