Starting for Home

Without its leader, the expedition lost its aim. Magellan’s brother-in-law, Duarte Barbosa, and Joao Serrao succeeded him as commanders, but both were killed. The fleet sailed on under the command of Joao de Carvalho, who was deposed and replaced by Juan Sebastian del Cano. 

By this time only a hundred men remained, insufficient to sail three ships. 

The new commander, one of the original mutineers, set fire to the weakest vessel, the Concepción, which he loaded with Magellan’s records. The survivors struggled on, via Brunei where there was trouble with the inhabitants, and dropped anchor at Tidore on 8 November 1521. 

At Ternate, Serrao was dead, but they were well received by the sultan. They established a warehouse and spent five weeks loading cloves. Every square inch of the ships was crammed with cargo. After arranging trade and ‘protection’ agreements, they set out for home. 

The two ships were now in such terrible condition that there was no thought of returning the way they had come. The Trinidad was in need of complete overhaul, and it was decided that, when repairs were finished, she should head back across the Pacific, making for Darien, which was still thought to be within easy reach. 

Though the Portuguese were not yet in control, a fleet was out looking for the Spaniards. Forced back after five months by contrary winds, twenty-four men, seventeen of them close to death, returned to Ternate. The Portuguese garrison which had arrived in the Spice Islands captured all of them. 

The Victoria, commanded by del Cano, set sail on 21 December. Dodging the Portuguese, del Cano sailed into the Indian Ocean by way of the Banda Sea and Timor, rounded the Cape of Good Hope, and called at the Cape Verde Islands, where the Portuguese took 13 of his men when they went ashore. 

The Voyage Concludes

© Ian Hughes 2017