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Magellan’s Voyage

July 2024
35min read

Another eyewitness takes us on another voyage, three and a half centuries earlier—this one around the world

The Nancy-Libri-Phillipps-Beinecke-Yale manuscript of Pigafetta’s narrative is being published at this time by the Yale University Press, under the title Magellan’s Voyage , in two volumes at $75 the boxed set. One volume is a facsimile of the manuscript, with initial illuminations and maps in full color. The other consists of a fully annotated English translation by R. A. Skelton, former Keeper of Maps in the British Museum, and an introduction, also by Mr. Skelton, from which the above excerpt is taken. —The Editors

The first circumnavigation of the globe by a sailing ship was an event much more astonishing to the minds of men in 1522 than, to the modern mind, the first orbiting of the earth by a man-made satellite in 1957. But when the Portuguese captain Ferdinand Magellan sailed with his Spanish fleet of five small ships—the Santo Antonio , the Trinidad , the Concepción , the Victoria , and the Santiago —from the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in September, 1519, he had not conceived a voyage round the world. By a westward navigation he expected to reach the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, which the Portuguese had attained from the Indian Ocean while he was still in their service. Not for the first or last time in the history of discovery, it was the discrepancy between what the venturer expected and what he found that greatly enriched human experience and knowledge.

To the world map Magellan added the Pacific Ocean, which occupies one third of the earth’s surface, with an area exceeding that of all the land areas of the globe. Although the westward passage that he pioneered through the strait named for him was not to become a regular trade route, he discovered the wind systems that controlled navigation in the South Pacific. The reports on the island peoples of the ocean and its archipelagos carried home by the survivors of the expedition opened to the eyes of Europeans a window on a new and strange cultural world. The Portuguese monopoly of information on the eastern seas and on operations there was broken, and a new factor in the geopolitical rivalry of Spain and Portugal emerged.

Considered in the light of its influence on the course of history, the most precious cargo brought back in the Victoria —the only ship of Magellan’s little fleet to complete the circumnavigation and return home—was not the load of cloves in her hold but the information carried in the memories or notebooks of the eighteen European survivors. The longest and most valuable narrative of the voyage was written not by a professional seaman but by a young Italian, Antonio Pigafetta, who joined the expedition as a volunteer in the flagship Trinidad when she sailed and was aboard the Victoria when she berthed in 1522. To his task of recording he brought a capacity for keen observation, sympathetic interpretation, and expressive communication of experience that enabled him to produce one of the most remarkable documents in the history of discovery.

Pigafetta was a scion of a noble family of Vicenza who claimed Venetian citizenship. As a member of the military order of Saint John of Jerusalem, commonly called the Knights of Rhodes, who owed allegiance only to the Pope, Pigafetta was liable to diplomatic or similar duties in the papal service. It may have been thus that at the end of 1518 he accompanied Leo X’s ambassador to the young King Charles V of Spain. There he heard much talk of the Magellan enterprise and (as he says), prompted by a craving for experience and glory, volunteered for the voyage.

His duties on board ship doubtless left him leisure for writing a daily journal and gathering information ashore on the lands and islands visited by the expedition, where his success in dealing with indigenous peoples made him useful to the commanders in ceremonial visits, negotiation, or trade relations. Sometimes he used signs or (we must suppose) direct if halting conversation. For much of the voyage he had as interpreter Magellan’s Sumatran slave, Enrique (“Henrich”) of Malacca, who was to play a dark role in determining the fate of the expedition. And finally, he picked up some of the native dialects as he went along. His lively interest in people, supported by his linguistic aptitude, enabled him to absorb like a sponge an altogether remarkable quantity of information.

Pigafetta probably completed his “Relation,” in the form transmitted by the surviving manuscripts, by April, 1524. Of the four extant manuscripts, one is in Italian and the other three in French. The Italian manuscript is in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, Milan. Two of the French manuscripts are in the Bibliothèque Nationale, Paris; the third, known as the Nancy-Libri-Phillipps-Beinecke-Yale codex, was purchased by Mr. Edwin J. Beinecke and presented to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, in 1964. It is this manuscript that is excerpted here. It is the most complete of the three French manuscripts and the best organized and most beautiful of all four.

R. A. Skelton

On Monday, St. Lawrence’s day, the tenth of August in the… year [1519], the fleet, having been furnished with all that was necessary for it, and having in the five ships people of divers nations to the number of two hundred and thirty-seven in all [in fact, between 270 and 280, including at least thirty-seven Portuguese], was ready to depart from the Mole of Seville, and firing all the artillery we set sail with the staysail only and came to the mouth of a river named Betis, which is now called Guadalquivir.… And passing through several small villages along the said river, at length we arrived at a castle belonging to the Duke of Medina Sidonia called San Lucar, which is a port by which to enter the Ocean Sea.…

Departure of the fleet from the port of Seville

A few days after, the captain-general went along the said river in his boat, and the masters of the other ships with him, and we remained for some days at the said port to supply the fleet with some necessary things. We went every day to hear mass on land at a church named Our Lady of Barrameda near San Lucar, where the captain ordered all those of the fleet to confess themselves before going further. In which he himself showed the way to the others. Moreover he would not allow any woman, whoever she might be, to come into the fleet and to the ships, for several good reasons.…

