After more than a month spent traversing the strait, Magellan’s remaining armada emerged in November 1520 to behold a vast ocean before them. They were the first known Europeans to see the great ocean, which Magellan named Mar Pacifico, the Pacific Ocean, for its apparent peacefulness, a stark contrast to the dangerous waters of the strait from which he had just emerged. In fact, extremely rough waters are not uncommon in the Pacific Ocean, where tsunamis, typhoons and hurricanes have done serious damage to the Pacific Islands and Pacific Rim nations throughout history.
Little was known about the geography beyond South America at that time, and Magellan optimistically estimated that the trip across the Pacific would be rapid. In fact it took three months for the fleet to make its way slowly across the vast Mar Pacifico. The days dragged on as Magellan’s crew anxiously waited to utter the magic words “Land, ho!” At last in March 1521 the fleet reached the Pacific island of Guam, where they finally replenished their food stores.
Magellan’s fleet then sailed on to the Philippine archipelago landing on the island of Cebu, where Magellan befriended the locals and, struck with a sudden religious zeal, he sought to convert them to Christianity. Magellan was now closer than ever to reaching the Spice Islands, but when the Cebu asked for his help in fighting their neighbors on the island of Mactan, Magellan agreed. He assumed he would command a swift victory with his superior European weapons, and against the advice of his men, Magellan himself led the attack. The Mactanese fought fiercely, and Magellan fell when he was shot with a poison arrow. He died on April 27, 1521.
Magellan would never make it to the Spice Islands, but after the loss of yet another of his fleet’s vessels, the two remaining ships finally reached the Moluccas on November 5, 1521. In the end, only the Victoria completed the voyage around the world and arrived back in Seville, Spain, in September 1522 with a heavy cargo of spices but with only 18 men from the original crew.
Seeking riches and personal glory, Magellan’s daring and ambitious voyage around the world provided the Europeans with far more than just spices. Although the trip westward from Europe to the east via the Strait of Magellan had been discovered and mapped, the journey was too long and dangerous to become a practical route to the Spice Islands. Nevertheless, European geographic knowledge was expanded immeasurably by Magellan’s expedition. He found not only a massive ocean, hitherto unknown to Europeans, but he also discovered that the earth was much larger than previously thought. Finally, although it was no longer believed that the earth was flat at this stage in history, Magellan’s circumnavigation of the globe empirically discredited the medieval theory conclusively.
Though Magellan is often credited with the first circumnavigation on the globe, he did so on a technicality: He first made a trip from Europe to the Spice Islands, eastward via the Indian Ocean, and then later made his famous westward voyage that brought him to the Philippines. So he did cover the entire terrain, but it was not a strict point A to point A, round-the-world trip, and it was made in two different directions. His slave, Enrique, however, was born in either Cebu or Mallaca and came to Europe with Magellan by ship. Ten years later, he then returned to both Cebu (with Magellan) and Mallaca (after Magellan died) by ship on the armada’s westward route. So Enrique was the first person to circumnavigate the world in one direction, from point A to point A.