Port St Julian

On 30 March 1520, he put into Port St Julian for the winter and immediately faced a rebellion. Supplies were running low, and the men went onto short rations which were to be supplemented by hunting and fishing. 

Far from home, with no idea of where they were or where they were going, the simmering discontent boiled over. Discontented Spaniards seized control of the Victoria, Concepción and San Antonio, leaving Magellan in command of the Trinidad and Santiago.

But even in the face of overwhelming disloyalty, Magellan’s experience enabled him to deal with the situation. 

The mutineers sent a messenger to make terms. Recognising a sign of weakness, Magellan acted decisively. 

Magellan sent an armed boarding party to the Victoria, then blockaded the San Antonio and Concepción in the bay until they surrendered. In less than a day, one captain was dead, and the two others were in chains. 

After a five-day trial, Gaspar de Quesada, the captain of the Concepción, who had attempted to replace Magellan as Captain- General, was beheaded, and along with Luis de Mendoza, the fleet’s treasurer, who had died during the fighting - drawn and quartered. 

Their remains hung from gibbets as a warning. 

Juan de Cartagena, the representative of the king’s interests, was pardoned, then marooned on a Patagonian island with another conspirator. Thirty-eight prisoners sentenced to death were reprieved and allowed to rejoin the crew. Severe as these measures were, complaints were still voiced, but Magellan’s authority was not in doubt. 

Magellan’s men stayed at Port St Julian throughout the southern winter. For two months they did not see another human being. Then one day a man appeared on the shore, singing, dancing and sprinkling dust on his head. 

Seeking a Passage

© Ian Hughes 2017