Tuesday the twentieth of September of the said year, we departed from San Lucar, laying course by the southwest wind, otherwise called labeiche . And on the sixteenth of the said month [an error; it was on either September 26 or 29] we arrived at an island of the Grand Canary named Tenerife, in twenty-eight degrees of latitude, where we remained three and a half days to take in provisions and other things which were needed.…

On Monday the third of October in the said year, at midnight, we sailed on the course to the south, which the seamen of the Levant call Cyroc [the sirocco], [and] engulfing ourselves in the Ocean Sea, we passed Cape Verde and sailed for many [days] along the coast of Guinea or Ethiopia, where there is a mountain called Sierra Leone … And sometimes we had the wind contrary, at others fair, and rain without wind.

Thus we sailed for sixty days of rain to the equinoctial line [i.e., the equator]. Which was a thing very strange and uncommon, in the opinion of the old people and of those who had sailed there several times before. Notwithstanding, before reaching that equinoctial line, we had in fourteen degrees a variety of weather, and bad, both by squalls and by wind and currents which came head-on to us so that we could not advance. And in order that our ships should not perish or broach to … we struck the sails.…

During these storms the body of St. Anselm appeared to us several times. And among others on a night which was very dark, at a time of bad weather: the said saint appeared in the form of a lighted torch at the height of the maintop [this was, of course, St. Elmo’s fire], and remained there more than two hours and a half, to the comfort of us all. For we were in tears, expecting only the hour of death. And when this holy light was about to leave us, it was so bright to the eyes of all that we were for more than a quarter of an hour as blind men calling for mercy. For without any doubt no man thought he would escape from that storm.

Be it noted that, whenever this fire which represents the said St. Anselm appears and descends on a ship (which is in a storm at sea), the [said] ship never perishes. Suddenly when the said fire vanished, the sea became calm again …

After we had passed the equinoctial line towards the south, we lost the north star, and… crossed to a land named Verzin [Brazil]…

Of the land of Verzin

The said land of Verzin abounds in all good things, and it is larger than France, Spain, and Italy together. It is one of the countries that the King of Portugal has conquered. Its people are not Christians, and worship nothing, but live according to the custom of nature, more like beasts than otherwise. And some of these people live a hundred years, or six score or seven score years, or more, and they go naked, both men and women. Their habitation is in fairly long houses, which they call Boii , and they sleep in nets of cotton, which they call in their language Amache [hammocks; the people were Tupi or Guarani Indians].

Be it noted also that the inhabitants of that country, both men and women, are in the habit of painting themselves with fire [i.e., tattooing] over all the body and face. The men are shaved and wear no beard, for they pluck it out themselves. And their whole clothing is a ring surrounded by the largest parrot feathers, with which they cover the part and backside only. Which is a very ridiculous thing.… And those people, both men and women, are not quite black, but tend to tan color, and they openly display their shame …

Know that it chanced that there had been no rain for two months before we came thither, and the day when we arrived the rain began, so that the people of the place said that we came from heaven and had brought the rain with us. Which was a great simplicity. And certainly these people would be easily converted to the Christian faith.

Besides the above-mentioned things (betraying their simplicity) the people of this place showed us another very simple thing. For they thought that the small boats of the ships were the children of the ships, and that the said ships gave birth to them when the boats were lowered to send the men hither and yon. And when the boats were lying alongside a ship, they thought that the ships were suckling them.

A beautiful young girl came one day on board our captain’s ship, in which I was, and for no purpose than to seek her fortune. Meanwhile she raised her eyes toward the master’s cabin, where she saw a nail of a finger’s length, which she took and merrily hid it, as something great and new, within her privy parts, and straightway ran off bending forward. And the captain and I saw this mystery.…

Of the Canibali who ate a captain

We tarried thirteen days in this land of Verzin, and departing thence and pursuing our way we went to thirty-four and one third degrees toward the Antarctic Pole. There we found beside a river men of the kind called Canibali , who eat human flesh.…

In the said river were seven small islands, in the largest of which precious stones are found. Which place was formerly named Cape St. Mary, and it was thought that one passed thence to the sea of Sur [i.e., the South Sea, or Pacific Ocean], and nothing more was ever discovered.

It is not known that any ships have passed beyond the said cape. And now it is no longer a cape, but a river [the Rio de la Plata] seventeen leagues in width at its mouth, where it enters the sea.

In time past [actually in the year 1516] these tall men called Canibali , in this river, ate a Spanish captain named Juan de Solis [pilot-major of Spain] and sixty men who had gone, as we did, to discover land, trusting too much in them.…

Departing thence to forty-nine and a half degrees toward the Antarctic Pole, because it was winter, we entered a port to pass the winter, where we remained two whole months without ever seeing anyone. But one day (without anyone expecting it) we saw a giant who was on the shore, quite naked, and who danced, leaped, and sang, and while he sang he threw sand and dust on his head. Our captain sent one of his men toward him, charging him to leap and sing like the other in order to reassure him and show him friendship. Which he did.

