The Plaza de Armas with the memorial to Ferdinand Magellan in Punta Arenas, a city on the Strait of Magellan in southern Chile. RM
Wolfgang Kaehler/© Wolfgang Kaehler
Long before there was an International Date Line or time zones, Ferdinand Magellan led the first expedition to circumnavigate the globe. In 1517, just over two decades after Columbus began charting the Indies, Magellan enlisted the support of King Charles I of Spain to finance an expedition that would identify an alternate route to the Spice Islands. The king agreed to fund a small fleet of five ships, including the flagship Trinidad, that were manned by 270 sailors representing eight countries. The ships departed in 1519, and after escaping Portuguese capture off the coast of Brazil and surviving his own crew’s mutiny, Magellan charted the Strait of Magellan at South America’s southern tip and sailed into the Pacific Ocean. By early 1521, the expedition had crossed what would later become the International Date Line and sailed on to Guam and the Mariana Islands. Although the tiny ship Victoria was the only craft in the fleet to complete the journey around the globe—returning to Spain in 1522—Magellan was not on board. He died during a battle in the Philippines in April 1521.