Postclassical Era (500-1500) |

Magellan Reaches The Pacific – 11/28/1520

Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan arrives with three ships at the Pacific Ocean, previously navigating through the deadly straits under South America that currently has his name; Magellan officially has become the original European explorer to sail from the Atlantic to the Pacific.

Ferdinand decides to leave Spain to set sail in an attempt to discover a western sea route to reach Indonesia’s rich Spice Islands on September 20th, 1519. Magellan traveled to West Africa and continued to Brazil in control of 270 men and five ships, where Ferdinand looked through the South American coast to find a strait that would lead him to the Pacific. Trying to find a way through, he looked through a big estuary south of Brazil known as the Rio de la Plata; unsuccessful, he moved south down the coast of Patagonia. The expedition prepared winter quarters at Port St. Julian at the end of March in 1520. Eventually, the Spanish captains rebelled against Magellan at midnight on Easter day; however, the mutiny was crushed and punishment was one of the leaders was left on shore after leaving St. Julian in August while the other leader was executed.

Finally, Ferdinand had found the strait he had been looking for on October 21st, 1520. Now known as the Strait of Magellan, it can be found roughly at the tip of South America, separating the continental mainland and Tierra del Fuego. Unfortunately, only three vessels made it to the passage as one had to be deserted while the other was wrecked. Navigation of the deadly strait took 38 days and when the ocean could be seen at the strait’s end, Ferdinand wept with happiness. His fleet achieved the crossing westward of the ocean in a total of 99 days; the waters were strangely peaceful in which the ocean earned the name of Pacific which comes from the Latin word pacificus meaning tranquil. The men had no food by the end and survived by eating leather parts from their gear. An expedition arrived on the island of Guam on March 6th, 1521.

Only roughly being 400 miles away from the Spice Islands ten days later, the ships dropped anchor on the Philippine island of Cebu. The chief of Cebu met with Magellan and after the tribe was converted to Christianity, the chief convinced the Europeans to aid him in attacking a rival tribe on the nearby island of Mactan. Ferdinand was shot and struck by a poisoned arrow during the attack on April 27th and his retreating comrades left him to his death.

The remaining two ships that held the survivors set sail to the Moluccas after Magellan’s death and filled their ships with spice. Sailing in different directions, one ship made an effort to head back through the Pacific failed. The other ship known as the Vittoria, sailed west lead by Basque navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano. His ship traveled through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope and finally arrived on September 6th, 1522 at the Spanish port of Sanlucar de Barrameda; they succeeded in becoming the original vessel to circumnavigate the world.       

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Kelly Sutherland


Hi! I'm Kelly. My favorite time period was the 70s. I had a boatloads of fun traveling around with my close friends spreading love and just living my life to the fullest... if you know what I mean ;) Now I enjoy sitting in my cozy nook writing and learning about history.