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Ferdinand Magellan’s Great Discoveries

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To mark the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the world by an explorer, let’s recall Ferdinand Magellan’s great discoveries. This expedition set out from Spain on September 20, 1519, and the explorer who had organized it died. A look back on an extraordinary journey back then.

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Voyage around the world and Ferdinand Magellan’s great discoveries

The Spanish King, Charles I (“Carlos 1er”), asked Magellan to sail around the world. 

Ferdinand Magellan began his last journey in 1519. On August 10 of this year, he left the city of Seville in the South of Spain in an attempt to reach the Moluccan Islands in the Pacific. 

Back then, he was at the head of a fleet of 5 ships and over 230 sailors. It was not until September 6, 1522 that the sea expedition ended with only one ship returning to the port of Seville. 

The Spanish sailor, Sebastian del Elcano, had taken over the lead of the fleet at that time.  Only 18 members of the original team survived. Magellan’s circumnavigation of the world is often mentioned, but the truth is that neither he nor his sailors were able to sail around the globe on this expedition.

Ferdinand Magellan’s great discoveries ended with this final journey. On April 27, 1521, he was killed by a poisoned arrow on the island of Mactan in the Philippines. He thus only made half of this impressive journey that his crew had to continue without him.

Festivities commemorating Ferdinand Magellan’s great discoveries

Spanish side

To mark the 500th anniversary of this sailing trip, Spain is thinking big. The King and Queen are directly involved in the commemoration of this event.

Portuguese side

A two-euro coin was specially minted in Portugal to celebrate the 500th anniversary of this expedition. 1.2 million euros were dedicated to the organization of the festivities at a national level.

Which country does Magellan belong to?

It is worth noting that the two countries, Spain and Portugal, commemorate this event in their own way. Recall that Fernand de Magellan was Portuguese but that this expedition had been requested by the Spanish king, so both nations sought to claim a link with the explorer.

Memories of a perilous journey

Important literature

This three-year adventure, which took the lives of more than 200 men, was a wild ride. The Italian sailor Antonio Pigafetta, one of the sailors, kept a logbook throughout the expedition. His writings were the main source for retracing Ferdinand Magellan’s great discoveries during this journey. Then, in 1523, it is the story of Maximilianus Transylvanus that enlightens the readers on the journey initially directed by Magellan. He then gradually fell into oblivion and Stefan Zweig had to wait until the 20th century to write the biography of the explorer.

Chronology of the journey

In 1519, ships crossed the Atlantic to reach Brazil from the Canary Islands. Magellan then decided to head for Patagonia and it was at this point that a mutiny broke out. In 1520, ships passed through a strait that would later bear the name Magellan. After crossing the Pacific, part of the crew dies of illness and Magellan is killed.
The Victoria, the last ship to survive this maritime adventure, is the first ship to achieve a complete circumnavigation of the planet.

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