Immediately the man of the ship, dancing, led this giant to a small island where the captain awaited him. And when he was before us, he began to marvel and to be afraid, and he raised one finger upward, believing that we came from heaven. And he was so tall that the tallest of us only came up to his waist. [One contemporary account puts the height of these Patagonian “giants” at “ten spans,” or seven feet, six inches.] Withal he was well proportioned. He had a very large face, painted round with red, and his eyes also were painted round with yellow, and in the middle of his cheeks he had two hearts painted. He had hardly any hairs on his head, and they were painted white.

When he was brought to the captain, he was clad in the skin of a certain animal [the guanaco, related to the llama], which skin was very skillfully sewn together.…

The captain caused the giant to be given food and drink, then he showed him other things, among them a steel mirror. Wherein the giant seeing himself was greatly terrified, leaping back so that he threw four of our men to the ground. After that the captain gave him two bells, a mirror, a comb, and a chaplet of paternosters, and sent him back on shore, causing him to be accompanied by four armed men.

One of the giant’s companions, who would never come to the ship, seeing the other return with our men, advanced and ran before to the place where the other giants. lived… Whereupon our men made signs to them that they should come to the ships, and that they would help them to carry their provisions.

Then these men came, bearing only their bows in their hands. But their wives came after them loaded like asses and carrying their goods. And the women are not so tall as the men, but somewhat fatter.

When we saw them, we were all terrified and astonished. For they had teats half a cubit [about nine inches] long, and they were painted on the face and clad like the men. But they wore a small skin in front to cover their private parts. They brought with them four of those little animals of which they make their clothing, and led them on a leash with a cord.… Six days later, our men going to cut wood saw another giant, painted in the face and clad like the others, who had in his hand a bow and arrows… The captain-general … sent to fetch him in his ship’s boat, and took him to one of the small islands in the port where his ships lay.…

This giant was of better disposition than the others, and was very graceful and amiable, loving to dance and leap. And when dancing he depressed the earth to a palm’s depth in the spot where his feet touched. He was with us for a long time, and in the end we baptized him, naming him John.…

Fifteen days later we saw four other giants who were not carrying weapons … The captain kept the two youngest to bring them to Spain on his return. But this was by a cunning trick, for otherwise they would have troubled [injured] some of our men.

Four giants taken of whom the captain kept two

The means by which he kept them was that he gave them many knives, scissors, mirrors, bells, and glass, all which things they held in their hands. And meanwhile the captain sent for large iron fetters, such as are put on the feet of malefactors. Whereat these giants took great pleasure in seeing these fetters, and did not know where they had to be put, and they were grieved that they could not take them in their hands, because they were prevented by the other things aforesaid.… Forthwith the captain had the fetters put on the feet of both of them. And when they saw the bolt across the fetters being struck with a hammer to rivet it and prevent them from being opened, these giants were afraid. But the captain made signs to them that they should suspect nothing. Nevertheless, perceiving the trick that had been played on them, they began to blow and foam at the mouth like bulls, loudly calling on Setebos (that is, the great devil) to help them.…

The captain named the people of this sort Pathagoni .… They live on raw flesh, and eat a certain sweet root which they call Capae .

Those two giants whom we had in the ship ate a large boxful of biscuit, and unskinned rats, and they drank half a pailful of water at a time.

We remained in this port (which was called Port St. Julian) about five months [from March 31 to August 24, 1520], where many strange things befell us. One was that, as soon as we entered the port, the masters of the other four ships conspired against the captain-general to bring about his death. Whose names were Juan de Cartagena, overseer of the fleet, the treasurer Luis de Mendoza, the overseer Antonio de Coca, and Gaspar Quesada. But the treachery was discovered, because the treasurer was killed by dagger blows, then quartered. This Gaspar Quesada had his head cut off, and then he was quartered. And the overseer Juan de Cartagena, who several days later tried to commit treachery, was banished with a priest, and put in exile on that land named Patagoni .… And one of the ships called Santiago going to discover the coast was lost. But all the men [except one] were saved by a miracle, for they were not even wetted.…

Treachery plotted against the captain at Port St. Julian

After going and setting course to the fifty-second degree toward the said Antarctic Pole, on the festival of the eleven thousand virgins [October 21], we found by a miracle a strait which we called the Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins. Which strait is in length one hundred and ten leagues, which are four hundred and forty miles, and in width somewhat less than half a league. And it falls into another sea called the Pacific Sea. And it is surrounded by very great and high mountains covered with snow.

In this place it was not possible to anchor, because no bottom was found. Wherefore it was necessary to put cables ashore of twenty-five or thirty cubits [between thirty-eight and forty-five feet] in length. This strait was a circular place surrounded by mountains (as I have said), and to most of those in the ships it seemed that there was no way out from it to enter the said Pacific Sea. But the captain-general said that there was another strait which led out, saying that he knew it well and had seen it in a marine chart of the King of Portugal, which a great pilot and sailor named Martin of Bohemia had made.

