The History of England

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Ferdinand Magellan. The first round the World trip in history

Category: Famous people

Ferdinand MagellanFerdinand Magellan, who gave its name to the Pacific Ocean and whose ship was the first to sail round the world, did not see the sea, and perhaps

could not even swim, until he was a young man. Unlike most great seamen, who spent their boyhood near the sea and watched ships come and go and listened to sailors’ tales of adventures, Ferdinand spent his boyhood in the Portu­guese mountains.

Ferdinand was born in 1480 in the family of a nobleman. His home was in the small village of Sabrosa. Here he lived until he was thirteen.

The village was not an interesting place for a child. The winters were long and cold, the summers short and hot and the wild and mountainous district near the Spanish border was remote. There was little for a boy to do, but to ride around the village or up and down the hills, or hunt in the forests. In winter ice often covered the ground and put a stop to both riding and hunting, and then the village was completely isolated.

Life in the mountains was beneficial for Ferdinand. He grew into a hardy boy who was afraid of nothing, and the thought of danger never entered his head. This proved very important for him when he became an explorer.

In Portugal of the 15th century the education of the sons of noblemen was under the direction of the king. So, when Ferdinand became thirteen, he was appointed a royal page. He left the mountains and went to Lisbon, a busy sea-port, where he studied under the watchful eye of the king himself and was tutored by the best teachers in the country who taught him appreciation of the arts.

Young Magellan enjoyed living in Lisbon very much. He met many interesting people and found much to see and talk about in the busy city.

A great deal of the talk at that time was around explo­ration and the conquest of new lands. Portuguese seamen had sailed further and further down the African coast until, in 1487, Bartholomew Diaz made his famous journey round the southern point of Africa, and gave the Cape of Good Hope its name.

The year before Magellan’s arrival at court a Genoese seaman, Christopher Columbus, had crossed the Atlantic and discovered the New World. Columbus had first asked the Portuguese Government to finance his expedition, but Portugal had not had enough confidence in Columbus’s ideas, and consequently Columbus had crossed the Atlantic under the flag of her greatest rival, Spain. The success of Columbus’s explorations had caused feverish excitement in Lisbon, and everyone was talking of discovery and conquest.

All this talk and the sight of the ships in the harbour gave Ferdinand much to think about, He turned his thoughts to the sea and soon made up his mind that one day he too would become a seaman.

In 1498, when Ferdinand was eighteen, another Portu­gal’s seaman, Vasco da Gama, roused his enthusiasm even further. The latter not only sailed round the Cape of Good Hope but went further and reached India. A new route to India was opened. In 1502 Vasco da Gama repeated that remarkable performance.

Two years later, in the autumn of 1504, a new expedi­tion to India was planned. Its aim was the capture of the Strait of Malacca and the complete conquest of India. There was a call for volunteers to join the expedition, and one of the first who joined it was Ferdinand Magellan, a strong young man of twenty-four.

The expedition was organized for purposes of conquest and during it the Portuguese often fought with the people who lived along the coast of the Indian Ocean trying to conquer them. Magellan took part in the fighting and was wounded twice.

Is There Another Way to India?

Like Christopher Columbus, who tried to reach India by sailing to the west and who, in doing so, discovered the New World, Magellan thought he, also, would try to open a wes­terly passage to the Spice Islands. So he spent more than two years in Lisbon preparing for the attempt. He studied the fine collection of maps, nautical records and documents that were carefully preserved in Lisbon’s great library.

As Magellan had little understanding of astronomy, how­ever, he asked an astronomer to help him and two men began to work together. They hoped to sail south-westwards across the Atlantic, to skirt the American coast until they found a passage there, and having gone through it, to cross the sea beyond the Spice Islands. They planned to return by continuing westwards over the now familiar route across the Indian Ocean and up the West African coast. In short, they planned to sail round the world.

Magellan could not, however, offer his services to Por­tugal because he was accused of taking the advantage of his high position in Morocco to enrich himself. The king was against him and did not want to see him. Angry at such treatment after his long years of fighting for Portugal, Magellan decided to go to Spain. He crossed the border se­cretly, but soon the king heard about his departure and publicly disgraced him. In every town and village of Portugal. Magellan was condemned as a traitor. Indeed, plots were hatched to kill him.

On October 20, 1517, when Magellan, then thirty-seven, reached Seville, one of the busiest cities in Spain, he found himself a stranger in a foreign land, with very little money and without friends or relatives. But Magellan sought out a good friend who had come to Spain fourteen years earlier. The latter received him warmly and invited to live in his home.

