Ferdinand Magellan (1480-1521)

Ferdinand Magellan--courtesy of Wikipedia

Ferdinand Magellan (Spring 1480 – April 27, 1521, Mactan Island, Cebu, Philippines) was a Portuguese maritime explorer who while in the service of the Spanish crown, tried to find a westward route to the Spice Islands of Indonesia. This was the first known successful attempt to circumnavigate the Earth. He did not complete his final westward voyage; he was killed during the Battle of Mactan in the Philippines. As he died farther west than the Spice Islands, which he had visited on earlier voyages from the west, he became one of the first individuals to cross all the meridians of the globe. He was the first person to lead an expedition sailing westward from Europe to Asia and to cross the Pacific Ocean.

Magellan should also be recognised as the first European explorer to enter the Pacific from the Strait of Magellan, which he discovered. He is also remembered as the first European to reach the archipelago of what is now known as the Philippines, which was unknown to the western world before his landing. Arab traders had established commerce within the archipelago centuries earlier.

Of the 270 crew members who set out with Magellan to circumnavigate the globe, only 18 completed the circumnavigation and managed to return to Spain.[1][2] They were led by Spaniard Juan Sebastián Elcano, who took over command of the expedition after Magellan's death.

Death

Heading northwest, the crew reached the equator on February 13, 1521. On March 6, they reached the Marianas and Guam. Magellan called Guam the "Island of Sails" because they saw a lot of sailboats. They renamed it to "Ladrones Island" (Island of Thieves) because many of Trinidad's small boats were stolen there. On March 16, Magellan reached the island of Homonhon in the Philippines, with 150 crew left, and became the first European to reach the Philippines.

Magellan was able to communicate with the native peoples because his Malay interpreter, Enrique, could understand their language. Enrique was indentured by Magellan during his earlier voyages to Malacca, and was at his side during the battles in Africa, during Magellan's disgrace at the King's court in Portugal, and during Magellan's successful raising of a fleet. They traded gifts with Rajah Kolambu of Limasawa, who guided them to Cebu on April 7.

Rajah Humabon of Cebu was friendly to Magellan, and he and his queen, Juana, even accepted Christianity. Afterward, Humabon and his rival Datu Zula convinced Magellan to go kill their enemy, Lapu-Lapu, on Mactan. Magellan had wished to convert Lapu-Lapu to Christianity, as he had Rajah Humabon, a proposal to which Lapu-Lapu was dismissive. On the morning of April 17, 1521, Magellan sailed to Mactan with an army of men. During the resulting Battle of Mactan against indigenous forces led by Lapu-Lapu, Magellan was killed.

Pigafetta provided the only extant eyewitness account of the events culminating in Magellan's death:

“When morning came, forty-nine of us leaped into the water up to our thighs, and walked through water for more than two cross-bow flights before we could reach the shore. The boats could not approach nearer because of certain rocks in the water. The other eleven men remained behind to guard the boats. When we reached land, [the natives] had formed in three divisions to the number of more than one thousand five hundred people. When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries... The musketeers and crossbow-men shot from a distance for about a half-hour, but uselessly... Recognising the captain, so many turned upon him that they knocked his helmet off his head twice... A native hurled a bamboo spear into the captain's face, but the latter immediately killed him with his lance, which he left in the native's body. Then, trying to lay hand on sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because he had been wounded in the arm with a bamboo spear. When the natives saw that, they all hurled themselves upon him. One of them wounded him on the left leg with a large cutlass, which resembles a scimitar, only being larger. That caused the captain to fall face downward, when immediately they rushed upon him with iron and bamboo spears and with their cutlasses, until they killed our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide. When they wounded him, he turned back many times to see whether we were all in the boats. Thereupon, beholding him dead, we, wounded, retreated, as best we could, to the boats, which were already pulling off.”

Magellan provided in his will that Enrique, his interpreter, was to be freed upon his death. However, after Mactan, the remaining ships' masters refused to free Enrique. Enrique escaped his indenture on May 1, with the aid of Rajah Humabon, amid the deaths of almost 30 crewmen. However, Pigafetta had been making notes about the language, and was apparently able to continue communications during the rest of the voyage.

Maraming Salamat and please come again!

 
 

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