Order of the Day

Ferdinand Magellan

Given in the Strait, which fell into the hands of the Portuguese, along with the Papers of the Astrologer Andres de San Martin, at the Moluccas: taken from Barros, Decade III, Liv. v, Cap. 19.

This is the only known document written by Magellan.

View the fleet's track from Seville to the western mouth of the Strait of Magellan.

I Fernan de Magalhaes, Knight of the Order of St. James, and captain-general of this fleet, which his majesty sent for the discovery of the spices, etc. I make known to you, Duarte Barbosa, captain of the ship Victoria, and to the pilots, masters, and quarter-masters of that ship, as I have understood that it seems to you all a serious matter, that I am determined to go forward, because it seems to you that the weather is little fitted for this voyage on which we are going; and inasmuch as I am a man who never rejected the opinion or counsel of any one, but rather all my affairs are discussed and communicated generally to all, without any person being affronted by me; and since, because of that which happened in the port of S. Julian with respect to the death of Luis de Mendoça, Gaspar de Quexada, and the banishment of Juan de Cartagena and Pero Sanches de Reina, the priest, you, from fear, desist from telling me, and counselling all that may appear to you to be for the service of his majesty, and the safe conduct of this fleet, and you have not told it me nor counselled it.

You err in the service of the emperor and king our sovereign, and go against the oath and plighted homage which you have made to me; for which I command you on the part of the said sovereign, and on my part beseech you and charge you, that with respect to all that you think is fitting for our voyage, both as to going forward, and as to turning back, that you give me your opinions in writing each one for himself: declaring the circumstances and reasons why we ought to go forward or turn back, not having respect to anything for which you should omit to tell the truth. With which reasons and opinions, I will say mine, and my decision for coming to a conclusion as to what we have to do.

Done in the Channel of all Saints,§ opposite the river of the islet, on Wednesday, twenty-first of November,§§ in fifty-three degrees {about 53° 45'}, of the year one thousand five hundred and twenty.”

§ This is sometimes incorrectly taken as Magellan's name for the entire strait. See “Strait of Magellan” on the Placenames page for more details on the naming of the strait. As for Magellan's “river of the islet,” this is probably the same as Pigafetta's “river named Isles.” If this is correct, Magellan's “Channel of All Saints” is that section of the strait flowing between Islas Charles (note, not Isla Carlos III) and Puerto San Miguel.

§§ Magellan and the others used the Julian calendar.

Andres de San Martin replied, giving his opinion that, though he doubted there being any opening in the channel by which to go to the Moluccas, yet he thought they should go forward till the middle of January, as long as the summer and long days lasted.

Magellan, having received this and the other opinions, which he had asked for only to please and content his people, gave a full answer, with long reasons for going forward; and he swore by the habit of St. James, which he wore, that so it seemed to him to be for the good of the fleet. This opinion was notified to the fleet, and next day he set sail.