Magellan Reading Questions

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Ferdinand Magellan – Discovering the Pacific Ocean

Worksheet on extracts from “First Voyage Around the World”

Section One: Language Development:  While reading, record any words you don’t already know.  When you have finished reading, choose seven of those words, define them, and record the sentence from which they came.

Word Definition Sentence from the Text
Debouched To come out from a little space in to a large area. “Wednesday, 28 November 1520, we debouched from that strait, engulfing ourselves in the Pacific Sea” (Pigafetta 380).
Flanks Right and left side of someone or something “When they saw us, they charged down upon us with exceeding loud cries, two divisions on our flanks and the other on our front” (Pigafetta 380).
Crossbowmen A person who uses a crossbow, which is a type of bow and arrow device from the medieval period. “The musketeers and crossbowmen shot from a distance for abut a half-hour, but uselessly; for the shots only passed through the shields which were made of thin wood and the arms [of the bearers] (Pigafetta 381).
Cease To come to an end of something. “The captain cried to them, ‘Cease firing! Cease firing!’ but his order was not at all heeded” (Pigafetta 381).
Latter Near the end of something and farther from the start. “The natives shot only at our legs, for the latter were bare; and so many were the spears and stones that they hurled at us that we could offer no resistance” (Pigafetta 381).
Effaced To erase someone or something. “I hope through the efforts of your most illustrious Lordship that the fame of so noble a captain will not become effaced in our times” (Pigafetta 382).
Adversity A hard or troubling situation. “Among the other virtues which he possessed, he was more constant than ever anyone else in the greatest of adversity” (Pigafetta 382).


Section Two: Comprehension Check:  Complete the following questions – you do not have to use complete sentences.  You may complete this in bullet format.



1 Why and where was Magellan exploring?
Answer Why?

  • Sent by the kind of Spain to explore.


  • East Indies
2 What were the sailors eating during their time in the Pacific Ocean?
  • Powder of Biscuits with worms
  • Putrid yellow water
  • Hard ox-hides
3 Why did nineteen men die during the voyage?
  • Gums of the teeth swelled
4 Why didn’t the crew die of hunger according to the writer?
  • Teeth swelled
  • Ability of eating gone
5 How many men were on each side of the battle described in the extract?
Answer Natives

  • Three divisions with more than 1,400 people


  • 49 people in two divisions
6 What weapons were the sailors using?
  • Muskets
  • Crossbows
  • Pointed stakes
  • Fire
7 What weapons were the natives using?
  • Arrows
  • Bamboo spears
8 How exactly was Magellan killed?
  • Wounded on left leg
  • Fell face forward
  • Killed with iron and bamboo spears
9 What was Magellan checking after he was wounded?
  • Whether the crew were all on boats
10 What were the most important ‘virtues’ that Magellan showed?
  • More constant than anyone else
  • Endured hunger better than anyone
  • Accurately understand sea charts and navigation
  • No one had so much natural talent
  • Boldness to learn how to circumnavigate the world


Section Three:  Source Analysis: Critical Thinking Exercises:  From this source, we can learn many things about the voyage of Magellan; however, we must read the source ‘critically’.  In other words, do not just believe everything that you are reading, but think about it and decide how reliable the information is, and what exactly we can learn from the source. 

Fill in the following table by putting an X in the most relevant box related to the source. 

Topic The reason for and purpose of voyage The conditions in which the sailors lived and worked The attitude of the explorers toward the natives The attitude of the natives toward the explorers The character of Magellan
There is plenty of information about this in the source



There is some information about this, but we must be careful



This is no really mentioned in the source, but we can make some inferences from the information provided


We can’t learn anything about this from the source.


Section Four: Extension Work: Clearly, this source is a biased account of Magellan’s adventures; written by the navigator of the ship (nobody makes themselves sound bad, right?).  Select one quote from the text that you think is a) definitely valid, b) useful information but questionable, and c) clearly exaggerated.  Give a brief explanation so to why you chose each quotation. 




Definitely a valid as a source for History “Nineteen men died from that sickness, and the giant together with an Indian from the country of Verzin” (Pigafetta 380). This is valid and as a source for history because there is no reason why Pigafetta would be biased about the point that this many people are dead. Since he is recording it for the king, he has to make it as accurate as possible.
Useful information, but of questionable validity “When we reached land, those men had formed in three divisions to the number of more than 1,500 persons” (Pigafetta 380). Because they were getting attacked at the spur of the moment, it might have seen that there were a lot of people and it is a estimate. It is useful information that there were a lot of people, but we can’t say that it was the exact estimate that Pigafetta made.
Clearly exaggerated “And that this was the truth was seen openly, for no other had had so much natural talent nor the boldness to learn how to circumnavigate the world, as he had almost done” (Pigafetta 382). This is probably biased because there were a lot of talented people and because he was their leader, Pigafetta probably felt very loyal to Magellan.


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