Antonio Pigafetta

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Antonio Pigafetta.

Antonio Pigafetta (c. 1491 – c. 1534 was an Italian navigator and scholar born in Vicenza. He served as a chronicler and assistant to the Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan in his expedition to the Spice Islands under the flag of King Charles I of Spain. He was one of the few remaining survivors of the fleet led by Spanish captain Juan Sebastian Elcano which, after the death of Magellan, managed to return to Spain, thereby completing the first circumnavigation of the world. Much of what is known about Magellan and Elcano's voyage is derived from Pigafetta’s surviving journal.

Youth

Pigafetta belonged to a rich family in Vicenza. In his youth he studied astronomy, geography, and cartography. He served on board the galleys of the Knights of Rhodes at the beginning of 16th century. Until 1519, he accompanied the papal nuncio, Monsignor Chieregati, to Spain.

Voyage

Main article: Magellan's Crossing of the Pacific Ocean

In Seville, he heard about the expedition of Magellan and negotiated to be admitted as a paying passenger. Despite initial difficulties with Magellan, he managed to gain his confidence and served as his lenguaraz (translator) and cartographer.

During the trip, Pigafetta collected numerous data about geography, the climate, the flora, the fauna, and the inhabitants of the places that the expedition visited; his meticulous notes were to serve as invaluable documents to future explorers and cartographers, mainly due to his inclusion of nautical and linguistic data.

Return

Main article: Completing the Circumnavigation

In the Battle of Mactan in which Magellan was killed, Pigafetta was wounded. Nevertheless, he managed to recover and was among the 18 on board the Victoria, who accompanied Juan Sebastián Elcano on the return voyage to Spain.

Upon reaching port in Sanlúcar de BarramedaProvince of Cadiz) in September 1522, three years after his departure, Pigafetta returned to Italy. He related his experiences in Relazione del Primo Viaggio Intorno Al Mondo (Report on the First Voyage Around the World). It was published in Paris in 1525 and was not wholly published until the late 18th century. The original document, regrettably, was not preserved.

It was through the earlier account written by Maximilianus Transylvanus, published in 1523, however, that Europeans learned of the first circumnavigation of the globe. As secretary to Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor, Transylvanus had been instructed to interview the survivors of the voyage when Magellan’s surviving ship Victoria returned to Spain in September 1522.

Pigafetta was made a Knight of Malta. He died in his native city in 1534.


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