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
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.
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.