Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) is remembered as the man who planned the first voyage to go around the world. For his quest to the East Indies, Spain backed Magellan on his journey west across the Atlantic. This made his expedition the first European one to circumnavigate the globe via the Pacific Ocean.

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The name Magellan doesn’t ring a bell.

Magellan, who was born in Portugal, became a famous explorer and sea captain. By sailing west across the Atlantic, he hoped to arrive in Southeast Asia, a region rich in spices and precious gems. So that he could sail from the Atlantic to the ocean beyond the Americas, he needed to find a way through South America (now known as the Pacific). In 1519, he set sail from Spain with five vessels and about 260 men.

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What about South America, did he get through there?

What about South America, did he get through there?

Magellan stumbled upon the strait that bears his name. Two of his ships were blown towards land by the storm, and the crew was worried that they would be stricken there. Then, luckily, they saw a crack in the coast just ahead. Since leaving, they had been looking for that very passage.

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Whence comes the name “Pacific”?

When Magellan first set foot in the Pacific, he found that it was peaceful, so he gave it that name. One of his ships had deserted by now, but the other four had begun the journey across their newly discovered sea. The estimated time for the crossing stunned everyone at three months and twenty days. Unfortunately, the voyage was not without hardships for Magellan and his men. There was a lack of fresh food, and many people got scurvy as a result.

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Do we know if Magellan made it back to Spain alive?

Do we know if Magellan made it back to Spain alive?

Sadly, he did not make it out of the Philippines alive. He was killed in a conflict with local islanders. He passed away on Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines, on April 27, 1521.

The first expedition to attempt a circumnavigation of the globe was planned and led by him, but he never made it. Actually, a Malaysian sailed around the world first; he had previously returned to Europe with Magellan, many years before, and accompanied him again as an interpreter on his second voyage. Magellan’s second-in-command Juan Sebastian de Elcano, who took over after his death, was the first European to successfully circumnavigate the globe.

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About how many men went back to Spain?

About how many men went back to Spain?

In 1522, only 18 of the original 102 men on Magellan’s voyage made it back to Spain. Those on board the Victoria, the last ship, shocked onlookers with their malnourished and filthy appearance.

How effective was Magellan’s newly discovered trade route?

For a long time, no ships sailed to the Spice Islands from the west. Since Spain was preoccupied with colonising South America, the Portuguese were able to more easily reach the Far East by sailing around Africa’s southernmost point, the Cape of Good Hope.

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