Today, the Guam US Territories Quarter Coin remembers when Magellan found the island on March 6, 1521.
From The Useful Plants of the Island of Guam by William Edwin Safford, published in 1905:
Discovery of Guam and Its Early History.
The Island of Guam was discovered on March 6, 1521, by Magellan, after a passage of three months and twenty days from the strait which bears his name.
An account of the privations and suffering of his crew, many of whom died on the way across the hitherto unexplored ocean, is graphically given by Antonio Pigafetta, Magellan’s historian.
He describes how the expedition arrived at Guam with the crews suffering from scurvy and in a starving condition, having been compelled on the passage to eat rats and even the leather from off the standing rigging to keep soul and body together.
In comparison with Magellan’s feat of crossing the vast Pacific, the first voyage of Columbus from the Canary Islands to the West Indies seems insignificant.
The natives of Guam came to meet the Spaniards in strange “flying praos ” (canoes provided with outriggers and triangular sails of mats).
The Spaniards had dropped anchor, furled their sails, and were about to land, when it was discovered that a small boat which rode astern of the flagship was missing.
Suspecting the natives of having stolen it, Magellan himself went ashore at the head of a landing party of 40 armed men, burned 40 or 50 houses and many boats, and killed seven or eight natives, male and female.
He then returned to his ship with the missing boat and immediately set sail, continuing his course to the westward.
Before we went ashore [says Pigafetta] some of our people who were sick said to us that if we should kill any of the natives, whether man or woman, that we should bring on board their entrails, being persuaded that with the latter they would be cured.
When we wounded some of those islanders with arrows, which entered their bodies, they tried to draw forth the arrow now in one way and now in another, in the meantime regarding it with great astonishment, and thus did they who were wounded in the breast, and they died of it, which did not fail to cause us compassion.
Seeing us take our departure then, they followed us with more than a hundred boats for more than a league. They approached our ships, showing us fish and feigning to wish to give them to us, but when we were near they cast stones at us and fled.
We passed under full sail among their boats, which, with greatest dexterity, avoided us. We saw among them some women who were weeping and tearing their hair, surely for their husbands killed by us.
The natives did not fare much better at the hands of later visitors.
Some of the early navigators enticed them on board and made slaves of them, so that they might man the pumps and keep the ships free from water.
They were spoken of as “infidels,” to slay whom was no great sin; but if encounters took place between them and Europeans and a white man was killed, he was declared to have been murdered, and his death was avenged by the burning of villages, boats, and boat-houses, and by killing men, women, and children.
They were branded by their discoverers with the name of ladrones (thieves) for stealing a boat and some bits of iron.
The early navigators themselves did not hesitate to steal husbands from their wives and fathers from their children.
The Guam US Territories Quarter Coin shows with an artist’s map image of the island, circa 1700.