In the 1500s, no one in Europe really had any idea how big the world might be, only that the oceans were vast and filled with danger. One daring sailor decided to risk his life for glory and wealth. How much do you know about Magellan?
Magellan was an explorer who set off to see the world. His restlessness helped him see more of the world than most 21st-century humans.
He was born Ferdinand Magellan. He was born around 1480 and became one of the most famous men in human history.
Magellan was born in Portugal, but many of his biggest adventures were funded by the Spanish. That fact made Magellan a traitor of sorts to the Portuguese.
Magellan was fortunate to be born into a family with a bit of nobility in its history. In serving a queen, he heard stories of great sailing adventures and decided that he wanted to be a part of the fun.
Both he and his brother had many adventures in Africa and India during this time period. The journeys whetted his appetite for travel and long-term expeditions.
He fought in a battle against Morrocan troops and was wounded. The injury gave him a limp that was evident for the rest of his life.
He and his men set off to find a western route to the Spice Islands. No sailors had previously developed a route to that area of the world.
The Spice Islands are in the area now known as Indonesia. The islands were famed for their prized supplies of spices such as mace, clove and nutmeg.
Magellan repeatedly suggested a mission to the Spice Islands and requested funding from the Portuguese king, who refused to pay for the expedition. Magellan found a more receptive audience with Spanish authorities and so renounced his Portuguese citizenship.
Europeans were crazy for clove, which they believed contributed to good health and great sex. High demand for the spice meant sailors could make huge profits from a load of clove … provided they survived the trip. Magellan thought the potential riches were worth the risk.
There were about 270 men distributed amongst the five ships. All of them knew the journey would be long and dangerous, but they didn't realize just how hazardous the adventure would be.
At Malacca, Magellan acquired a slave whom he named Enrique. Enrique became a fixture on Ferdinand's journeys and accompanied him on the circumnavigation of the world.
His most important role was as interpreter. He helped the Spanish sailors communicate with various tribes they met along the way.
He called the Pacific Ocean "Mar Pacifico," which means peaceful sea in Portuguese. He concocted the name after gliding into gentler waters following a series of terrifying storms.
He was a firm believer in a supreme Christian being. He also felt the need to convert the people he met on his journeys.
In Patagonia, the men relayed the story of stumbling onto a tribe of giants. They may well have spotted taller-than-average natives, but they weren't eight feet tall, as they claimed.
The journey was incredibly treacherous. Only one ship made it home, and just 18 of the 270 original sailors survived.
The Spanish must have been astonished to see the solitary ship returning from its deadly mission. It took three years for the men to make their way home.
Some of the Spanish men resented being under the control of a Portuguese captain. Magellan survived several mutinies during the long journey.
Weary of mutinous sailors, Magellan executed the traitorous captains. He also left a mutinous priest on a deserted island to fend for himself. And you thought "Survivor" was brutal.
After months of cruising down the eastern coast of South American, Magellan and his men finally entered the Strait of Magellan, which led the ships to the Pacific Ocean, a body of water previously unknown to Europeans.
Magellan had no idea just how enormous the Pacific really is. It took the ships three months to cross the ocean, and they were running out of food when they finally landed in what is now Guam.
In 1521, Magellan and his men were traveling in the area of the Philippines. They decided to attack a small group of natives, who turned the tables on the Europeans. Magellan was killed during the melee.
Magellan was on friendly terms with a tribe that was warring with another group. He agreed to join in the battle, not realizing that his opponents were clever warriors.
His crew knew it was a bad idea for Magellan to lead the assault, but he did it anyway. His recklessness cost him his life.
Magellan's will specified that Enrique should be freed, but instead, the Europeans kept him as a slave. A few weeks later, Enrique finally escaped his captors.
The whole "dying" thing put a serious damper on his circumnavigation. He was killed before he reached the Spice Islands, meaning he did not travel all the way around Earth.
After Magellan's untimely death in the Philippines, Juan Sebastián Elcano took command of the crew and successfully guided them home … with a cargo bay full of spices.
The second ship (the Trinidad) began leaking, but in the end, it was actually captured by the Portuguese, an ironic turn for the Spanish-funded mission.
It was another six decades before a crew completed the harrowing journey. That expedition was led by Sir Francis Drake in 1577.