Surprisingly, Ferdinand Magellan didn’t step onto a ship until he was 25. When, he enlisted in the Portuguese Navy and was sent to India. He served for approximately 8 years participating in several battles. He must have performed well as he earned honours and several promotions.
He returned to Portugal in 1512 but quickly departed on an expedition sent to find the “Spice Islands” (current day Indonesia, Papua New Guinea and surrounding islands). Ferdinand remained there for some time, married and became a military advisor to the Sultan of Ternate (Indonesia). This role became an important one for Magellan in that he learnt about the local geography and the important Spice producing territories in the area
He devoted himself (along with a like-minded acquaintance called Faleiro) to studying the most recent charts and investigating whether it would be possible to reach the Spice Islands from the East rather than sail under Africa as all had done so before them. After repeated unsuccessful attempts to receive funds from the Portuguese King Manuel, Magellan finally presented his studies to Spanish King Charles. The Spanish King was interested because it would open the “spice route” without damaging relations with the neighbouring Portuguese. On 22 March 1518 the King named Magellan and Faleiro captains so that they could travel in search of the Spice Islands.
They set off with 5 ships and a crew of about 270 men from a variety of nations including Portugal, Spain, Italy, Germany, Holland, Belgium, Greece, England and France. The voyage was more difficult than expected. Disease, bad weather, and loss of ships to various attacks hampered the voyage.
On April 27th, 1521, Magellan was killed in the Philippine Islands after attempting to convert a native chief to Christianity. The fleet continued but of the 5 ships and 270 men who began the voyage, only 18 crew members on a single ship returned to Spain. It was a tragic and eventful voyage but most importantly it completed the first ever circumnavigation of Earth and proved it really is a globe.
Even if Magellan didn’t make it, his tenacity, enthusiasm and relentless will made the voyage possible and for that he must be admired!