The said captain sent forward two of his ships, one named Santo Antonio and the other Concepción , to seek and discover the outlet of the said strait, which was called the Cape de la Baya.… But approaching the end of the Baya (thinking themselves lost) they saw a small opening, which did not seem an opening but a creek. And like desperate men they threw themselves into it, so that perforce they discovered the strait. … Very joyful at this, they at once turned back to inform the captain-general.… When near us, they suddenly discharged their ordnance, at which we very joyously greeted them in the same way. And then we all together, thanking God and the Virgin Mary, went on.…

Straits which the two ships found

Here the little fleet, so lately reduced by the accidental loss of the Santiago, was further depleted, this time by another mutiny. The pilot of the Santo Antonio, Estevão Gomes, a relative of Magellan, had himself formulated a plan for an expedition of discovery, which was forestalled by Magellan’s. He was also doubtless discontented when Magellan promoted two other Portuguese, Duarte Barbosa and Alvaro de Mesquita (another relative) to command, Mesquita having been made captain of the Santo Antonio. Conspiring with certain Spaniards in the crew, Gomes had Mesquita confined in irons and the ship turned back to Spain, reaching Seville on May 6, 1521. Judgment went in favor of the mutineers, and Mesquita was imprisoned until the return of the Victoria in September, 1522. Gomes was to lead an expedition of discovery along the Atlantic coasts of North America in 1524–25 .

On Wednesday the twenty-eighth of November, one thousand five hundred and twenty, we issued forth from the said strait and entered the Pacific Sea, where we remained three months and twenty days without taking on board provisions or any other refreshments, and we ate only old biscuits turned to powder, all full of worms and stinking of the urine which the rats had made on it, having eaten the good. And we drank water impure and yellow. We ate also ox-hides which were very hard because of the sun, rain, and wind. And we left them four or five days in the sea, then laid them for a short time on embers, and so we ate them. And of the rats, which were sold for half an écu apiece [nearly a week’s pay for a seaman], some of us could not get enough.…

During these three months and twenty days, we sailed in a gulf where we made a good four thousand leagues across the Pacific Sea, which was rightly so named. For during this time we had no storm, and we saw no land except two small uninhabited islands, where we found only birds and trees [perhaps Pukapuka, in the northern Tuamotu Archipelago, and Flint Island or Wostok in the Manihiki Archipelago].… And if our Lord and the Virgin Mother had not aided us by giving good weather to refresh ourselves with provisions and other things we had died in this very great sea. And I believe that nevermore will any man undertake to make such a voyage.

Their next landfall, made on March 6, 1521, was in the Marianas, where they tried to put ashore for provisions. “But it was not possible,” Pigafetta writes, “for the people of those islands entered the ships and robbed us so that we could not protect ourselves from them.” They even stole the captain’s jolly-boat, whereupon Magellan became so angry that he went ashore on the largest of the three islands he saw, probably Guam, with forty men. “And burning some forty or fifty houses with several boats and killing seven men of the said island, they recovered their skiff.” Appropriately, the men of the expedition named these lands the Islands of the Thieves [see map on page 62]. Ten days later they reached Samar, in the Philippines. At nearby Suluan they obtained fresh water and provisions and spent the next three weeks making friends with—and seeking to convert—the native chiefs .

The captain comes to the port of Zubu

On Sunday the seventh of April, about noon, we entered the port of Zubu [Cebu], having passed by many villages, where we saw some houses which were built on trees. And nearing the principal town the captain-general ordered all the ships to put out their flags. Then we lowered the sails as is done when one is about to fight, and fired all the artillery, at which the people of those places were in great fear.

The captain sent a young man, his foster son, with the interpreter [Enrique of Malacca] to the king of that island of Zubu. And when they came to the town they found a great number of men and their king with them, all frightened by the artillery which had been fired. But the interpreter reassured them, saying that it was the habit and custom to fire the artillery on arrival in ports, as a token of peace and friendship.…

The king and all his people were reassured, and then he caused one of his principal men to speak and to ask what we were in search of. And the interpreter told him that his master was a captain of the greatest king in the world, and that by his command he was going to discover the islands of Molucca. Yet, for that he had heard … report of his honorable and good fame, he had wished to pass by his country in order to visit him, and to have also some replenishment of provisions [in exchange] for his merchandise.

The king replied that he was welcome, but that it was the custom that all ships arriving in his port or country should pay tribute. And but four days before a ship called Iunco from Ciama [i.e., a junk from Siam], loaded with gold and slaves, had paid him her tribute. And to prove the truth of what he said, he showed them a merchant of the said Ciama, who had remained there to do trade in gold and slaves. The interpreter told him that the captain, as captain of so great a king as his, would not pay tribute to any lord in the world, and that if he desired peace he should have peace, and if he desired war, war he should have.… Then the king answered that he would speak with his council, and would give his reply on the following day.…

On Monday morning … the king said that he was content, and that if the captain wished to be his friend, as a greater token of love he would send him a little of his blood, from the right arm, and that the captain should do likewise. And our men answered that they would do it.…

On the Tuesday morning following, the King of Mazzaua [the island of Limasawa, off the south coast of Leyte] with the Moor [the Siamese merchant] came to the ship, and greeted the captain on behalf of the king of Zubu, and told him that that king was preparing as many provisions as he could to make him a present of them, and that after dinner he would send two of his nephews with other notable men to make peace with him. Then the captain had one of his men armed with his own harness, and made it known that we should all fight armed in this way.

