Voyages and Adventures of Magellan - George Towle

The Victoria Reaches Spain

The voyage of the Victoria  across the vast Indian Ocean, though long, was a prosperous one. The trade-winds blew from the east, nor did many perilous storms compel the crew to desperate exertion. No stirring incident attended their passage. One day was like the rest; stiff breezes swelled the sails; the sun shone, most often, bright overhead; the waters, crested with foam by the winds, sparkled beneath its rays.

But on reaching the vicinity of the Cape of Good Hope, the wind suddenly changed. It now blew directly against them, and it was with difficulty that the Victoria  could advance, even so slowly, along the African coast that was now constantly in sight.

Happily, Elcano had now reached a region which had become well known. His charts, and the records of previous voyagers, told him very nearly where he was, and what course it was wisest to take to reach his destination. He was now, indeed, in the very track which, nearly a quarter of a century before, Vasco da Gama had traversed for the first time in his memorable voyage to India.

So unfavorable had now become the weather, that the sailors began to clamor to put in at some African port; and when they came opposite the large town of Mozambique, which they knew to have been settled by the Portuguese, their demands to seek shelter in its harbor became very eager. But Elcano had a good reason for resisting the importunities of his men. Magellan's expedition had been undertaken against the bitter opposition of the Portuguese; one of its objects was to secure for Spain the allegiance of the Moluccas, which the Portuguese claimed as a part of the world which had been conceded to them as a consequence of their discoveries. If he should put in at a' Portuguese station, he might reasonably expect that he and his crew would be taken prisoners, and the Victoria seized and confiscated. He resolved, therefore, to push steadily on to the Cape.

The trials and hardships of the crew were now very serious. The good ship, after so much voyaging, had again become leaky, and the men with difficulty kept her from filling, by constant work at the pumps. Their provisions were low, and they were reduced to small daily rations of rice and water; their meat having decayed for want of salt. Many of the men, moreover, fell sick, and some died. At last the Cape came in sight; but it was dangerous to attempt to round it. For some weeks the Victoria  was tossed about off the coast, vainly seeking a favorable opportunity to double the cape. They were finally forced to make a circuit, at a distance of fifteen miles from the headlands, in order to reach the western shore of the continent.

The ship's course was thence northwestward. Elcano determined to keep at sea, at least until the Cape Verde Islands were reached; and the voyage from the Cape to these islands lasted about two months. The weather was again propitious; but the sickness on board increased, and before the Victoria  came in sight of the Cape Verdes, twenty-one men had perished.

One day the Cape Verdes appeared, dotting the summer sea in the distant horizon. Elcano for a while hesitated whether he should touch at them or not. They were possessions, like Mozambique, of the Portuguese. Would it be safe to trust himself in their hands? The misery of his crew, however, their sickness and want of food, finally decided him to run the risk.

As the Victoria  approached Santiago, the southernmost of the group, it occurred to Elcano that he would tell the Portuguese that he had come from America, and that he had been driven out of his course by a terrible tempest. They would not then suspect that he had really been among the disputed islands of the East, but would be persuaded that he had sailed from Spanish settlements. This artful story at first had its intended effect. The Victoria  entered the harbor, and was well received. Her sick were taken on shore and tended; and a boat-load of rice was sent on board. But soon it appeared that the Portuguese began to suspect the truth, that the Victoria  had really come around the Cape. The second boat that went ashore was detained and the thirteen men in her were seized; at the same time, the Portuguese ships in the harbor were evidently being armed, with the purpose, no doubt, of capturing the Victoria."

Elcano, who had been carefully on the watch, no sooner saw these signs of hostility, than, leaving the thirteen prisoners to their fate, he made haste to sail away. The voyage to Spain was now happily a short and comparatively easy one. He succeeded in escaping from the Portuguese ships, which, when they saw him departing, followed him for some leagues.

It was on the 6th day of September, 1522, a few days less than three years after she had set out, with her sister-ships, on her memorable voyage, that the weather-beaten Victoria  came in sight of the familiar shores of Spain. The sailors—of whom there were only eighteen exhausted and half-famished men left of the gallant company that had set out—were full of joy at beholding their native land once more. They fired their cannon, and hung out their flags, and tearfully embraced each other; and as the ships drew nearer and nearer the port of San Lucar, the very port from which they had sailed, they eagerly pointed out the well-known landmarks to each other.

On entering the bay, they were greeted by the ships and boats anchored in it; and presently some of their countrymen came on board. When these learned that the vessel was the Victoria, and that she had completed the circuit of the globe, they could scarcely believe their ears.

"Why," they exclaimed, "you were given up for lost, long, long ago! Surely, your return is a wonderful miracle!"

The news of the arrival of one of Magellan's ships was soon noised through the town, and was quickly carried up the river to Seville. The next day she was fairly surrounded by boats, and her deck was crowded with curious and de-lighted visitors. The governor of the district came on board, embraced Elcano, and gave orders that the sailors, who were half-dead from sickness, hunger, and their many hardships, should be taken on shore and tenderly cared for.

But no sooner had they set foot on land, than the poor fellows, staggering from weakness, formed into line, and walked as well as they could to a church; where, kneeling before the altar, they offered up a thanksgiving for their safe arrival home. Then they allowed themselves to be carried to the houses of the people and treated to the best the town afforded.

The day following, the men returned to the Victoria, and she sailed up the river to Seville, and cast anchor near the mole, on the very spot whence she had set sail. The old city was full of excitement and commotion at her arrival. Crowds thronged the quay, and the mayor and other dignitaries hastened to give public welcome to the heroic voyagers.

