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Ferdinand Magellan, the Portuguese explorer who set out under Spanish sponsorship on August 10, 1519 to circumnavigate the globe, can indeed be considered to have accomplished his goal. While Magellan was killed in the Philippines attempting to convert the natives of the island of Mactan by force, he is rightly considered one of history’s greatest explorers. He is credited with being the first explorer to cross the Atlantic Ocean and transit through what became known as the “Strait of Magellan,” into the Pacific Ocean. The Strait of Magellan is a passage that cuts through the divide between the southern-most tip of the continent of South America and the island chain of Tierra del Fuego to the south. While Magellan’s death in the Philippines deprived him of completing his circumnavigation of the globe, Juan Sebastian Elcano, a naval officer who had unsuccessfully mutinied against Magellan during one of the voyage’s most difficult phases but whose life was spared by the Portuguese explorer, and who would take over following Magellan’s death, successfully completed the voyage, arriving back in Spain on September 6, 1522. [In between Magellan’s death and Elcano’s assumption of command, the expedition was ineptly lead by Joao Lopes de Carvalho, resulting in his replacement by the more-respected Elcano.]
Because Magellan’s initial objective was to identify a more efficient route to the Asian sources of highly-valued spices like cinnamon and clove, and because he survived long enough to lead his expedition to Asia, his mission was successful. His secondary mission of circumnavigating the globe, however, should also – and is – be considered a success.
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