MONTEVIDEO – The Spanish navy training ship Juan Sebastian de Elcano, named after the first man to circumnavigate the Earth, sailed on Tuesday into Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, where it will participate in events marking the 500th anniversary of what many consider the most important feat in maritime history.
The circumnavigation of the world was the dividing point between the before and after in maritime history, and the four-mast sailing ship is visiting ports around the world to celebrate the anniversary.
The ship’s captain, Santiago de Colsa Trueba, told reporters that the visit to this South American nation highlighted the “close links” between brother nations like Uruguay and Spain.
“We share a language, a common history and also a maritime side that makes the Atlantic Ocean a meeting point between Uruguayans and Spaniards,” the Spanish naval officer said.
The ship, which is on its 92nd training cruise and 16th visit to the Uruguayan capital, will remain in Montevideo until Jan. 12, when it will sail to Recife, Brazil.
In addition to its usual mission of representing Spain in the world and training future navy officers, this time around the ship’s visit has a “greater importance” because the crew will be remembering what happened on Jan. 10, 1520, when the expedition led by Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan and Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano sailed into the River Plate in its quest to find a passage to the Pacific Ocean, De Colsa Trueba said.
“We are immersed in commemorating the 500th anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the Earth, which is without a doubt the most epic accomplishment in world maritime history,” the Spanish naval officer said.
During the next two years, the Spanish navy training ship will sail to some of the key places visited by the expedition led by Magellan and Elcano.
De Colsa Trueba said Elcano was a “very important” figure for the Spanish navy because of all that he represented and the fact that the training ship bears his name inspires the entire crew and was a source of pride for the sailors.
Elcano was the first man to circumnavigate the Earth from 1519 to 1522 with Magellan’s expedition, which was searching for a western route to the Spice Islands.
Of Magellan’s original five-ship fleet carrying 237 men, only 18 sailors on the Nao Victoria, the only surviving vessel, made it back to Seville in September 1522 under Elcano, who assumed command after Magellan’s death in the Philippines.
The ship’s coat of arms is the one granted by the Spanish Crown to Elcano: A gold castle in a field of gold with cinnamon sticks, nutmeg and clove, crowned with the motto in Latin, around a globe, “Primus circumdedisti me,” or “The First Who Went Around Me.”
The training ship, built at the Echevarrieta y Larrinaga shipyard in Cadiz, was christened on March 5, 1927, and delivered to the Spanish navy on Aug. 17, 1928.
The ship has sailed more than 1.78 million nautical miles over the past 91 years and most of the Spanish navy’s officers have trained on the vessel, including King Felipe, who sailed on the Elcano in 1987.
The vessel has a crew of 230, of whom 20 percent are women.
De Colsa Trueba said spending time aboard the training ship was essential for the preparation of future naval officers, who are taught about the technical and scientific aspects of sailing, as well as learning the “inherent” values of their careers, such as discipline, loyalty, teamwork and courage.
The Juan Sebastian de Elcano sailed from Cadiz on Nov. 3 on its 92nd training cruise.
The ship has already made stops in Las Palmas, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Mar del Plata.
From Montevideo, the Juan Sebastian de Elcano will head to Recife, Curacao, the Dominican Republic and Miami, beginning the journey home on April 18.