At this the Moorish merchant was much astonished. But the captain told him that he was not to be afraid, and that, just as linen absorbs a man’s sweat, so our weapons destroy the enemies of our faith. And the captain said thus to the Moor, because he was more intelligent than the others, that he might tell all to the king of Zubu.

After dinner the king’s nephew (who was a prince) with the king of Mazzaua, the Moor, the governor, and the chief constable, and eight of the chief men came to the ship, to make peace with us. The captain-general was seated on a red velvet chair, and near him were the leading men of the ships seated on chairs covered in leather.… The captain spoke long on the matter of peace, and prayed God that He would confirm it in heaven. Those people replied that they had never heard such words as the captain had spoken to them, and took great pleasure in hearing them. Then the captain, seeing that those people listened gladly to what was said to them, and that they gave good answers, began further to tell them many good things to induce them to become Christians.

…Then the captain told them how God had made the heaven, the earth, and the sea, and all other things in the world, and that he had commanded every man to do honor and obedience to his father and mother, and that any man who did otherwise was condemned to eternal fire. And he told how we were descended from Adam and Eve, our first parents, and how we had immortal souls.

Each of us wept for the joy that we had at the goodwill of those people. And the captain told them that they should not become Christians for fear of us, or in order to please us, but that if they wished to become Christians, it should be with a good heart and for the love of God. For that, if they did not become Christians, we should show them no displeasure. But that those who became Christians would be more regarded and better treated than the others.

Then all cried out together with one voice that they wished to become Christians not for fear, nor to please us, but of their own free will. Then the captain said that if they became Christians he would leave them weapons which Christians use, and that his king had ordered him to do this.…

The prince and his people promise to become Christians

Lastly they said that they could not reply to so many fair words which he spoke to them, but they put themselves in his hands, and that he should treat them as his own servants.

Then the captain with tears in his eyes embraced them, and taking the prince’s hand and that of the king, he told and promised them by the faith which he bore to God, and to his master the Emperor, and by the habit of St. James which he wore, that he would cause perpetual peace to be between them and the King of Spain. Then the prince and the others promised likewise.

After peace was concluded, the captain had a collation prepared for them.… Then the captain sent by me and another to the king of Zubu a robe of yellow and violet silk after the fashion of a Turkish jubbah, a very fine red cap, and certain pieces of glass, and he had it all put in a silver dish, and two gilt cups.

When we had come to the town, we found the king of Zubu at his palace, seated on the ground on a mat of palms, with many people. He was quite naked, except for a linen cloth covering his private parts, and round his head a very loose cloth, embroidered with silk. Round his neck he had a very heavy rich chain, and in his ears two gold rings hung with precious stones. He was a short man, and fat, and had his face painted with fire in divers patterns. He ate on the ground from another palm mat, and then he was eating turtle eggs on two porcelain dishes, and he had four jars full of palm wine, which he drank with reed pipes.

We made reverence to him as we presented what the captain had sent him, and we told him, by the mouth of the interpreter, that it was not in return for the present which he had given to the captain, but for the love which he bore him.…

The prince, nephew of this king, led us to his house, and showed us four girls who were playing on four very strange and very sweet instruments [metal taborins, made in China], and their manner of playing was rather musical.…

These girls were very beautiful, and almost white and as tall as ours. They were naked, except that from the waist to the knees they wore a garment made from the said palm cloth, covering their nature. And some were quite naked, having long black hair and a small veil round their head, and they go always unshod. The prince made us dance with three of them who were quite naked. And we had refreshment there, and then we returned to the ship.…

On Saturday following, [the captain] caused a platform to be built on the square, decked with tapestry and palm branches, because the king had promised our captain to become a Christian on Sunday.…

The captain’s initiation of the king and his people into our faith

On Sunday morning the fourteenth day of April we went ashore, being forty men, of whom two armed men marched in front, with the banner of our Emperor.… The captain and the king embraced each other.… Then very joyfully we went up to the platform, where the king and the captain were seated on two chairs, one covered with red velvet, and the other with violet. The leading men were on cushions, and the others on mats after the fashion of the country.

Then the captain began to speak to the king through the interpreter, to initiate him into the faith of Jesus Christ, [saying] that he thanked God for having inspired him to be a Christian, and that he would vanquish his enemies more than before. And the king replied that he wished to be a Christian, but that some of his chief men would not obey him, saying that they were men as he was.

Then our captain summoned all the chief men of the king, and told them that if they did not obey the king (as he himself did) he would have them all killed, and would give all their goods to the king. And they all replied that they would obey him.…

Then the captain told him [the king] that he was clad all in white to show them the pure love that he bore them. And they all replied that they knew not how to answer him for his fair words. And so with these good words the captain took the king by the hand, and they went up on the platform. And when he came to baptize him, he told him that he would name him Dam Charles, as was the name of the emperor his lord. The prince he named Dam Ferrand, after the brother of the said emperor. To another chief he gave the name Fernand, like himself. And the king of Mazzaua, John. To the Moor, he gave the name Christophe. And to each of the names a name of his choice. So were baptized, before the mass, fifty men.…

After dinner, our chaplain and some others of us went on shore to baptize the queen. And she came with forty ladies, and we led them on to the platform, then we caused them to sit on’ cushions, and the women about the queen, until the priest was ready. Meanwhile we showed her a lady carved in wood, holding her child (which was very well made), and a cross. The sight of this gave her a greater wish to be a Christian, and asking for baptism she was baptized, and named Joanna, like the emperor’s mother … and all the others had each her name.

