This series has seven easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Down the Atlantic.
Ferdinand Magellan, whose name in Portuguese was Fernao de Magalhaes, was born in Portugal about 1480. After serving with the Portuguese in the East Indies, 1505-1512, and in Morocco, 1514, where during an action he was lamed for life, he became disaffected toward his country, and in 1517 renounced his allegiance and turned to Spain in hope of better reward for his services. In conjunction with a fellow-countryman, Ruy Faleiro, a geographer and astronomer, he offered to find for Spain the Moluccas, in the Malay Archipelago, and to prove that they were within the Spanish and not the Portuguese lines of demarcation. The acceptance of this proposal by the Emperor, Charles V, who was also King of Spain, gave Magellan the opportunity, which he so well improved, to immortalize his name in the annals of maritime discovery.
While the specific object of the expedition failed on account of the leader’s death, his performance made him worthy, as some historians think, to be considered “the most undaunted and in many respects the most extraordinary man that ever traversed an unknown sea.”
A squadron of five ships with two hundred sixty-five men was fitted out by the Emperor, and the two friends were named as joint commanders, but Faleiro was afterward detached from the expedition, leaving full command to Magellan, who sailed from San Lucar, Spain, September 20, 1519, first touching at Madeira.
Magellan passed through the straits that bear his name and so penetrated to the Pacific, that ocean being first so called by him. He was the first European to reach it from the Atlantic. Magellan was killed by natives in the Philippines, April 27, 1521; but his ships continued their course. One by one they were lost from the expedition, except the Victoria, on which was Pigafetta, who wrote for Charles V an account of the voyage. The Victoria returned to Spain in September, 1522, completing the first circumnavigation of the earth. Bautista was pilot and afterward captain of the Trinidad, one of the lost vessels.
This selection is from First Voyage Around the World by Joan Bautista and by Antonio Pigafetta published in 1874. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages. The selection is serialized in seven installments for daily reading.
Pigafetta led the expedition back to Portugal, completing the first circumnavigation of the world.
Time: 1519 – 1522
Place: South Atlantic
Magellan steered to the southwest to make the island of Teneriffe, and they reached the said island on the day of St. Michael, which was September 29th. Thence he made his course to fetch the Cape Verd Islands, and they passed between the islands and the cape without sighting either the one or the other. Having to make for Brazil, and as soon as they sighted the other coast of Brazil, he steered to the southeast along the coast of Cape Frio, which is in 23° south latitude; and from this cape he steered to the west, a matter of thirty leagues, to make the Rio Janeiro, which is in the same latitude as Cape Frio, and they entered the said river on the day of St. Lucy, which was December 13th, in which place they took in wood, and they remained there until the first octave of Christmas, which was December 26th of the same year.
They sailed from this Rio de Janeiro on December 26th, and navigated along the coast to make Cape of St. Mary, which is only 35°; as soon as they sighted it, they made their course west-northwest, thinking they would find a passage for their voyage, and they found that they had got into a great river of fresh water, to which they gave the name of River St. Christopher, and it is in 34°, and they remained in it till February 2, 1520.
He sailed from this river of St. Christopher on the 2d of the said month of February; they navigated along the said coast, and farther on to the south they discovered a point, which is in the same river more to the south, to which they gave the name of Point St. Anthony; it is in 36°; hence they ran to the southwest a matter of twenty-five leagues, and made another cape, which they named Cape St. Apelonia, which is in 36°; thence they navigated to the west-southwest to some shoals, which they named Shoals of the Currents, which are in 39°; and thence they navigated out to the sea, and lost sight of land for a matter of two or three days, when they again made for the land, and they came to a bay, which they entered, and ran within it the whole day, thinking that there was an outlet for Molucca; and when night came they found that it was quite closed up, and in the same night they again stood out by the way which they had come in. This bay is in 34°; they named it the island of St. Matthew. They navigated from this island of St. Matthew along the coast until they reached another bay, where they caught many sea-wolves and birds; to this they gave the name of Bay of Labors; it is in 37°; here they came near losing the flag-ship in a storm. Thence they navigated along the said coast, and arrived on the last day of March of the year 1520 at the port of St. Julian, which is in 49°. Here they wintered, and found the day a little more or less than seven hours.
In this port three of the ships rose up against the captain-major, their captains saying that they intended to take him to Castile in arrest, as he was taking them all to destruction. Here, through the exertions of the said captain-major, and the assistance and favor of the foreigners whom he carried with him, the captain-major went to the said three ships which were already mentioned, and there the captain of one of them was killed, who was the treasurer of the whole fleet, and named Luis de Mendoza; he was killed in his own ship by stabs with a dagger by the chief constable of the fleet, who was sent to do this by Ferdinand Magellan in a boat with certain men. The said three ships having thus been recovered, five days later Ferdinand Magellan ordered Gaspar de Quexixada to be decapitated and quartered; he was captain of one of the ships and was one of those who had mutinied.
In this port they refitted the ship. Here the captain-major made Alvaro de Mesquita, a Portuguese, a captain of one of the ships the captain of which had been killed. There sailed from this port on August 24th four ships, for the smallest of the ships had been already lost; he had sent it to reconnoiter, and the weather had been heavy and had cast it ashore, where all the crew had been recovered along with the merchandise, artillery, and fittings of the ship. They remained in this port, in which they wintered, five months and twenty-four days, and they were 70° less ten minutes to the southward.
They sailed on August 24th of the said year from this port of St. Julian, and navigated a matter of twenty leagues along the coast, and so they entered a river which was called Santa Cruz, which is in 50°, where they took in goods and as much as they could obtain. The crew of the lost ship were already distributed among the other ships, for they had returned by land to where Ferdinand Magellan was, and they continued collecting goods which had remained there during August and up to September 18th, and there they took in water and much fish which they caught in this river; and in the other, where they wintered, there were people like savages, and the men are from nine to ten spans in height, very well made; they have not got houses, they only go about from one place to another with their flocks, and eat meat nearly raw. They are all of them archers, and kill many animals with arrows, and with the skins they make clothes, that is to say, they make the skins very supple, and fashion them after the shape of the body, as well as they can, then they cover themselves with them, and fasten them by a belt round the waist. When they do not wish to be clothed from the waist upward, they let that half fall which is above the waist, and the garment remains hanging down from the belt which they have girt around them.
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