Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)
Magellan’s voyage is, according to the naval historian Samuel Elliot Morison, ‘the greatest single human achievement in the sea’. An orphan from a good family born about 1480, Fernão de Magalhães grew up as a page at the Portuguese court. It was the time when Portuguese maritime excellence was evident following the feat of Bartholomeu Dias going round the Cape of Good Hope and Vasco da Gama landing off the shores of Calicut in India. There were others too,-Vespucci Columbus and Cabot but the significance of Magellan’s achievement not fully understood in his time was in making the world known as it was.
Magellan’s will outmatched his lame body and his vision in charting the maritime expedition to the east was altogether new. But the king Manuel I didn’t approve of reaching the Spice Islands from the east. Then Magellan turned to Charles I of Spain whose patronage helped him to fit out a fleet of ships. The King entrusted him with the task of finding a route to the Spice islands, Maluku islands in Indonesia. His five ships Concepcíon, San Antonio, Victoria,Santiago together with his flagship Trinidad left Europe from Sanlúcar di Bariameda in the fall of 1519. During the voyage he lost his life in the Philippians but one of his ship Victoria succeeded in circling the globe. Of the 237 men who set out on five ships, only 18 completed the circumnavigation and managed to return to Spain in 1522. Reviled and defamed in his time his legacy is now that of a pioneer. Sir. Francis Drake in his time followed his route. His name has been written among the stars- the nearest dwarf galaxies bear his name, Magellanic clouds. In addition to this he was the first European to note the Magellanic penguin. The strait connecting the Atlantic Ocean with the Pacific in South America bears his name. He was the first European to discover Tierra del Fuego just east side of the strait.
Magellan had, however, traveled eastwards to the Malay peninsula on an earlier voyage. He proposed to sail from the east instead of the traditional route from the west. In 1517 he left for Spain where he took up his residence. King of Spain wanted him to find the Spice Islands and let him lead the expedition from the east. This made him one of the first explorers to cross all of the meridians of the globe.
He first named the waters as Mar Pacifico or the Pacific ocean because of its stillness.