Captain General Ferdinand Magellan


The 1960 submerged circumnavigation of Triton was long and difficult - but compared to the 1519 voyage of Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan - it was a day at the beach. Magellan's armada of 5 small ships and 270 men left Sanlucar de Barrameda, Spain on 20 September 1519. His fleet consisted of Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Victoria and Santiago. The largest ship displaced only 120 tons. Their objective was to sail west to the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, and claim them for Spain. Magellan had no idea how far away they were.

Like Columbus, Magellan was a foreigner in charge of Spanish captains. Three of these captains plotted to kill him. After a brief stop in the Canary Islands, one of the three led a mutiny against Magellan. When the fleet reached Patagonia (present day Argentina), another mutiny broke out and an attempt was made on Magellan's life. Magellan executed one of the Spanish captains and marooned another in Tierra Del Fuego.

Attempting to find a passage from the Atlantic to the Pacific, the Santiago was lost in heavy seas. After discovering what he called the Straits of All Saints, later named after him, Magellan led his remaining 4 ships through the straits in a masterpiece of seamanship requiring 38 days. During this passage, the captain of the San Antonio sailed his ship back to Spain, taking with him most of the fleet's provisions.

The remaining 3 ships emerged from the straits into the Pacific (named by Magellan). No one had a clue about the size of the Pacific - Magellan thought he could cross it in 2 or 3 days. It took 4 months. By that time, many of the crew had starved to death or died of scurvy. The water had turned putrid and yellow in color. The surviving crew were living on sawdust, leather strips from the rigging - and rats.

After a brief stop in Guam for provisions and water, Magellan sailed to the Philippines, arriving on 28 March, 1521. There, he became involved in the natives' tribal warfare and was killed in battle on Mactan Island on 27 April 1521. The sole surviving captain, Juan Sebastian del Cano took command of the remaining 3 ships and 115 survivors. There were not enough men to man 3 ships, so del Cano had the Concepcion burned. The 2 remaining ships made it to the Moluccas in November, 1521.

In hopes that at least one ship would make it back to Spain, del Cano ordered the Trinidad to sail east across the Pacific, while Victoria sailed west. Trinidad was captured by the Portuguese and all but 4 of her crew killed. On 6 September 1522, almost 3 years from the day it began its historic journey, the 85 ton Victoria and her 18 crew members returned to Sanlucar de Barrameda - where they had begun. These were the first men to circumnavigate the globe.

The Triton plaque proudly hangs in the City Hall of Sanlucar de Barrameda. It bears the Latin inscription, "Ave Nobilis Dux" (Hail Noble Captain). Surely Ferdinand Magellan deserved our salute.



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