The European Voyages of Exploration
Although the Spanish Crown sponsored Ferdinand Magellan's legendary voyage of global circumnavigation, he was in fact Portuguese and had served with Portugal's naval fleets in Asia. Magellan's earliest ancestor in Portugal was the famous French adventurer, Magalhais, a favourite of Henry of Burgundy, who became the Count of Portucalensis. Magalhais was bestowed an estate at Ponte da Bara near Braga in 1095. Braga eventually became the seat of the Archbishop Primate of Portugal and the Magellan family took steps to gain favour at the archiepiscopal court. They secured their feudal holdings by becoming distantly connected to the royal family by marriage. Ferdinand Magellan was born about 1480 in the town of Ponte da Barca, in the north of Portugal. He was probably schooled at a local monastery. When Ferdinand was twelve years old, his father had secured an appointment for him, as he did for Ferdinand's older brother, as a page to Queen Leonora, at her court in Lisbon, so that he could be educated at the cost of the state. The heir of every noble family had the right to receive such an education by a pact between the Crown and the nobility and the fact that Ferdinand, as a younger son, was also appointed was a mark of unusual grace from King João II (King John II).
In 1492 Ferdinand arrived at the Queen Leonora's court, the centre of Portugal's officialdom. It included the law courts, the fiscal department, and the ecclesiastical establishment. Here the queen's page received instruction on a wide range of subjects: music, dance, hunting, horsemanship, jousting, swordsmanship, map-making, rudimentary astronomy, and celestial navigation. In no other kingdom were such courses given and this was primarily due to King João II's vision of Portugal as an overseas trading empire in which skilled manpower would be essential. The queen's brother, Duke Manuel (the future King Manuel the Fortunate) was in charge of the pages and as a member of the House of Braganza, was a rival to the king and his followers. Thus he was an enemy to Ferdinand, his brother Diogo (now a senior page), and their cousin Francisco Serrano. All three were appointed to duty at the palace and became inseparable. With the death of the Crown Prince Afonso, Queen Leonora and her brother joined their Braganza kinsmen in plotting the king's death. If this could be accomplished, Duke Manuel and the House of Braganza would ascend the throne of Portugal.
In March 1493, Christopher Columbus made port in Portugal on his return voyage from the New World. Columbus' accomplishment electrified the thirteen-year-old Ferdinand. Before him now lay the widening possibilities of adventure in the king's maritime service. In 1494 King João II concluded the Treaty of Tordesillas that awarded to Portugal an immense area of the western Atlantic for its exclusive colonial development, and its terms inspired the aspirations of young Ferdinand and his fellow pages. King João II then ordered Captain General Francisco de Almeida to prepare a fleet to sail westward across the Atlantic in competition with Columbus in the race for India. In 1495, however, King João II was poisoned and Duke Manuel ascended the Portuguese throne.
King Manuel showed little interest in King João II's maritime expansion programs, and instead used his new authority to benefit the Knights of Christ and to expel all unbaptised Jews from Portugal. The Florentine traders, who were the commercial rivals of the European Jewish community, quickly took advantage of King Manuel's policy of persecution by gaining control of Portuguese shipbuilding and shipping trades. The Florentines used their influence to convince King Manuel to revive João's dormant program of exploration. King Manuel eventually recommissioned the late Admiral Estevan da Gama's squadron of ships, placing it under the command of the admiral's son, twenty-eight-year-old Vasco da Gama. In September 1499, Vasco da Gama returned to Lisbon, successfully finding the sea-route to India. The entire royal court was engulfed in excitement, including the young squire Ferdinand Magellan.
