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Juan Sebastián Elcano

First Marine Circumnavigation of the World

Juan Sebastián Elcano was a Basque explorer serving the Spanish Empire.  He commanded the first successful expedition to circumnavigate the globe in 1522.

A merchant ship captain, Elcano violated Spanish law by surrendering a ship of his to Genoan bankers in repayment of a debt.  Seeking a pardon from the Spanish King Charles I, he signed on, as a subordinate officer, to Ferdinand Magellan's expedition to circumnavigate the globe.  Spared from execution by Magellan after taking part in a failed mutiny, Elcano was made captain of Concepción, one of five vessels.  Elcano went on to take command of the fleet when Magellan was killed in the battle of Mactan, the Philippines, on April 27, 1521.

On September 6, 1522, Elcano sailed into Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Spain, aboard the Victoria, along with 17 other European survivors of the 265 man expedition, and 4 (survivors out of 13) Tidorese Asians aboard.  The profits resulting from the spices they carried made them rich.  The king conceded him a coat of arms picturing a globe with the motto: Primus circumdedisti me (in Latin, "You went around me first").

In 1525, Elcano was a member of the Loaísa Expedition. He was appointed along with García Jofre de Loaísa as sea captains, who commanded 7 ships and sent to claim the East Indies for Spanish king Charles I.  Both Elcano and Loaísa died of malnutrition in the Pacific while attempting a second circumnavigation of the world.

IN FACT:  The first man to circumnavigate the globe (in multiple voyages) was a Southeast Asian native who was a servant of Magellan.  Magellan's Malay interpreter, who was baptized as Enrique (Henry the Black) in Malacca in 1511, had been sold into slavery in Sumatra and sent to Malacca, where Magellan had acquired him.  Since leaving the Malayan Peninsula in 1512, he had accompanied his owner to India, Africa, Portugal and Spain.  Magellan took Enrique with him when he set sail on the voyage that would bring his shipmates around the world.  When Magellan's fleet reached the Philippines in 1521, Enrique therefore had rounded the world, though it took nine years and many voyages.

IN FACT:  On August 10, 1519, five ships under Magellan's command left Seville to sail around the world, and only one of the five was to successfully return. 

Santiago was sent down South America's east coast on a scouting expedition on March 31, 1520 and was wrecked in a sudden storm.

San Antonio was sent with Concepción to explore what is now known as the Strait of Magellan on November 1, 1520, but the San Antonio deserted and returned to Spain.

Concepción was abandoned on May 2, 1521 after casualties suffered in the Philippines left the expedition with too few men to sail the three remaining ships.

Trinidad began taking on water as they left the Moluccas on December 21, 1521 sailing west for Spain.  The crew tried to discover and repair the leak, but failed.

Victoria, the last ship of the fleet, arrived in Spain on September 6, 1522.