Ferdinand Magellan

November 25, 2012 3:31 am

Ferdinand Magellan tried to accomplish something that many people believed was impossible: reach the East by sailing west.
The expedition Magellan led was the first to sail all the way around the world. Magellan’s voyage provided undeniable proof that the Earth was round!
EARLY LIFE
Ferdinand Magellan was born about 1480 in Portugal. He first went to sea in 1505. Magellan joined the Portuguese fleet and served in India, Malaysia, and Indonesia. At that time, these lands were known as the East Indies. Portugal wanted to conquer all of the East Indies to control the international spice trade.
In 1513, Magellan fought against Morocco in northern Africa. He was wounded in the fighting and won a promotion. But the king of Portugal refused to approve Magellan’s promotion.
PLANS FOR A VOYAGE
Magellan then approached the Portuguese king with a plan for a voyage. Magellan believed he could reach the East Indies by sailing west from Europe. No one had ever tried this before. Many said it could not be done. The king denied Magellan’s request for a fleet.
Magellan was angry. He gave up his Portuguese citizenship and moved to Spain. The Portuguese called him a traitor, but Magellan would not turn back.
Magellan knew that Spain, like Portugal, wanted to conquer more lands in the East. In 1517, he asked the king of Spain to finance a westbound voyage. The king agreed, and he even offered Magellan a share in the profits!
THE VOYAGE BEGINS
Magellan outfitted five small ships and prepared to depart. In September 1519, the ships set sail west across the Atlantic Ocean. By April 1520, they reached Argentina in South America. One ship was wrecked in a storm. Many men mutinied, but Magellan put the uprising down.
In August 1520, Magellan’s four remaining ships headed south, into the unknown. One crew panicked and turned back to Spain. But the others sailed on.
DISCOVERY OF A PASSAGE
Magellan’s ships entered a channel near the stormy tip of South America. The channel was narrow and dangerously winding in places. More than five weeks later, the ships finally entered a calm, blue sea. Magellan named this ocean the Pacific, which means “peaceful.” Today, the difficult passage Magellan found bears his name: the Strait of Magellan.
MAGELLAN CROSSES THE PACIFIC
Magellan urged his ships onward to the west. But Magellan had no idea how vast this ocean was. Far from land, the sailors ran out of food. Magellan’s starving men ate rats, leather, and sawdust. Most developed a disease called scurvy, and many died.
After 98 terrible days at sea, Magellan reached the island of Guam. After resting, he sailed on, reaching the Philippines.
MAGELLAN’S DEATH
Magellan made friends with local Philippine leaders. He converted some of them to Christianity. But Magellan also got involved in a rivalry between two chiefs. On April 27, 1521, he was killed in a battle.
Just one of Magellan’s five ships made it back home to Spain. Magellan’s expedition brought Spain little wealth. The route was too long and difficult to be profitable. But the voyage Magellan undertook proved to all that it was possible to sail around the world.
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