Ferdinand Magellan
Circumnavigates World:
Paradise Lands Discovered

Ferdinand Magellan photo

Explorer Ferdinand Magellan amazed the whole world when he proved that the world is indeed round. He became known as the first man to circumnavigate the globe.

More of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage in a minute ....

But first, let’s step into a virtual time machine to see what it was like during the Age of Exploration.

It was also called the Age of Discovery, a period in European history when rulers preoccupied themselves with discovering new lands. This means more wealth and control over the trade of goods in high demand in Europe.

And guess what people loved at that time? ... Spices.

The world has indeed changed. Now the world revolves around ... Oil.

But I digress ....

So, go ahead and read about the Age of Discovery. Then come back here to continue with our story on Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world.


Ok, since you're back ... back to Magellan ....

Ferdinand Magellan’s ill-fated expedition was commissioned by young King Charles I of Spain.

Spain? But Magellan was Portuguese. How did he end up with Spain?

I’m glad you asked ....

Read more about events in the explorer’s life that set him up for his history-changing expedition.

So, Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan found himself in Spain ... with a dream to find a passageway through the New World and into the land of spices.

A good presentation was all he needed to convince then 18-year old King Charles I. And convince the king he did. But several months of preparation that followed was a road to hell. His daily grind included:

  • Dealing with bureaucratic legwork at a corrupt Casa de Contratacion
  • Recruiting officers and crew members willing to embark on a risky journey into the unknown
  • Communicating with his men in Spanish, a language he didn’t speak very well
  • Outfitting the ships with food and supplies good for God knows how long
  • Fighting off harassments and death threats from Portugal

Captain General Ferdinand Magellan started out with a fleet of 5 ships called the Armada de Molucca:

  • Trinidad – Magellan’s flagship
  • San Antonio – Juan de Cartagena, captain
  • Concepcion – Gaspar de Quesada, captain
  • Victoria – Luis de Mendoza, captain
  • Santiago – Juan Rodriguez Serrano, captain

The fleet left Seville on August 10, 1519 and sailed into the Atlantic from the mouth of the Guadalquivir River in the town of Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 20, 1519. This was the same port Columbus departed from on his third voyage to the New World in 1498.

But all wasn’t well ....

After a few days picking up food and supplies in the Canary Islands, the Captain General decided to sail southward following the coast of Africa to avoid Portuguese ships possibly in hot pursuit.

By this time, the “bad guys” started to reveal their hidden agenda while at sea. The Spanish captains, jealous of a Portuguese leading an expedition for the Crown of Spain, were waiting for the slightest opportunity to pounce on Magellan.

They staged a mutiny in the earlier leg of the voyage at Port Saint Julian. Mendoza and Quesada were eventually put to death. Cartagena, apparently the illegitimate son of Bishop Fonseca, head of Casa de Contratacion, was marooned in a small Patagonia island.

Other mutineers would remain a challenge to Ferdinand Magellan’s leadership throughout the journey. Magellan also faced challenging situations like storms, starvation, dehydration, and diseases especially scurvy.

Cruising along with the fleet in our virtual ship, let’s retrace the Armada’s route and see what happens during their long sea odyssey ....

December 13, 1519 – After a trans-Atlantic crossing in a southwest direction, the fleet arrived in Rio de Janeiro. The sailors jumped on a chance for R and R at that Portuguese port, then replenished their food and supplies before sailing again on December 27th.

December 31, 1519 – Paranagua Bay

January 10, 1520 – Cape Santa Maria/Rio de la Plata

February 3, 1520 – Cape Corrientes

February 23, 1520 – Bahia Blanca

February 27, 1520 – Bahia de los Patos

March 31, 1520 – Port Saint Julian

August 11, 1520 – Santa Cruz

October 21, 1520 – The armada arrived at a cape they called Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. Ferdinand Magellan finally found the elusive passageway near the tip of the countries now known as Argentina and Chile ... the southern tip of Patagonia. That waterway has later been named the Strait of Magellan.

Although gloomy and eerie, they marveled cautiously at the enchanted beauty of the place. The strait was like a maze surrounded by hills of blue glaciers but with lush vegetation below. It is reminiscent of the fjords in Norway, with sea water extending inland like fingers.

Cruising the strait one night, they saw flickers of light from a distance which they thought came from fire built by Indians, so Magellan named that place Tierra del Fuego.

November 28, 1520 – After 5 weeks of skillfully navigating the strait, Ferdinand Magellan and his fleet, minus breakaway mutineers on San Antonio who headed back to Spain, finally reached an ocean at the end of the strait.

The ocean was calmer than the Atlantic, where the Armada hit dangerous storms as it sailed along the South American coastline. Magellan called that calm ocean the Pacific Ocean.

March 6, 1521 – Based on his map, Magellan expected a short journey to the Spice Islands. But it took them 98 days to sail the Pacific from the strait before they finally saw land with people. They lowered their anchors in Guam, an island in Micronesia, now a US territory.

March 16, 1521 – The fleet spotted Samar, the third largest island in what is now the Philippines, an archipelago of more than 7000 islands. They dropped anchor in Homonhon, a smaller island near Samar. This archipelago did not exist in European maps, and since Easter was just around the corner, Magellan named it Lazarus.

In 1542, explorer Ruy Lopez de Villalobos made a follow up expedition and renamed the archipelago Las Islas Filipinas after King Philip II, (Felipe in Spanish, Filipe in Portuguese), son of King Charles I.

April 7, 1521 – After trading and conversion activities in Limasawa island, Magellan dropped anchor in Cebu, a beautiful island with sandy shores shaded with palm trees, and where they saw the most prosperous, civilized people so far throughout their journey. The king of Cebu and his people also converted to Christianity.

April 27, 1521 – Ferdinand Magellan was killed in a battle with Lapu-Lapu and villagers from the neighboring island of Mactan after they refused to convert to Christianity.

November 6, 1521 – With no sense of direction, Victoria and Trinidad, the only 2 ships left of the Armada, finally found their way to the Spice Islands. But only after discovering many more islands like Mindanao, Palawan, Brunei, etc., in the Philippine Sea

December 21, 1521 – Victoria, loaded with cloves, left the spice island of Tidore for home

September 6, 1522 – After more than 8 months at sea, Victoria arrived in Sanlucar de Barrameda, continued sailing the Guadalquivir River and finally reached Seville on September 10, 1522. Only 18 men came back out of the original total of 260 men that made up the Armada de Molucca.

Sebastian Elcano, one of the earlier mutineers led Victoria back home. Missing in action was Ferdinand Magellan.

So ... who was the first person to circumnavigate the globe?

Tell us what you think in the poll below.

Who do you think was the first person to circumnavigate the world?

a. Ferdinand Magellan
b. Sebastian Elcano
c. Other (type the name and why you chose this person in the comment box)

Please enter the word that you see below.


Poll responses will be included in the Ferdinand Magellan circumnavigator page here and here.