Was Magellan Really the First Person To Circle the Earth?

The answer could be yes . . . and it could be no. It all depends on what you mean by “circling the earth.” Magellan was the first person to sail completely around the world, but not in one voyage.

Ferdinand Magellan was a Portuguese nobleman. He sailed to the East Indies with the Portuguese navy, then returned to Europe. After a battle in Morocco, he was accused of trading with the enemy, and so he left Portugal and went to Spain. There, he interested the king in his plan to sail around South America and find a route to the East across the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Magellan left Spain in 1519 with five ships. He rounded the southern end of South America through the passage that is now called the Strait of Magellan, then sailed across the ocean that he named the Pacific, because of its gentle winds. It took him 98 days to cross the ocean to the island of Guam, and during that time his men were so hungry, they had to eat sawdust!

In 1521, Magellan reached the Philippines and was killed in a fight with the natives there. But he had already accomplished the feat of sailing around the world, since he had earlier reached the East Indies by sailing around Africa. So Magellan really sailed around the world in two separate voyages!

Some of Magellan’s men left the Philippines, and one ship, the Vittoria, reached Europe in 1522 with just 18 men. These men, with their leader, Sebastian del Cano, were the first people to sail around the world in one voyage.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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