Ferdinand Magellan (1480 - 1521)
Ferdinand Magellan was born about 1480 in northern Portugal. His parents, who were members of the Nobility, died when he was about ten years old. When he was twelve, Magellan became a page to Queen Leonor at the Royal Court. Such a position commonly served as a means of education for son's of the Portugese Nobility. At the Court, Magellan learned about the voyages of Christopher Columbus and Vasco de Gama. He also learned all about navigation. Magellan first went to sea in 1505, when he sailed to India with the fleet of Francisco de Almeida, Portugal's first viceroy to that country. In 1506, Magellan went on a expedition sent by Almeida to the easty coast of Africa to strengthen Portuguese bases there. The next year he returned to India, where he participated in trade and in several naval battles against Turkish fleets. In 1509, Magellan sailed with a Portugese fleet to Melaka, a commercial centre in what is now Malaysia. On September 20th 1519 Magellan set sail from Sanlucar de Barrameda in southern Spain. He commanded a total of 241 men and a fleet of five ships; the Concepcion, San Antonio, Santiago, Trindad and Victoria. About a month after the voyage began the Spanish captain of the San Antonio challenged Magellan's authority and Magellan had him arrested. The fleet sailed across the Atlantic Ocean to the coast of Brazil. The ships followed the coast to the bay where Rio de Janeiro now stands. They remained there for two weeks and then sailed South in search of a passage to the Pacific Ocean. However they could not find a passage before the end of summer in the Southern Hemisphere. In late March 1520 the fleet anchored for the winter at San Julian in what is now southern Argentina. During the winter a storm destroyed the Santiago. In addition a mutiny broke out shortly after the men set up their winter quarters. Magellan and loyal crew members put down the mutiny and executed the leader. They also marooned two other mutineers when the fleet sailed again. Magellan and his crew resumed their voyage on October the 18th 1520. Three days later they discovered the passage to the Pacific - a passage known every since as the Strait of Magellan. As the fleet sailed through the strait, the crew of the San Antonio mutinied and returned to Spain. On November 28th, the three remaining ships sailed out of the strait and into the ocean. Magellan named the Ocean the Pacific, which means peaceful, because it appeared calm compared with the stormy Atlantic. They were the first Europeans ever to sail across the Pacific and it was far larger than anyone had imagined. They sailed for ninety - eight days without seeing any land except two uninhabited islands. There food became contaminated and nineteen men died before the fleet reached Guam on March the 6th, 1521. After a while the crew seized enough food and water to continue the journey to the Philippines. On April 27th Magellan was killed when he took part in a battle between rival Filipino groups on the island of Mactan.
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