MAGELLAN'S EARLY CAREER
Magellan spent the next eight years in the East, where he began his career as an unpaid crew member (a supernumerary), and finished as an experienced sea captain and veteran of many battles. During these years he was wounded twice, made two fortunes and lost them, and commanded his own caravel. After the capture of Malacca, Magellan acquired a slave and a caravel. The slave became know as Black Henry, a thirteen-year-old boy who was a companion to Magellan for the rest of his life. With the caravel he was given a free hand to explore and he headed east. Upon his return to Lisbon, Magellan submitted a report stating that he had discovered lands he thought were located to the east of the Tordesillas line of demarcation, belonging therefore not to Portugal but to Spain. This report antagonised Magellan's superiors but Magellan refused to retract his claims. In 1513, Magellan was recalled back to Lisbon in disgrace, put on half-pay, demoted in rank, and refused a place on the next expedition to the East. Frustrated, Magellan volunteered for service in Morocco in the continuing battle with the Moors. In Morocco he was given a good post, due in part to his good friendship with John of Lisbon who was the foremost navigator in Portugal. Magellan did see action in North Africa and was wounded seriously and almost court-martialled. This alienated Magellan even more and he decided to return to the East as soon as possible. However, he was constantly frustrated in his attempt to secure a command of a caravel. Finally King Manuel humiliated Magellan in front of the entire King's court by refusing him the kiss of fealty. That night Magellan left the palace in disgrace and boarded a merchantman bound for Porto. After twenty years of service to the Portuguese Crown, Magellan's career was in ruins in his homeland.
Magellan stayed in Porto until the spring of 1517. During this period Magellan's closest colleagues, Ruy de Faleira (a leading astronomer), John of Lisbon (the most renowned navigator of his age) and Duarte Barbosa (the King's scrivener), pressured Magellan to transfer his allegiance to Spain. John of Lisbon had recently returned from a voyage where he had followed the coast of Brazil southward to a great headland (Cape Santa Maria) at the same latitude as the Cape of Good Hope. John's discovery had the potential of being the route through the South American continent, and this possibility greatly excited Magellan and his colleagues. John provided Magellan with the precise latitude and longitude, and information on its currents, tides, soundings, shoals, and landmarks. John also included all the information from the indigenous people who lived on the northern shore of this strait, which included a reference to "a great mountain of solid silver." All of John's findings rekindled Magellan's idea of returning to the Philippines by sailing west, and not east, especially now that he thought he knew where the tip of the American landmass was.
Magellan's other colleague, Duarte Barbosa, had a similarly alienating reception with King Manuel. Duarte Barbosa sought the advice of his uncle, Diogo Barbosa, a man of some standing in Spain. Diogo Barbosa already had knowledge of John of Lisbon's discovery and had begun to put together a private expedition of his own to pioneer a new route to the Isles of Spice by way of John of Lisbon's strait. Through his nephew, Magellan was secretly offered the command of the expedition. Magellan did not hesitate and left Porto on October 12, 1517, to join Barbosa in Spain, never to return to Portugal. Because of the enormous expense of outfitting the expedition Diogo Barbosa was forced to seek other investors and royal approval for the venture. Magellan was fortunate to be granted an immediate audience with Spain's King Charles I. The King was quickly won over and he had the charter drawn up and approved on the spot. He also provided staunch support during the eighteen months needed to outfit the expedition.
King Charles I's support was badly needed since Portuguese agents were stirring up trouble on the docks of Seville during the outfitting. Magellan also had to contend with Spanish financiers anxious to retard trade so as to keep market prices high. These financiers used their influence to place men of their choosing into key positions in the fleet. The council of financiers chose three out of five captains, four out of five pilots, and half of the first lieutenants, master-at-arms, and stewards. The fleet's second-in-command, Juan de Cartagena, was also chosen by the council and known as a troublemaker who was plotting mutiny before the fleet was out of sight of land. This adversity was an indication not only of the spice trade's importance, but also of how a western route to the riches of India would threaten the status quo in Spain.
THE SPANISH EXPEDITION
By the end of May 1519 the armada was fully manned and awaiting the loading of stores that included: 213,800 lbs. of biscuits, 72,000 lbs. of salted beef, 57,000 lbs. of salted pork, 984 lbs. of cheeses, 5,600 lbs. of beans, and 10,080 lbs. of chickpeas. The armament of the fleet was also formidable and included: fifty-eight culverins, seven falconets, three large lombards, three pasamuros from Bilbao, and 500 lbs. of gun powder, lead-shot, cannon balls of iron and stone, and 100 corselets, with breast-plates and helmets, sixty crossbows, 4,300 arrows and 120 skeins of wire for bows, fifty arquesbuses, 200 shields, 1,140 darts, 120 javelins, 1,000 lances, and 206 pikes. Finally, on September 20, 1519, five ships (Trinidad, Victoria, Concepción, San Antonio, and Santiago) with 277 men embarked on a voyage that astrologers had predicted would be prosperous.
