MADRID – The Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation was the first voyage around the world in human history.
The journey, which took place between 1519 and 1522, was a feat of naval history for both its technical and human aspects.
Led by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano, the Spanish expedition set sail from Seville on 10 August 1519 with five ships.
Its main goal was to find a route around South America to reach the Spice Islands, now called the Maluku Islands or Moluccas, in eastern Indonesia by crossing the Pacific Ocean, an achievement that nobody had made before.
Elcano took command of the last remaining ship the Victoria after Magellan was killed during a skirmish with an indigenous community in the Philippines.
The excursion finally reached the Moluccas in 1521 and returned to San Lucar de Barrameda in southern Spain on 6 September 1522.
Two days later the Victoria reached Seville with only 18 sailors on board.
The original crew was made up of between 239 and 260 men.
Many of them died of hunger and diseases such as scurvy while others were killed during fighting with native settlements.
A total of 53 seamen stayed in Indonesia and 13 were arrested in Cape Verde.
The historic voyage was full of curiosities.
The crew calculated that the trip would last two years and they loaded 500 tons of provisions, among them 200 sardine cans, 430 bulbs of garlic and 10 tons of dried biscuits.
There were also seven live cows on board so that the sailors could drink milk.
Four of the five ships that sailed from Seville never returned.
The Santiago was shipwrecked at the mouth of the Rio de la Plata, or River Plate, in Argentina, while the crew of the San Antonio deserted when they arrived in Patagonia.
The Concepcion was deliberately set on fire in the Philippines because there were not enough men to crew it.
A fourth ship the Trinidad sank in the waters of the Moluccas.
During its journey through three oceans, the Victoria sailed almost 14,460 leagues (almost 70,000 km).
Its navigators visited all the continents, except Australia.
Elcano would have found it if he had sailed on a different altitude but he took a more southerly route to avoid a rival Portuguese fleet.
Crossing the Pacific ocean took 98 days during which many of the crew died from hunger or scurvy.
The Victoria returned with 60 tons of spices, which was a precious cargo at the time.