The First Sailing Around the World. 1519- 1522

The First Sailing Around the World. 1519- 1522

“Your Majesty must know about what is most important, which is that we have discovered and travelled around the entire circumference of the Earth...”

Letter from Juan Sebastián Elcano written on board the Nao Victoria, in Sanlúcar, 6 September 1522

On the 8th of September 1522, eighteen men led by Juan Sebastián Elcano on board the Nao Victoria reached Seville and finalised the greatest maritime feat in history: the First Trip Around the World. After more than three years of sailing and hardship, for the first time sailors managed to sail the great oceans of the planet and to discover the true dimensions of the globe. The expedition, consisting of 5 nao ships and 245 crew members, had departed Seville on the 10th of August 1519, with Hernando de Magallanes as the captain. They formed what was known as the Spice Armada, which, sponsored by the Spanish Crown, had the objective of opening a new route travelling west towards the islands that produced the spices. Small and precious goods that became “gold of the era” in European markets, which particularly grew on the Maluku Islands (Indonesia). For this, with their bows facing west, they needed to find a passage or strait that joined the world’s two great oceans, which was still unknown at that time. For three years the expedition crossed three oceans and bordered several continents. After crossing the Atlantic, they discovered the Strait of Magellan. For the first time in history, the expedition crossed the Pacific Ocean in its entirety, recognising its islands and archipelagos until they reached the Philippines and Maluku islands. The crew members of the armada experienced all types of ups and downs, leading many of them to lose their leaves and others to find fortune in these new lands. Magallanes, the driving force behind the project, never saw the end of the enterprise, he died in the Philippines. Juan Sebastián Elcano, captain of the only surviving nao, the Nao Victoria, began the return trip to Spain with his cargo of spices through the Indian Ocean. He sailed along the route of the “roaring forties” for 86 days, non-stop, until he reached the African continent. Once they had sailed around the Cape of Good Hope, they headed north, finally reaching Sanlúcar de Barrameda and Seville, with only 18 survivors on board. On the 8th of September 1522, after three years and fourteen days and 37,753 nautical miles sailed (69,918 km), the Nao Victoria completed the First Trip Around the World. Finally, man had embraced the world the was aware of the size of the planet he was living on, which from then on was communicated by routes through the sea.



“This sailing should be considered admirable and there has never... Been another similar... Certainly, these eighteen sailors who, with this nao, contributed to Seville, should be held in immortal memory”

Letter from Maximiliano Transilvano, King’s Secretary, 1522
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