Six days out of port a pinnace intercepted the fleet with a letter that said that three of Magellan's captains were plotting to murder him. These captains were Cartagena of the San Antonio, Quesada of the Concepción, and Medoza of the Victoria. That very evening the three captains tried to lure Magellan into combat hoping to stab him but Magellan avoided the confrontation. For the first several weeks the armada held course to the south with Magellan's ship the Trinidad in the lead, passing through the Cape Verde Islands and off the coast of Sierra Leone. The mood of the fleet was contentious due to the three Spanish captains' constant undermining of Magellan's authority. Cartagena was the leader of this belligerent contingent and he badgered Magellan tirelessly about his strategy of sailing along the African coast instead of heading into the ocean. Cartagena voiced his opposition to Magellan's command. Cartagena was accused of mutiny and dragged away and put in the ship's stocks. Magellan stripped Cartagena of his command and released him on parole although he was within his rights to behead a traitor. De Coca replaced Cartagena as captain and for a time Magellan's boldness of action had brought the armada into temporary obedience to his command.
Near the end of October the fleet approached the Equator and was caught in a series of electrical storms. Once through this they found themselves in the Sargasso Sea lingering within the doldrums. They were already running low on water and showing signs of scurvy. After three weeks in this state, the South Equatorial Current drifted them out of the Sargasso to the edge of the Trade Winds. Here a light north wind blew in and slowly pushed the ships, and Magellan was able to set course for Brazil. By December, after sailing 8,047 kilometres, the armada had arrived on the Brazilian coast slightly south of Cape Roque. They continued south to avoid Portuguese waters and made anchorage on December 13 at what would become Rio de Janeiro.
THE SOUTH AMERICAN COAST
The indigenous people of this area, the Guarani, viewed Magellan's arrival as the end of a long drought in the area. Thus relations were friendly, in part thanks to the Trinidad's pilot, John Lopes Carvalho, whose previous sailing experience to Brazil had taught him some of the Guarani's language. Carvalho was able to negotiate for the food, water, and women necessary to replenish the fleet's diminished stocks and moral. Magellan ordered the vessels beached in pairs for repairs as stocks of yam, cassava, melon, and pineapple were loaded into the ship holds, and pork was salted and stored in empty wine-casks. On Christmas morning the fleet departed and with favourable winds and currents was able to sail down the coast of South America at 160 kilometres per day. Magellan thought he would soon be approaching the strait discovered by John of Lisbon. On January 11, the fleet arrived at Cape of Santa Maria, as described by John of Lisbon, and found a broad reach of water running west-southwest. Magellan ordered his captains to drop anchor and a meeting was held for they approached unknown waters.
The Santiago, under the command of Serrano, was sent westward into the hoped-for strait only to discover that the pass was in fact the mouth of a river flowing into a landlocked bay. Magellan held another meeting where his officers urged him to turn about and sail east around Africa, the known route to the Spice Islands. The crew argued for returning to Rio for winter quarters before carrying on to any destination, but Magellan decided to sail on. Despite the air of mutiny among the seamen Magellan managed to win them over to his ideas and in early February the fleet left the estuary of the Rive Plate and sailed onto the Cape Horn. They sailed for eight weeks along the coast that had turned desolate and provided little shelter in the face of increasing squall activity of hurricane winds and heavy seas. During the onslaught the Victoria ran aground, the Santiago was demasted, the San Antonio sprang a leak and her pumps required around-the-clock manning. During all of this the Trinidad was in the lead with Magellan piloting her through uncharted reefs, sandbars, and shoals. His captains continued to belittle Magellan's leadership. By the third week in March Magellan was forced to halt his progress and winter where they were in Patagonia. Day after day blinding snow squalls plagued the search for a safe harbour until the fleet sailed into the sheltered harbour of St. Julian, where Magellan would face a mutiny.