That day we baptized eight hundred persons, men, women, and children. The queen was young and beautiful, covered with a white and black cloth. She had very red mouth and nails, and wore on her head a large hat made of palm leaves, after the fashion of the Pope’s. And she never goes into any place without one of these crowns. Then she begged us to give her that wooden image, to put in place of the idols. Which she did. And then she went away.…

One day the captain-general asked the king and the others why it was that they did not burn their idols, as they had promised him when they became Christians, and why they sacrificed so much flesh to them. And they answered that they did this not for themselves, but for a sick man, that the idols might give him health. And he had not spoken for four days, and he was the prince’s brother, and the most valiant and wise man in the whole island.

Then the captain told them to burn the idols and to believe in Jesus Christ, and that if this was not true they could cut off the captain’s head. The king replied that he would do so, for he believed truly in Jesus Christ. Whereon we made a procession from the square to the sick man’s house, as well as we could, and there we found him unable to speak or to move.

Then we baptized him, and two wives whom he had, and ten maidens. Then the captain had him asked how he was, and he at once spoke, and said that by the grace of our God he was very well. And this was a very manifest miracle in our time.…

Those people go naked, wearing only a piece of cloth made of palm leaves around their shameful parts. They have as many wives as they wish, but there is always a chief one.

The males, both large and small, have the testis of their member pierced from one side to the other, with a pin of gold or of tin as thick as a goose feather, and at each end of this pin some have a star-shaped decoration like a button, and other ones like the head of a cart nail.

Often I wished to see that of some young men and old men, because I could not believe it. In the middle of this pin or tube is a hole through which they urinate, and the pin and the stars always remain firm, holding the member stiff.

Manner of intercourse between men and women

They told us that this was the wish of their women, and that if they did otherwise they would not have intercourse with them. And when they wish to cohabit with their wives, the latter themselves take the member without its being prepared or rigid, and so they put it little by little into their nature, beginning with the stars. Then when it is inside it stiffens, and remains there until it becomes soft, for otherwise they would not be able to withdraw it. And those people do this because they are of a weak constitution.…

When one of the principal men among them is dead, they practice these ceremonies for him. First, all the ladies of the house go to the dead man’s house, where he lies in a coffin. Round this coffin are ropes stretched like lists, to which are attached many branches of trees, and in the middle of each branch is a cotton cloth like a canopy. Beneath this the greatest ladies seat themselves; all veiled and covered with white cotton cloths, each having a maid who fans her with a fan of palm. The other women are seated, all sad and weeping, around the dead man’s chamber. Then there is one who with a small knife cuts off little by little the dead man’s hair. And there is another (who was the dead man’s chief wife) who lays herself upon him, and sets her mouth, her hands and her feet to those of the dead man. And when the other woman is cutting off the hair, the latter one weeps. And when she has ceased cutting, the latter one sings.… And they keep the dead man five or six days with these ceremonies. And I think that he is anointed with camphor. Then they bury him, in the same coffin or closed box, in a place covered and surrounded by wood.

In the last week of April Magellan, having allied himself with the king of Cebu, was faced with a difficult choice that presented itself again and again as European explorers and conquerors fanned out across the world: Should he allow himself to become involved in the wars of his new ally, or should he remain aloof? Silapulapu, the ruler of the little island of Mactan off the east coast of Cebu, was subject to the ruler of Cebu but refused to follow his example and do homage to the King of Spain. One of Silapulapu’s subordinate chiefs, whose name was Zzula, was willing to pledge his fealty to Magellan’s master but was prevented from doing so by fear of his overlord, against whom he now invoked Magellan’s aid .

…The captain-general resolved to go there with three boats. And however strongly we besought him not to come, yet he (as a good shepherd) would not abandon his sheep. But at midnight we set forth, sixty men armed with corselets and helmets, together with the Christian king; and we so managed that we arrived at Mattan three hours before daylight.

The captain would not fight at this hour, but sent by the Moor to tell the lord of the place and his people that, if they agreed to obey the King of Spain, and recognize the Christian king as their lord, and give us tribute, they should all be friends. But if they acted otherwise they should learn by experience how our lances pierced. They replied that they had lances of bamboo hardened in the fire and stakes dried in the fire, and that we were to attack them when we would.…

When day came, we leapt into the water, being forty-nine men, and so we went for a distance of two crossbow flights before we could reach the harbor, and the boats could not come further inshore because of the stones and rocks which were in the water. The other eleven men remained to guard the boats.

Having thus reached land we attacked them. Those people had formed three divisions, of more than one thousand and fifty persons. And immediately they perceived us, they came about us with loud voices and cries, two divisions on our flanks, and one around and before us. When the captain saw this he divided us in two, and thus we began to fight. The arquebusiers and crossbowmen fired at long range for nearly half an hour, but in vain … Seeing this, the captain cried out, “Do not fire, do not fire any more.” But that was of no avail. When those people saw this, and that we fired the arquebuses in vain, they shouted and determined to stand fast. But they shouted louder when the arquebuses were discharged, and then they did not stay still from fear, but jumped hither and thither, covered by their shields. And thus defending themselves they fired at us so many arrows, and lances of bamboo tipped with iron, and pointed stakes hardened by fire, and stones, that we could hardly defend ourselves.

