One of the most famous explorers in history, many have heard of Ferdinand Magellan (1480 – 1521) and the first circumnavigation of the globe by sea, but far fewer know the details compared to say, the voyage of Christopher Columbus. The name of the ships is relatively unknown, as is the fact that Magellan didn’t complete his voyage around the world, being killed en route by island natives, in this case in the Philippines.
Born into a noble Portuguese family, Ferdinand Magellan became a court page in Lisbon following the early death of his parents. He became a skilled sailor and navigator at early age, taking part in the Portuguese expeditions to India and Africa. After a disagreement with the King of Portugal in 1517, Magellan successfully enlisted the support of the Spanish royalty for an expedition to reach the Moluccas in Indonesia by sailing westward. King Charles I of Spain wanted a share in the valuable spice trade which at this point in time was controlled by the Portuguese through their eastwards route around Southern Africa.
Five ships set out from Portugal on August 10, 1519 with 271 people on board, but only 18 people returned on board the Victoria on September 6, 1522. The other four ships were Trinidad (110 tons, crew 55), San Antonio (120 tons, crew 60), Concepcion (90 tons, crew 45), and Santiago (75 tons, crew 32). All were wrecked or scuttled on the voyage.
Magellan died for ego on 27 April 1521. He decided to convert the locals to Christianity and got caught up in the conflict between those that did and those that wouldn’t. The voyage of some 42,000 miles (22,000 unknown to the crew), was completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano. He is far less known than Magellan, a former mutineer who spent months in chains on the voyage, but he did complete the first ever circumnavigation of the globe.