Quesada was beheaded for his part in the mutiny. After the conclusion of the failed rebellion, the crew began to build shelters for the winter. While transferring supplies, Magellan discovered that Portuguese spies had managed to sabotage his provisions. They had doctored the books and as a result only half of the provisions had actually been loaded onto the ships back in Seville. This was another stunning blow but Magellan immediately set his crew to replenishing supplies by fishing, hunting, and trapping. During this time the fleet's crew had several encounters with the indigenous people, whom they referred to as "Giants", who stood a head-and-shoulders taller than the Europeans.
Relations with the indigenous people turned hostile in July after Magellan attempted to kidnap two of them to take back to Europe. As a result, Magellan ordered the Santiago to seek new winter quarters. The Santiago struggled in the winter storms but it discovered the estuary of the Rio Santa Cruz before a storm destroyed the ship and stranded the crew. Two members of the crew volunteered to head back to Magellan on foot and they arrived after eleven days. Magellan immediately set sail to pick up the survivors and was suitably impressed with Santa Cruz to move winter quarters there while salvaging most of the Santiago's cargo. Preparations continued despite crew and officers urging Magellan to give up his search for the strait. On October 18 the ships set sail to continue their quest. On October 21 the fleet sighted a headland that they named the Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. Here a violent and sudden storm blew in and the San Antonio and Concepción disappeared and were thought shipwrecked. After several days of repairs, the Victoria and the Trinidad made for the rocky promontory behind which the two lost ships had disappeared. As the Trinidad rounded this promontory, her crew viewed a deep-water strait that ran westward through the encircling mountains. Shortly afterwards, the San Antonio and the Conception appeared, a miracle to their companions who had thought them lost in the storm. The fleet had in fact discovered "el paso", the strait that cuts across the South American continent. The fleet pressed westwards and with the aid of a slack tide and a following wind Magellan was able to pilot his armada through the strait. The San Antonio was lost when it was sent to scout to the south of a large island within the strait. Most suspected that the crew had mutinied and sailed east.
The fleet arrived at a small inlet from where Magellan launched a bergantym to probe the now narrowing channel. The end of the channel opened up to the sea but the waters of this meeting place were dangerous. On November 26, after three weeks spent searching for the San Antonio because she carried the greater portion of the fleet's provisions, the three remaining ships sailed west through that last part of the strait, arriving in the open sea the next day. Once the ships had made it through to calmer waters Magellan had Father Valderrama perform a ceremony of blessing where Magellan named the new South Sea the Mar Pacifico.
The first few weeks in the Pacific were uneventful. The fleet ran north parallel to the Chilean coast until they picked up the Peruvian Drift from astern and the Westerlies from abeam. By the middle of the month Magellan altered course to the west-northwest as he neared the thirteenth parallel hoping to sight the coast of Asia. This was an unfortunate choice and the ships sailed for weeks without any sight of land. Food stocks rotted and dwindled, and six weeks out from the Strait of Magellan his men began to die of scurvy. By mid-January over a third of the men were so weak they could not walk, and water was rationed to a single sip a day. Finally on January 25 land was sighted and Magellan named this small island St. Paul's (probably Pukapuka, the most northern of the Tuamotus). Magellan made another unfortunate choice when departing this island on January 28, for he set sail away from the archipelagos of the Pacific, setting a course of west north-west. They sailed on and the voyage became more and more arduous. By March 4th the Trinidad had no more food, nineteen men had died, twenty were too weak to stand, and less than a dozen were able to do any work at all. By the evening of March 5 the situation seemed hopeless until land was spotted. They landed on the Marianas but were very quickly surrounded by an armada of canoes filled with indigenous people, the Chamorros, fully armed with clubs, spears, and shields. Crossbows were fired and islanders were killed. The Chamorros retreated. Magellan then had the village bombed by his cannon. He led a landing party to pillage the remains of the village filling their butts with water and taking everything edible: coconuts, yams, chickens, pigs, rice, and bananas. That night the Chamorros returned in hundreds of canoes but the winds strengthened and the Europeans sailed away. For then next couple of days the ships sailed on, stopping at islands along the way to resupply. Magellan decided to continue to the Philippines and not to the Spice Islands that captive Chamorros had told him were within a few days sailing.