Seeing this the captain sent some of his men to burn the houses of those people in order to frighten them. Who, seeing their houses burning, became bolder and more furious, so that two of our men were killed near these houses, and we burned a good thirty of their houses. Then they came so furiously against us that they sent a poisoned arrow through the captain’s leg. Wherefore he ordered us to withdraw slowly, but the men fled while six or eight of us remained with the captain. And those people shot at no other place but our legs, for the latter were bare. Thus for the great number of lances and stones that they threw and discharged at us we could not resist.

Our large pieces of artillery which were in the ships could not help us, because they were firing at too long range, so that we continued to retreat for more than a good crossbow flight from the shore, still fighting, and in water up to our knees. And they followed us, hurling poisoned arrows four or six times; while, recognizing the captain, they turned towards him inasmuch as twice they hurled arrows very close to his head. But as a good captain and a knight he still stood fast with some others, fighting thus for more than an hour. And as he refused to retire further, an Indian threw a bamboo lance in his face, and the captain immediately killed him with his lance, leaving it in his body. Then, trying to lay hand on his sword, he could draw it out but halfway, because of a wound from a bamboo lance that he had in his arm. Which seeing, all those people threw themselves on him, and one of them with a large javelin … thrust it into his left leg, whereby he fell face downward. On this all at once rushed upon him with lances of iron and of bamboo and with these javelins, so that they slew our mirror, our light, our comfort, and our true guide.… Then, seeing him dead, as best we could we rescued the wounded men and put them into the boats which were already leaving.

The captain killed

The Christian king would have succored us, but before we landed the captain had ordered and charged him not to leave the ships, but to remain and see in what manner we fought. And the king, knowing that the captain was dead, caused the remainder of our men, both sound and wounded, to withdraw, and we were constrained to leave there the dead body of the captain-general with our other dead.

I hope that, by your most illustrious lordship [i.e., Phillippe de Villiers de l’Isle Adam, grand master of the Knights of Rhodes, to whom Pigafetta’s narrative was addressed], the renown of so valiant and noble a captain will not be extinguished or fall into oblivion in our time. For among his other virtues he was more constant in a very high hazard and great affair than ever was any other. He endured hunger better than all the others. He was a navigator and made sea charts. And that that is true was seen openly, for no other had so much natural talent, boldness, or knowledge to sail once round the world, as he had already planned. This battle was fought on a Saturday, the twenty-seventh of April, one thousand five hundred and twenty-one. And the captain wished to make it on a Saturday because that was his day of devotion. With him died eight of our men, and four Indians whom we had made Christians. And of the enemy fifteen were killed by the guns of the ships which had finally come to our help ; and many of our men were wounded.…

After dinner the Christian king (with our consent) sent to tell those of Mattan that if they would give us the bodies of the captain and the other dead men, we would give them as much merchandise as they desired. And they answered that they would not give up such a man, as we supposed, and that they would not give him up for the greatest riches in the world, but that they intended to keep him as a perpetual memorial.

As soon as the captain died, the four men of our company, who had remained in the city to trade, had our goods brought to the ships. Then we made and elected two commanders. One was Duarte Barbosa, a Portuguese, and kinsman of the captain [he was Magellan’s brother-in-law]; and the other João Serrão, a Spaniard [in fact, also a Portuguese]. Our interpreter named Henrich (because he had been slightly wounded) no longer went ashore to do our necessary business, but was always wrapped in a blanket. Wherefore Duarte Barbosa, commander of the captain’s flagship, told him in a loud voice that, although the captain his master was dead, he would not be set free or released, but that, when we reached Spain, he would still be the slave of Madame Beatrix, the wife of the deceased captain-general. And he threatened that if he did not go ashore he would be driven away. The slave, hearing this, rose up and, feigning to take … heed of these words, went on shore and told the Christian king that we were about to depart immediately, but that, if he would follow his advice, he would gain all our ships and merchandise. And so they plotted a conspiracy. Then the slave returned to the ships, and he appeared to behave better than before.

On Wednesday morning the first day of May the Christian king sent to tell the commanders that he had prepared the jewels and presents which he had promised to send to the King of Spain, and that he begged them to go with others of their men to dine with him that morning, and that he would give them all. Then twenty-four men went, and our astrologer named [Andres de] San Martin of Seville. I could not go, because I was all swollen from the wound of a poisoned arrow which I had received in the forehead.

João Carvalho with the constable returned, and told us that they had seen the man who was cured by a miracle leading the priest into his house, and that for this reason they had departed, fearing some evil chance. No sooner had those two spoken their words than we heard great cries and groans. Then we quickly raised the anchors, and firing several pieces of artillery at their houses, we approached nearer to the shore.

