Magellan's Concepción Scuttled in the Philippines, Burned to Waterline

Three- and four-masted carracks.

The Nao Concepción was the third-largest ship in Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet in tonnage. The Concepción was recorded at 90 tons compared with the San Antonio’s 120 and the flagship Trinidad’s 110. Its crew included key figures in the Magellan-Elcano expedition. 





San Antonio




Trinidad (flagship)
















The Concepción's Crew

The Concepción started out with a crew of forty-four; one was added at Tenerefe and at least one more at Rio de Janeiro. It was a solidly Castilian crew. The rosters list twenty-four crew from Castile, seven from Portugal, with the rest an odd mixture: two Genoans, two gunners from Flanders, a Greek, two Irishmen, and a cabin boy who became the first native of Brazil to cross the Pacific Ocean

In addition to officers, seamen, and apprentice seamen, the Concepción carried a caulker, a carpenter, a cooper, a barber, a blacksmith, and three cabin boys, one of them from Ireland, one from Brazil.

Notable among the Concepción’s crew were its Castilian captain, Gasper de Quesada; its Portuguese pilot, João Lopes Carvalho; and a master of Basque origin named Juan Sebastián Elcano.

Gasper de Quesada

Along with two other captains, Quesada led the failed Easter mutiny at Puerto San Julian in April 1520. The Concepción was one of three ships that turned on the Trinidad, Magellan’s flagship. After a court martial, Quesada was beheaded, his body then quartered and displayed on stakes as a warning.

João Lopes Carvalho

João Lopes Carvalho, the Concepción's Portuguese pilot, had crossed the Atlantic in 1512 and had remained in Brazil for four years. Given of Carvalho’s experience there, Magellan chose him to lead the fleet in to the Brazilian coast. Unaware of currents in the area, though, Carvalho led the fleet dangerously close to shore. Disaster was barely averted.

During his previous stay in Brazil, Carvalho fathered a child, Joãozito Carvalho, who at age of seven joined Magellan’s fleet as it passed, sailing aboard the Concepción. The young Joãozito Carvalho became the first native of Brazil to cross the Pacific Ocean—a feat Joãozito accomplished aboard the Concepción.

The Concepción Explores the Magellan Strait

When the fleet finally found what appeared to be a strait, the Concepción and the San Antonio were sent in to explore, and almost immediately a severe storm hit. The two ships were separated and seemingly lost, young Joãozito with them. 

“We thought that they had been wrecked, first, by reason of the violent storm, and second, because two days had passed and they had not appeared …” wrote Antonio Pigafetta, the expedition's chronicler..

Then came a dramatic reunion. The Concepción and San Antonio appeared with pennants flying, crews cheering, and gunners firing salutes. They returned and they returned with news: They had in fact found the strait Magellan had been promising.

The Concepción Survives the First Pacific Crossing

The Concepción was one of the three ships that made the first Pacific crossing. Magellan and other explorers had drastically underestimated the size of the Pacific, and thinking Asia was only weeks away, Magellan set off without stopping for provisions. More than twenty crew died from starvation and scurvy before they finally reached land in Asia.

Days after Magellan’s was killed at Mactan, most the fleet's remaining officers were massacred in an ambush at Cebu. João Lopes Carvalho, one of the top officers left, made the decision to flee the area, abandoning the Concepción’s then captain, Juan Seranno. Carvalho himself was then chosen as commander of the fleet.

The Concepción Is Scuttled

One of their first moves after leaving Cebu was to scuttle the Concepción, since they didn’t have enough crew left to sail three vessels. Carvalho’s former ship was in the worst condition. They divided the Concepción’s crew and supplies between the other two vessels and burned to the Concepción off the southwest point of nearby Bohol Island. They wanted to leave no trophies behind.

Carvalho proved to be a poor choice for commander, and he was later replaced. Juan Sebastián Elcano, originally master aboard the Concepción, became the final captain of the Victoria during the expedition. Elcano is credited with completing the first circumnavigation of the globe.

By John Sailors

Enrique's Voyage


Top: By Frans Huys - This file was donated to Wikimedia Commons as part of a project by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. See the Image and Data Resources Open Access Policy, CC0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=60840737

(C) 2022, by John Sailors.

See Also:

On March 28, 1521, Enrique of Malacca became the first person to complete a
linguistic circumnavigation of the globe—he traveled so far in one direction that he reached a point where his language was spoken. Enrique’s journey began a decade earlier following the sack of Malacca, when he became a slave of Ferdinand Magellan. A teenager, he accompanied Magellan back to Portugal, then to Spain, and finally on the Armada de Molucca to locate a westward route to the Spice Islands.  Read more:

What Was Enrique of Malacca's Nationality?

Enrique of Malacca's origin is a subject of debate. Three places are considered possible: Malacca, then a major trade hub on the Malay Peninsula; Sumatra, the large island adjacent to Malacca (modern-day Indonesia); and the Visayan Islands in the (modern-day) Philippines. The following article examines the three possibilities and the evidence available. Read more.

Was Enrique of Malacca Filipino?

Enrique of Malacca's origin is a subject of debate. Three places are considered possible: Malacca, then a major trade hub on the Malay Peninsula; Sumatra, the large island adjacent to Malacca; and the Visayan Islands in the (modern-day) Philippines. The evidence points to Malacca, though chronicler Antonio Pigafetta said Sumatra, and some scholars believe it's possibly Enrique was from the Visayan Islands in the modern-day Philippines? See the historical evidence in this post: Where was Enrique of Malacca from, Malacca or the Philippines?

Find us:

Learn more about Enrique at EnriqueOfMalacca.com.

(C) 2022 by John Sailors. All rights reserved.