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The True Explorer Who Circumnavigated The World

Updated on February 9, 2020

Ferdinand Magellan, Explorer

Ferdinand Magellan
Ferdinand Magellan

Magellan's Expedition

Magellan's Expedition
Magellan's Expedition
Map of Expedition
Map of Expedition

Sailing Around The World

It is a common belief that Ferdinand Magellan was the first to circumnavigate the world by ship. However, that is not entirely true. While he did begin the expedition with five ships and some 265 crew, he did not complete the trip. His original was to sail to the Spice Islands for the lucrative spices he intended to collect. At the time, he hadn't even thought of circling the world. Much was still to be learned of the sailing in the seas.

One of the crew, Juan Sebastian del Cano, would be the explorer to lead the expedition back home to Spain after being at sea some three years and unfortunate accidents along the route.

Ferdinand had been born in Portugal in 1480, but unfortunately Portugal refused to finance the expedition. So, Magellan went to Spain and secured financing from King Charles of Spain.

Preparations were made, and five ships readied for departure. The ships were the Trinidad, the Conception, the San Antonia, the Santiago, and the Victoria. Before long, the Santiago was destroyed in a storm. Sailing across the Atlantic Ocean heading towards Brazil, they docked at the port of San Julian in Argentia.

Mutiny was always a possibility on the high seas. Sometimes it was due to lack of food or water and sometimes lack of respect for the captain. Magellan, though, was an experienced captain and well-liked. But the crew of the San Antonia did mutiny returning to Spain.

Ship Victoria

Ship Victoria
Ship Victoria
Magellan Expedition
Magellan Expedition

Discovery of the Magellan Straits

Magellan was looking for a shorter route, and he found and named it Magellan Strait. The Strait was some 350 miles of treacherous sailing, cold, and heavy winds. It took them thirty-eight days to pass through, and when they emerged, it was said Magellan cried out at seeing nothing but a massive body of water. He named it Mar Pacifico, meaning "peaceful sea." Later this body of water was called the Pacific Ocean.

It would take the fleet three months to cross the ocean, finally reaching Guam in March 1521. The next leg of the expedition would be the Spice Islands.

Straits of Magellan

Straits of Magellan
Straits of Magellan

The Phillipines

The fleet arrived in the Philippines on April 27, 1521. Magellan and his crew spent a little time with some of the Natives, converting them to Christianity. A neighboring group of natives was causing trouble, and when Magellan was asked to help control them, he thought with his superior power and guns, it would not take long.

What he hadn't considered is that his ships couldn't get close enough to use their guns. Magellan, his crew, had to enter the water and walk to shore. No sooner were they in the shallows when the Lapu-Lapu Indians attacked with spears and arrows.

Although the crew was in armor, the Indians kept shooting at their legs, and one of the arrows pierced Magellan. Magellan died on the shore from a poisoned arrow on April 27, 1521. As he fell, the Indians fell upon him and mutilated him. Magellan had been outnumbered with his forty-nine men to 1500 Indians.

The leader of the Lapu-Lapu Indians was Chief Raja.considered a hero, being the first Phillipiano to abort foreign power controlling them. Today, a bronze statue of Chief Raja stands on the island, and every year in April, the attle of Mactan

Some of the crew made it back to the ship and set sail.

Battle of Mactan

Battle of Mactan
Battle of Mactan
Statue of Raja
Statue of Raja

Death of Magellan

Death of Magellan
Death of Magellan

The Expedition in Peril

As the crew made it back to their ship, they needed to select a leader. Although Joao Carvalho was elected, it became clear he was not respected. So the crew now decided Juan Sebastian del Cano to lead them. Two ships, the Trinidad and the Victoria reached Moluccason on November 6. Set to leave on December 18, but the Trinidad sprung a leak and was unable to continue.

The Victoria and eighteen of the surviving crew left and sailed for Spain. They crossed the Indian and Atlantic Oceans reaching Spain on September 6, 1522. With them on the trip was an Italian explorer and scholar who was recording the journey. He reported they had sailed some 50,610 miles.

And, it was the Victoria and Juan Sebastian del Cano who rightfully was the first to circumnavigate the world and in a wooden ship. Although Magellan started the expedition, he did not complete it. He did, however, bring Christianity to the Philippines.

Perhaps history will acknowledge this significant accomplishment as a combined effort of these two explorers.


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