Why Did Ferdinand Magellan Make His Voyage?

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Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese navigator, sailed west from Spain in the early 16th century in hopes of finding a western shipping route to Indonesia’s Spice Islands. With five ships and more than 250 men, he reached Brazil, where he looked along the coast of South America for a strait leading to the Pacific Ocean. After camping in Port St. Julian for the winter, Magellan found the strait.

The Strait of Magellan, as it is known today, is near the tip of South America. It separates the continent from the archipelago called Tierra del Fuego. It took Magellan and his party about five weeks to pass through the strait, owing to swift currents and high winds.

In March of 1521, the expedition reached Guam and, 10 days later, the Philippine island of Cebu, a few hundred miles from the Spice Islands. While on Cebu, the chief of the local people convinced Magellan to help him battle a rival group of islanders. Magellan died after being struck by a poison arrow.

His crew continued on to the Spice Islands, where they filled two ships with spices. One ship attempted to return to Europe by way of the Pacific Ocean, but it did not succeed. The other, the Victoria, sailed back to Spain across the Indian Ocean and around the Cape of Good Hope.

In the end, three of Magellan’s ships were wrecked, and the crew of the fourth deserted the expedition before reaching the Strait of Magellan. The Victoria was the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.