The pity of João Serrão

Firing thus, we perceived João Serrão in his shirt, bound and wounded, who cried out that we should not shoot any more … And we asked him if all the others with the interpreter were dead. And he said that all were dead save the interpreter [the official list, however, includes the interpreter among the dead], and he begged us earnestly to redeem him with some merchandise. But João Carvalho, his companion, and the others would not do so for fear that they would not remain masters if the boats were sent ashore. Then João Serrão, weeping, told us that as soon as we sailed he would be killed. And he said that he prayed God that at the day of judgment he would demand his soul of his companion João Carvalho. Thereupon we departed quickly. And I know not whether João Serrão who remained behind be alive or dead.

The fleet now consisted of only three ships, the Santiago, it will be remembered, having sunk off the coast of Patagonia, and the Santo Antonio, under the rebellious Gomes, having turned back at the Strait of Magellan. Now, after the attrition of the long voyage and the battle on Mactan, less than half the original complement survived; accordingly, it was decided to burn the Concepción, divide her crew and stores between the Trinidad and the Victoria, and sail on. After spending several more months in the Philippines and on Borneo, the two ships arrived early in November, 1521, at Tidore, one of the Moluccas, or Spice Islands, which had been Magellan’s original destination .

Here they learned that almost a year before, in October, 1520, a Portuguese fleet had arrived with orders to intercept them. Their informant was one Pedro Afonso de Lorosa, a survivor of a still earlier expedition sent out from Malacca in 1511 to find and claim the Moluccas for the King of Portugal. Pedro Afonso was the first European they had seen since leaving the Spanish coast nearly twenty-six months before, and they kept him talking until three in the morning, finally persuading him to accompany them back to Spain .

He was never to get there. When, after loading their holds with cloves, the Trinidad and the Victoria stood out to sea in mid-December, the flagship sprang a leak and had to be left behind far repairs. When she finally set sail a Jew months later sickness carried off so many of her men that she was forced to return to the Moluccas, where another Portuguese expedition found and captured her. Poor Pedro Afonso was among her company, and the Portuguese put him to death as a traitor. Of the others only four ever got home .

Meanwhile Pigafetta and the crew of the Victoria headed south and west through December, 1521, and January, 1522, passing through various island chains—the Soela, Banda, and Sunda groups. At Timor in the Sundas the ship refitted and took on provisions for the long journey around the Cape of Good Hope and up the western shore of Africa toward home .

On Tuesday night drawing toward Wednesday the eleventh day of February, one thousand five hundred and twenty-two, having departed from the island of Timor, we entered the great sea named Laut Chidol [the Indian Ocean], and laying course between west and southwest we left on the right hand to the north (for fear of the King of Portugal) the island of Zamatra [Sumatra] … and all the … coasts of India the Great.…

In order to round the Cape of Good Hope we went as far south as forty-two degrees toward the Antarctic Pole. We remained near this Cape for seven weeks with sails furled because of the west and northwest winds on our bow, and in a very great storm. This Cape is … the greatest and most perilous cape in the world.

Some of our men, both sick and healthy, wished to go to a place of the Portuguese called Mozambique, because the ship was taking in much water, and also for the great cold, and still more because we had nothing else to eat except rice and water, since for want of salt the meat which we had was rotten and putrefied. But some others, more mindful of their honor than of their own life, determined to go to Spain alive or dead.

At length, by God’s help, on the sixth of May [in fact, on May 19] we passed this Cape at a distance of five leagues from it, and had we not approached so close to it we should never have been able to pass it. Then we sailed northwest for two months continually without taking any refreshment or repose. And in that short space of time twenty-one of our men died. And when we cast the Christians into the sea they sank with face upward toward heaven, and the Indians always with face downward. And if God had not given us good weather, we should all have died of hunger. At length, constrained by our great need, we went to the islands of Cape Verde.

Of the dead Christians and Indians cast into sea

On Wednesday the ninth of July we arrived at one of these islands, named Santiago, where we immediately sent the boat ashore to obtain provisions, under pretext and color of telling the Portuguese that our foremast had broken under the equinoctial line (although it had been at the Cape of Good Hope) and that, while we were refitting our ships, our captain-general with the other two ships had gone before to Spain. So with our merchandise and these good words we obtained two boatloads of rice. And we charged our men in the boat that, when they were ashore, they should ask what day it was. They were answered that to the Portuguese it was Thursday, at which they were much amazed, for to us it was Wednesday, and we knew not how we had fallen into error. For every day I, being always in health, had written down each day, without any intermission. But, as we were told since, there had been no mistake, for we had always made our voyage westward and had returned to the same place of departure as the sun, wherefore the long voyage had brought the gain of twenty-four hours, as is clearly seen.…

Our men arrived at Seville

On Saturday the sixth of September, one thousand five hundred and twenty-two, we entered the Bay of San Lucar, and we were only eighteen men, the most part sick, of the sixty remaining who had left Molucca, some of whom died of hunger, others deserted at the island of Timor, and others had been put to death for their crimes.

From the time we departed from that Bay until the present day we had sailed fourteen thousand four hundred and sixty leagues, and completed the circuit of the world from east to west.

On Monday the eighth of September we cast anchor near the Mole of Seville, and there we discharged all the artillery. And on Tuesday we all went, in our shirts and barefoot, and each with a torch in his hand, to visit the shrine of Santa Maria de la Victoria and that of Santa Maria de Antigua.…

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