1902 Encyclopedia > Geography > Ferdinand Magellan

(Part 18)

Ferdinand Magellan

But the great anxiety of the Spanish Government at that time was to find a westward route to the Moluccas. For this purpose Juan Diaz de Solis was dispatched in October 1515, and in January 1516 he discovered the mouth of the Rio de la Plata. He was, however, killed by the natives, and his ships returned.

In the following year Magellan laid before Charles V, at Valladolid, a scheme for reaching the Spice Islands by sailing westward. He had already served with his own countrymen, the Portuguese, on the coast of India and at the taking of Malacca, and he was an accomplished and resolute seaman.

With a fleet of five ships, and the rank of captain-general, Magellan sailed from San Lucar on the 21st September 1519. After touching on the coast of Brazil at the Rio de la Plata, and at the ports on the east coast of Patagonia, Magellan entered the straits which bear his name in October 1520. In consequence of many fires being seen on the southern shores of the strait, he named that country Tierra del Fuego.

The fleet, now consisting of the "Trinidad," "Vittoria," and "Concepcion," emerged from the strait and entered the Pacific Ocean on the 27th of November 1520. They then steered north-west, crossed the line on the 13th of February 1521, and on the 6th of March reached the Ladrone Islands.

Thence Magellan proceeded to the Philippines. He was killed in an attack on the island of Matan, which he made in order to bring it under subjection to his ally the king of Zebu [Cebu], on the 26th of April 1521. Thus fell this great navigator, who was second only to Columbus in the history of nautical exploration.

His brother-in-law, Duarte Barbosa, was selected to succeed Magellan in command of the fleet, with João Serrao as his colleague. They were both killed in battles with the natives, and eventually a Biscayan named Sebastian del Cano, sailing home by way of the Cape of Good Hope, reached San Lucar in command of the "Vittoria" on the 6th of September 1522, with eighteen survivors.

Del Cano was received with great distinction by the emperor, who granted him a globe for his crest, and the motto "Primus circumdedisti me."

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