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Ferdinand Magellan

Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) Ferdinand Magellan (1480–1521) In 1519 five ships set sail from Spain. They were commanded by Ferdinand Magellan. Although Magellan was born in Portugal, he was in the service of King Charles I of Spain. He planned to sail down the coast of South America and round its southernmost tip. His aim was to sail west to find a route to the Spice Islands in the Far East, because the eastwards route around Africa was forbidden to Spanish ships by Portugal. In fact, Magellan’s fleet became the first to sail right around the world, although Magellan himself was killed on the journey, in the Philippines.

The fleet is loaded with supplies.The fleet is loaded with supplies.

Sailing west

The Portuguese had controlled the spice trade since Vasco da Gama’s voyage to India in 1498. The Spanish were keen to gain this trade, too, but their way to the Spice Islands in the Far East was barred by the Treaty of Tordesillas (1494), which gave that route to Portugal. Like Columbus, Magellan believed it was possible to reach the Spice Islands from Europe by sailing west. So Magellan was offered five ships by the Spanish to find this new route.

The Pacific Ocean was named by Magellan in 1521. He called it Mar Pacifico, which means “peaceful sea” in Portuguese, because he met with favourable winds when he sailed into it.

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