On March 16 Samar, the most easterly island of the Philippines, was sighted. The next few days were spent recuperating after the long ordeal. A wide range of fruits were gathered, which helped immensely the recovery of those stricken with scurvy. They left the island on March 27 and the next day spotted a large canoe with people in it. Black Henry, Magellan's lifelong servant, hailed the canoe in Malay and was answered in Malay. These people brought gifts of Chinese porcelain jars, which confirmed that after 550 days of turmoil and trials Magellan had in fact circumnavigated the globe and reached his goal. On April 2 Magellan's men met with him and begged him to now move on to the Moluccas, but Magellan insisted on pushing deeper into the islands. At the port of Cerbu he faced the Rajah of Cerbu who had both Chinese and Arab advisors, and no doubt knowledge of European aggression at Goa and Malacca.
What followed were days of intense trade, recreation, and religious conversion. Magellan was fanatical in his drive to spread Christianity and when the Rajah of Cerbu told him a number of chiefs in the outlying islands refused to convert, Magellan decided to take his marines and punish the most powerful chief, Cilapulapu. Magellan took sixty men with him but they were attacked and were driven to retreat by the village people. The crew of the Spanish ship that Magellan had taken on the raid left the men to battle for an hour against three thousand natives, the Spanish officers seeing an opportunity to rid themselves of Magellan. Magellan was soon killed and only then did the Spanish officers move in to recover the survivors, not bothering with Magellan's body.
Following Magellan's death, Duarte Barbosa was elected the new commander but he and most of the officers fell victim to a trap sprung by Black Henry, who remained loyal to his dead master. All the officers, except for Carvalho and Constable Espinosa, and Serrano and Father Valderrama, were attacked and killed. Carvalho and Espinosa escaped to the ships, and Serrano and Father Valderrama were captured. Serrano was brought to the ships by his captors to bargain for a ransom in exchange for his life, but Carvalho refused in order to protect his new position as commander, since Serrano was more senior in rank.
The fleet sailed away from Cerbu, abandoning Serrano. Carvalho had the Concepción scuttled and set fire to it and all of Magellan's papers in order to destroy all evidence of their mutinous history. Now only the Victoria and the Trinidad remained to carry out Carvalho's plans for piracy. By October Carvalho was deposed of by Constable Espinosa who finally led the expedition to the Moluccas in November 1521 after a voyage of 820 days. They spent three months in Tidor and in early 1522 preparations were made for the voyage home to Spain. The Trinidad floundered the second week of February. The Victoria and half the men were sent onward under the command of Del Cano. Espinosa remained with the others to try and recaulk and refloat the Trinidad. Espinosa and his group were soon captured by the Portuguese and hanged as pirates, as a result of their actions under Carvalho's leadership.
Del Cano, who was one of the mutineers at St. Julian, was now the commander and led the Victoria into the Indian Ocean at the end of March. Very soon the crew was once again in the grips of scurvy, and low on water and rations. The Victoria was demasted again after a series of violent storms. Fear of the Portuguese prevented the party from landing in Mozambique, but by late May the Victoria managed to make its way past the Cape of Good Hope. By July 8 the Victoria had run out of food and water. Only twenty-four men of the sixty who had begun the journey were left and Del Cano had no choice but to make for the Cape Verdes. He landed by night, and told his men to pretend they were blown off course from America. The fishermen they encountered were sympathetic and aided them by giving them rice and helping them re-supply with water. After several boatloads of supplies had been ferried aboard, troops from the nearby fort arrived and Del Cano was forced to abandon his landing party and sail clear of the islands. On September 4 they entered the bay of San Lucar. Only eighteen men had survived the three-year long, 14,460 league circuit of the world from east to west. On September 8 they cast anchor near the Mole of Seville. The next morning they went ashore to the shrine of Our Lady of Victory.
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