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Ferdinand Magellan was born in Portugal around 1480.  At 25 he enlisted in the Portuguese fleet, fought in numerous battles, and was more than once wounded.  He worked his way up the ranks but in 1517 got into a quarrel with King Manuel I.  The Portuguese king had refused Magellan's persistent demands for the king's permission and funding.  Though rejected, Magellan's nature wouldn't let him take no for an answer.   Magellan sought and received funding from the King Manuel's rival, the King of Spain.  Of course, this didn't sit well with the King of Portugal who went so far in his efforts to stop Magellan that he even sent a naval detachment to pursue Magellan. 

Magellan departed Spain on the 10th day of September 1519.  He commanded an expedition of 5 ships and around 270 men of various nationalities.  Three days after establishing a settlement in what is now Argentina, Magellan managed to ward off a mutiny lead by two of the 5 ship captains.  As a result they were drawn and quartered and impaled on the coast where years later their bones were said to have been found my Sir Francis Drake. 

When Magellan sent one of his ships to scout ahead, it was destroyed by a storm but all hands made it ashore and were later rescued.  Later, on the verge of navigating the Straights of Magellan, one of the remaining 4 ships deserted and returned to Spain.   The three remaining ships set out across the Pacific thinking it was but a short distance from there to the spice islands.  Not knowing how long a journey they had undertaken, they almost starved to death.  It is said that men fell to chasing and eating the rats on board.

On 6 March 1521 they finally reached Guam, 11 days later they were in the Philippines where he enjoyed the hospitality of a local chieftain Humabon, whom he converted to Catholicism. He still commanded 3 ships and 150 men.  On the morning of the 27th of April, Magellan rowed ashore with 48 other men on the island of a Mactan.  They came armed and armored to confront the local chieftain Lapu-Lapu who had refused Magellan's demanding invitations to convert to Catholicism and who was Humabon’s enemy. To their surprise, they found themselves facing 1500 warriors who overwhelmed and killed Magellan, his son, and others. The rest fled back to the ships which, because of the low tides, could not come close enough to bring their cannons to bear.  They returned to Humabon and were soon poisoned.  The survivors decided the Philippines was just not their cup of tea and left.  Only having enough men left to sail 2 ships, the third was burnt and left behind. These two ships made it to the spice islands where they loaded up with cargo worth its weight in gold.  One of the ships, leaking badly, attempted to turn back and sank off the coast of India.  The last remaining ship, the VICTORIA continued around the globe finally returning on the 6th day of September 1522.

The Magellan expedition was responsible for several major discoveries. In addition to the Pacific Ocean and numerous islands, waterways and other geographic information, the expedition also sighted a great many new animals, including penguins and guanacos. The discrepancies between their log book and the date when they returned to Spain led directly to the concept of the International Date Line. Their measurements of distances traveled helped contemporary scientists determine the size of the earth. They were the first to sight certain galaxies visible in the night sky, now aptly known as the Magellanic Clouds. Although the Pacific had been first discovered in 1513 by Vasco Nunez de Balbo, it is Magellan's name for it that stuck (Balboa called it the "South Sea").

Immediately upon the return of the Victoria, European sailing ships began trying to duplicate the voyage, including an expedition led by surviving captain Elcano. It wasn't until Sir Francis Drake's 1577 voyage, however, that anyone really managed to do it again. Still, the knowledge gained immensely advanced the science of navigation at the time.
Today, Magellan's name is synonymous with discovery and exploration. Telescopes and spacecraft bear his name, as does a region in Chile.