Ferdinand Magellan, Portuguese: Fernão de Magalhães (circa 1470 - April 27, 1521) was a Portuguese sea explorer who sailed for Spain. He was the first to sail from Europe westwards to Asia, and he named the Pacific Ocean. He is also remembered as the first to circumnavigate the globe, although not in a single voyage: in an early voyage he sailed to Indonesia, and in his last voyage he reached the same longitude from the opposite direction.
Born into the nobility as Fernão de Magalhães (or Magalhãens), he was raised a page at the royal court of King John II of Portugal and Queen Eleonora. At age 20 he was sent to India, to viceroy Francisco de Almeida for military training, where geography caught his interest. Returning from India, he was sent to Morocco, where he fought in the Battle of Azamor (28 - 29 August 1513) and received a knee wound. He was also accused of trading with the Moors. The accusation was subsequently dropped, but Magellan fell into disfavour with the Portuguese crown.
He returned to Portugal, and stayed at the royal court of King Emanuel I, but Emanuel let him understand that he would have no further employment in his country's service (after 15 May 1514). Magellan formally renounced his nationality, and went to offer his services to the court of Spain. He reached Seville on 20 October 1517, and thence went to Valladolid to see the Spanish King Charles I. With the help of Juan de Aranda, one of the three chief officials of the India House at Seville, and of other friends, especially Diogo Barbosa, a Portuguese like himself, naturalized as a Spaniard, who had acquired great influence in Seville, and whose daughter he now married, he gained the ear of Charles and of the powerful minister, Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca, bishop of Burgos, the persistent enemy of Christopher Columbus, the steady supporter of his great successor.
By this time, Magellan had found a map, based on reports from prior voyages, that indicated the Rio de la Plata, a large bay-like river mouth in South America, as a passage through that continent to the Pacific Ocean. He decided to pioneer this route to reach the Moluccas (Spice Islands), the key to the strategic and tremendously lucrative spice trade. He allegedly declared himself ready to sail southwards to 75° to realize his project.
Ruy Faleiro the astronomer, another Portuguese exile, aided him in the working out of his plan, and he found an invaluable financial ally in Christopher de Haro, a member of a great Antwerp firm, who owed a grudge to the king of Portugal. On 22 March 1518, Magellan and Faleiro, as joint captains-general, signed an agreement with King Charles by which one-twentieth of the clear profits would fall to them; further, they and their heirs would gain the government of any lands discovered, with the title of Adelantados.
On 10 August 1519 a fleet of five vessels, under Magellan's command, left Seville and dropped down the Guadalquivir to San Lucar de Barrameda, at the mouth of the rivers where they remained more than five weeks. Spanish authorities were wary of the Portuguese admiral and almost prevented from sailing, but on September 20, 1519 Magellan's armada put to sea.
Upon hearing of his departure, King Emanuel of Portugal ordered a naval detachment to pursue him, but Magellan contrived to shake off the Portuguese. His next great challenge was a mutiny by his Spanish captains, which he put down by imprisoning his second-in-command. Soon the fleet reached the South American coast, where the weather and the natives were generally friendly. These good conditions caused them to delay, so that the southern winter struck while they were still on the Argentinian coast.
Magellan decided to spend the winter in a place he called Puerto San Julian in Patagonia. Another mutiny occurred here, involving three of the five ships, but it was again put down, and two expedition leaders were marooned on that inhospitable coast. One ship was sent down the coast on a scouting expedition, but it was wrecked on the return trip. Only a few sailors returned, overland, to inform Magellan of what had happened. On October 21, 1520 they completed an arduous passage through what is now known as the Strait of Magellan entering the South Pacific on November 28. Magellan named the waters the Pacific Ocean because of their apparent stillness.
Three ships were left now (after Estevan Gomez took one and turned back during the Straits passage), crossed the Pacific and on March 6, 1521 found the Marianas and on March 16 the Philippines. Magellan died in the Philippines on April 27, at the Battle of Mactan, after intervening in a local conflict. Only one of the ships (Victoria, commanded by Sebastian Elcano) returned to Spain, on September 6, 1522.
See also: Military History of the Philippines