Once more the cannon of the Victoria  awoke the echoes with their hoarse voices of joy. The brave bunting was flung to the breeze, and gay garlands decked mast and gunwale. Here, as at San Lucar, the wanderers' first thought was to render thanks to God for their preservation from countless perils. The people of Seville, in dense masses along the pavements, and choking every window, saw the sunburnt mariners pass in procession, in their shirt-sleeves, bare-footed, and each bearing a taper, to the ancient and imposing church of Santa Maria del Antigua, where they attended mass, and joined with all their souls in the thanksgiving prayers offered up by the priests.

Thence they hastened to the public square, where, you may well believe, they were soon wrapped in the embraces of parents, wives, children, and friends. The tender-hearted Sevillians could not witness, without tearful emotion, the haggard and hungry features, the emaciated forms, and the tottering steps of the men who had gone out from their midst three years before, ruddy and stout and strong; nor was it less pitiful to see the anguish and hear the cries of the poor widows who sought in vain, in the little group, for husbands who had departed in the ships, but whom they would never look upon again.

Into the square came a lady, young and fair, leading a little girl two or three years old. She leaned on the arm of a grizzled, but still erect and haughty cavalier. She was attired in deep black, and there were traces of long mourning on her pale cheeks; and now, as she slowly approached the returned crew, she could not suppress her profound emotions.

As if by instinct, the sailors. knew at once that she was the lady Beatrix, the widow of their beloved Admiral, whose brave soul had departed from earth in the far eastern seas; that the little, girl was Magellan's daughter, whom he had never seen; and that the old cavalier who escorted Beatrix was her father, Don Diego Barbosa.

They had come, with sad but eager hearts, to welcome back the comrades of him they had never ceased to mourn since his heroic death in a distant land.

Throughout Spain, and, indeed, Europe, the news of the arrival of the Victoria  and her successful voyage round the world, spread rapidly, and caused a great commotion. The king, who, soon after the departure of Magellan's expedition, had become emperor of Germany, and who, at twenty-two, had shown himself one of the ablest and most energetic monarchs in Christendom, no sooner heard that the Victoria  was safe at Seville, than he dispatched a courier to that city, inviting Elcano and all his comrades to go and visit him at his court in Valladolid.

As soon as they could get ready, therefore, the voyagers proceeded to Valladolid, where the Emperor Charles received them with a splendid welcome, in the midst of his grandees and courtiers. Elcano told his sovereign the story of their adventures, to which Charles listened with breathless interest; and when the tale was done, the emperor ordered apartments to be prepared for the sailors in the town, while he entertained the officers in the palace itself.

Not content with this hospitality, Charles gave a handsome pension to each of the survivors of this memorable expedition; and granted to their gallant captain, Elcano, a coat-of-arms, which displayed on its shield some gold nutmegs and cloves, and an image of the globe, with the motto upon it, "You were the first to circumnavigate me."

One strange thing happened when the Victoria  arrived at Seville, which at first puzzled Elcano very much. According to his reckonings, which he had carefully kept every day from the starting of the expedition, the date of his arrival was the 5th of September. But on talking with the people at Seville, he found that, with them, it was the 6th. During the voyage, therefore, he had lost a day. How could this have happened? He knew that he had kept his calendar correctly, and had never omitted to score each twenty-four hours; and yet, undoubtedly, it was the 6th, and not the 5th, on which he had reached Seville.

The emperor submitted this problem to a famous astronomer, Contarini; who, after studying it, discovered the clue. He showed that the loss of a day was the natural result of the voyage from east to west, in which they kept company with the sun; and that, if they had gone the other way, from west to east, they would have gained a day. This was one of the most valuable facts ascertained by Magellan's expedition.

The fate of the Trinidad, which had been left behind at Tidor, remains to be told. In due time, with the aid of the native carpenters, she was repaired and made ready to resume her voyage. But Espinosa, fearing lest the Portuguese in India, who had now heard of the presence of the Spaniards in the Moluccas, should attack him, resolved to sail, not westward, in the track of the Victoria, but eastward across the Pacific again, in the hope of reaching the Spanish settlement of Panama.

The voyage was a terrible one. Furious storms constantly assailed the devoted ship; and after being tossed many weeks amid them, the Trinidad  was forced to return to the Moluccas. Unfortunately the Portuguese had now reached those islands with a large force of men and no sooner had the storm-beaten Trinidad  put into port, than she was attacked and overwhelmed by Portuguese vessels of war. Espinosa and all his comrades were taken, and cast into prison. There they were treated with such barbaric cruelty, and were seized with such severe distempers, that one after another died, including Espinosa himself; until at last only four miserable creatures, out of all that gallant crew, were left. The Portuguese took pity on these, and shipped them home, four years after the return of the Victoria, in one of their own ships.

Thus was completed the famous expedition by which the route to Asia around South America was found; which first traversed the broad expanse of the Pacific, that received its name from the intrepid commander; which made the first tour of the entire globe, and brought to light the fact of the loss of a day by sailing with the sun, from east to west.

Its fame is most of all due to the heroic and, noble-hearted Fernan Magellan, who conceived the great idea which it fulfilled; who, in spite of enormous obstacles, and after having been rejected by his own country, succeeded in raising the fleet and obtaining its command; who conducted it through many perils over the greater part of its long course; and who, though he unhappily died too soon to reap the full reward of his achievements, at least left a name and fame imperishable in the annals of discovery.