Who Circumnavigated The Earth First?

Posted on February 5th, 2010 at 9:43 am by Akhyari


At school we were taught that the first man to circumnavigate the earth was Ferdinand Magellan (Fernao Magallhaes in Portuguese, Fernando de Magallanes in Spanish) in 1521. Being killed in Mactan, the Philippines on April 27, 1521, Ferdinand Magellan did not complete the “circumnavigation of the earth”. His farthest previous journey to the eastern part of Southeast Asia archipelago was to Brunei.

The other source of information about this most amazing voyage in the history of humankind is a report written by Maximillianus Transylvanus who interviewed Magellan’s surviving men who managed to return to Spain. The report was printed in 1523 under the title of “De Moluccis Insulis” (“The Moluccas Island”). MaximilianusTransylvanus was an assistant to the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V (1519-56) who was also the King of Spain Charles (Carlos) I (1516-56).

In the record of his world tour Pigafetta wrote that Magellan was assisted by an assistant who Pigafetta said came from Sumatra, Enrique de Malacca, or Enrique el Negro (Henry the Black). In other transcripts he was also called Enrique de Molucca, perhaps by Transylvanus, because it was Transylvanus who declared that Henry Black came from the Moluccas.

Pigafetta wrote one of the reasons Magellan could convince King Carlos I of Spain to finance his voyage was the presence of Enrique el Negro who fascinated the curious king with his physical looks and his multilingual talent. Ferdinand Magellan set out from Sanlucar de Barrameda on September 20, 1519 carrying about 270 men of various ethnic, racial and national origins.

For more than 400 years, no one ever thought about the possibility that Enrique el Negro was the first human to circumnavigate the earth. In 1958, a Malay novelist Harun Aminurrashid said that Enrique el Negro was the first man to have that honor. And he said that Enrique el Negro is a Malayan Malay (Malaysia did not exist until 1963), as opposed to an Indonesian Malay. The Malay writer was polite enough to say that Enrique el Negro was a Malay who came from Sumatra.

In 1980, Carlos Quirino, a Filipino historian and author, said that Enrique el Negro was a Filipino, with the argument that he could directly communicate with the natives when he arrived in Cebu, while Pigafetta’s records clearly stated that Enrique el Negro could not understand what the natives said.

Enrique el Negro is Indonesian! Why was he called black? A Sumatran being black is a rarity. Magellan must have cautiously prepared his voyage westward to the Moluccas and turned back to Spain. He needed a person who understood everything about the archipelago, especially the Moluccas.

One more argument that supports this theory is that during his journey Pigafetta wrote a dictionary of the languages he encountered during the voyage. Of 460 words in his dictionary, only 160 words are not Malay. One can argue that he was assisted by Enrique, who was on the same ship as him for 18 months. Among the words collected, a lot of them came from the Moluccas as admitted by Pigafetta.

Whatever the case, Enrique had completed the 360 degree circumnavigation of the world, because Mactan is at longitude 123 ° 58 ‘E, and Ambon is 128 ° 12’E.

People from the Scandinavian countries were proud about the fact the first European to discover American was their countryman Leif Eriksson, who had visited Nova Scotia in Canada, and not Columbus. We too can do the same thing.

Source: The Jakarta Post (Reinhard R. Tawas)

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