The prospects of new conquests appealed immediately to j the king of Spain. But nearly eighteen months passed before j the expedition was ready to sail—months full of difficulties. The Portuguese agents and spies in Spain tried again and again to disrupt the arrangements by stirring up strife among the seamen and bribing them to commit acts of sabo­tage. Several plots to kill Magellan were unmasked.

By the end of July 1519 the arrangements were finished at last. In August the five ships given Magellan by the king drifted down the river to the little port of Sancular to await a favourable wind; and on September 20, with Ferdinand Magellan aboard the Trinidad, they moved into the open sea. In these little ships some 250 men set out bravely to sail round the world.

They reached the Canaries six days later. After taking in food and water they continued a south-westerly course for many months. They crossed the Equator and began to skirt the Brasilian coast of South America. As the travellers were badly in need of food and water, Magellan decided to put in for supplies. With some of his sailors he went to see what the country was like. They were met by a crowd of men and women, who looked quite different from anyone seen before. These people had neither shoes, not clothes. The Portuguese and the natives understood one another well enough by signs.

Then the people went off, but soon returned and brought with them many different things to eat. In his turn Magel­lan and his men gave the natives things which were not expensive but were pretty to look at,

The explorers spent nearly two weeks there and called the place the port of Rio de Janeiro. They left it on New Year’s Day and continued their journey down the coast to the River Plate. At first they thought that this river was the strait they were looking for; and so they sailed up it. When they realized their mistake, they turned back.

It was March 1520 when they reached what is now Port St. Julian. They had been away from Spain for just six months and, as summer had ended in the Southern Hemi­sphere by then and angry storms were beginning, Magel­lan decided to stay there until the worst of the winter weather had passed.

Though the explorers went ashore quite often, they did not meet any people for two months. They were beginning to think that this part of the coast was uninhabited when, one day, a strange, tall man appeared. He was so tall that the explorers reached only to his waist. He had almost no clothes, and was singing and dancing. The explorers thought they had reached some land of giants. Magellan gave the man some food and drink and a large steel mirror.

Soon many other giants—both men and women—began to appear. They danced more strange dances. Some of the men jumped high in their enthusiasm and their feet left large footmarks resembling those of a bear. Magellan noticed this and named the natives Patagonians (from the Spanish word pata meaning paw). This part of South America is called Patagonia to this day.

Finding the natives friendly at first, Magellan got their help to fell trees and kill wild animals so as to provide the ships with wood and meat.

He also tried to convert them to Christianity and baptiz­ed one of them. He sent him back to his people, hoping that he would help to spread Christianity.

But the natives turned unfriendly and Magellan decided to make an exhibition of force. So he ordered his men to seize some of the natives and put them and their wives in chains. The result of this cruelty was that the rest of the people on the shore ran away and were seen no more.

During his stay at Port St. Julian, Magellan had to face serious trouble with his officers. The captains of the four other ships plotted against Magellan. Soon after landing they decided to kill him, but the plot was discovered just in time and the captains were severely punished.

Added to all the other troubles confronted Magellan at this time, one of the ships, the Santiago, was wrecked. Only four ships were left to continue the dangerous journey.

After five months at Port St. Julian the expedition put to sea once more. Two months later, on October 21, 1520, after braving a storm, they found the strait they were look­ing for—the strait later named after Magellan.

When the ships were already in the strait, Magellan faced further treachery. The San Antonio was sent to ex­plore one of the channels, and she did not return. Her captain was not only against Magellan, but also did not believe in the success of the expedition, and had decided to sail back to Spain on his own.

A Great Unknown Sea

Two days before the end of November Magellan’s fleet (only three ships now) sailed out of the strait to cross the great unknown sea. They found it so peaceful and the weather so perfect, that when they reached the middle of the ocean, Magellan said that the name of that sea would be the Pacific.

Yet, though their journey across the Pacific was peace­ful as far as the weather was concerned, the explorers suffered terrible hardships. They were at sea for three months and twenty days without sight of land. They did not have fresh food all this time; and as their food supplies ran low, they became victims of disease and hunger, and many of the sailors died.

At last, after sailing nearly 4,000 leagues, they reached the group of islands, now called the Philippines.

A Tragic End

In the Philippine Islands Magellan and his men were met well by the people. But in an effort to conquer the discover­ed lands with the help of the natives, they took part in a war between two rulers of the islands. And on the 27th on April 1521 Magellan and his seamen fought against islanders in a battle that cost the explorer his life. Magellan was wounded in the head and died.

Magellan himself did not sail round the world. But nine­teen of his men finished this great journey. In the little ship Victoria they reached Spain on September 28, 1522, three years after they had set out—the first men to have sailed round the world.

Magellan’s expedition successfully fulfilled its very im­portant task. By discovering the Pacific Ocean and the strait named after him Ferdinand Magellan opened a new way to the East.

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