On this day in 1522, the last of Ferdinand Magellan’s five ships–the Vittoria–arrives at SanlÚcar de Barrameda in Spain, thus completing the first circumnavigation of the world. On September 20, 1519, Magellan had set sail from Spain with five ships in an effort to find a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia. He fought weather, geography, scurvy and mutiny for nearly a year to traverse the South American continent, finally sailing the Straight (now bearing his name) and bursting into the Pacific.
Born into a Portuguese noble family in around 1480, Magellan became a skilled sailor and naval officer. In March 1505 at the age of 25, Magellan enlisted in the fleet of 22 ships sent to host D. Francisco de Almeida as the first viceroy of Portuguese India. Although his name does not appear in the chronicles, it is known that he remained there eight years, in Goa, Cochin and Quilon. He participated in several battles, including the battle of Cannanore, where he was wounded, the battle of Diu and the Conquest of Malacca.
He fell out of favor for a time, but was eventually selected by King Charles I of Spain to search for a westward route to the Maluku Islands (the “Spice Islands”), and this is where we left him in paragraph one, bursting through the Straight bearing his name.
Lending himself and crew to a religious tribal war in the Philippines, in April of 1521 Magellan was hit by a poisoned arrow and left to die on the island of Mactan by his retreating comrades. Juan SebastiÁn de Elcano captained the Vittoria, loaded down with spice, completing the historic voyage back to Spain.
Moral of the story? Spices with food, good; guns with religion, not so much.