Ferdinand Magellan was bornabout 1480 in Sabrosa of a noble Portuguese family. His parents, who were members of nobility, died when he was about10 years old. At the age of 12, Magellan became a page to Queen Leanor at the royal court. Such a position commonly served as a means of education for sons of the Portuguese nobility.
At the court, Magellan learned about the voyages of such explorers as Christopher Columbus of Italy and Vasco da Gama of Portugal. He also learned the fundamentalsof navigation. In 1496, Magellan was promoted to rank of squire and became a clerk in the marine department. There, he helped outfit ships for trade along the west coast of Arfica.
Magellan first went into sea in 1505, when he sailed to India with the fleet of Francisco Almeida, Portugal’s first ruler to that country. In 1506, Magellan went on an expedition sent by Almeida to the east coast of Africa to strengthen Portuguese bases there. The next year, he returned to India, where he participated in trade and in several naval battles against Turkish fleets.
In 1509, Magellan sailed with a Portuguese fleet to Malaka, a commercial center in what is now Malaysia. The Malays attacked the Portuguese who went to shore, and Magellan helped rescue his comrades. In 1511, he took part in an expedition that conquered Malaka. After this victory, a Portuguese fleet sailed farther to the Spice Islands which were called the Molucca Islands. Portugal claimed the islands at this time. Magellan’s close personal friend Francisco Serraro went along on the voyage to the Spice Islands and wrote to Magellan, describing the route and the island of Ternate. Serrao’s letters helped establish in Magellan’s mind the location of the Spice Islands, which later became the destination of his great voyage.
Magellan returned to Portugal in1513. He then joined a military expedition to Morocco. On this expedition, Magellan would suffer a wound that would make him limp for...
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