Spirit of first man to go round world sails again

10th May 2005, Comments 0 comments

10 May 2005, TOKYO — The spirit of Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano, who was the first man to sail around the world nearly 500 years ago, has been recreated with a replica vessel halfway through a second circumnavigation.

10 May 2005

TOKYO — The spirit of Spanish navigator Juan Sebastian de Elcano, who was the first man to sail around the world nearly 500 years ago, has been recreated with a replica vessel halfway through a second circumnavigation.

Juan Sebastian de Elcano's spirit is at rest on a pier in Tokyo Bay, after six months at sea aboard a faithful replica of the vessel that took him around the world.

The replica of the Nao Victoria, which carried the lieutenant of Magellan - who was killed in 1521 before completing the voyage - is on exhibit in the Japanese capital as part of the 2005 World Exposition in Aichi, central Japan.

After six months of sailing, the ship dropped anchor alongside freighters that tower over it, making the little vessel appear insignificant, a curious antique or a variety of floating museum.

It sailed beneath the towering Rainbow bridge, a replica of San Francisco's Golden Gate, and past the Tokyo skyline.

The Nao Victoria's mission is to retrace De Elcano's voyage, returning next April to Seville, where it sailed from on this trip.

The ship, restored since its construction for Expo '92 in Seville, sailed from that Andalusian city 12 October   2004.

Nao Victoria's voyage to Japan has been more successful than its first venture on the waters, in November 1991, when it capsized shortly after being christened in the port of Isla Cristina, in Huelva.

The completely overhauled Nao Victoria is in the hands of Jose Luis Ugarte, the veteran sailor in charge of navigation and one of the 'sea wolves' of Spanish sailing.

The 76-year-old sailor said the vessel performed up to expectations on the first half of its voyage.

"The sailing has been good. The ship is strong, hard, and, at the same time, very clumsy because it's from the 16th century, but it's responded well, just as we thought," Ugarte told EFE.

The vessel is of the carrack type, a form of sailing ship characterized by a rounded hull and high fore- and after-castles. It has three masts with the two foremost ones square-rigged.

The ship, made of oak and mahogany covered in pine, requires hard work to maintain it in top condition.

The project, sponsored by various private Spanish companies, is being managed by the State Corporation for International Expositions.

The most complex element in the expedition is the Nao Victoria itself, Ugarte said, noting that it was difficult to manoeuvre a vessel that boasts 500-year-old sailing technology, does not sail into the wind and rocks a lot.

"Current ships are very fast, very easy to sail and they move in any direction, wherever the wind is blowing from and whatever force. This is much harder, you need more people," Ugarte said.

Ugarte said he had always wanted to know "how those people sailed," referring to Magellan and the other great explorers of the 16th century, and would have signed up as a sailor if he had lived back then.

The replica of the Nao Victoria uses the same navigation instruments employed by De Elcano, Magellan's pilot, but also has modern navigation instruments used when the wind fails.

"I would sail on a log if need be," Ugarte, who has two solo voyages around the world under his belt, said, smiling.

Ugarte's optimistic words do not hint at some of the problems encountered by the Nao Victoria's crew of some two dozen volunteers on their voyage.

Two members of the crew had to be flown out for medical care on the Pacific crossing after suffering hernias.

The ship's doctor, Andres Romero, said nearly the entire crew got food poisoning from eating spoiled tuna during the stretch from the Panama Canal to Hawaii.

Nao Victoria does not have refrigerators, and the tuna the sailors caught and tried to keep more days than they should have went bad.

Food is one of the most notable differences between the expeditions of De Elcano and Ugarte.

The current band of adventurers has a large supply of canned foods and bottled water, as well as a portable desalination machine.

"Today's men couldn't stand the food that sailors in days gone by carried," project director Ignacio Fernandez Vial said, basing his statement on experts' conclusions.

The replica of the Nao Victoria also did not stay true to the original route taken by De Elcano, avoiding the Strait of Magellan and crossing the Panama Canal to save time, because otherwise "we would not have made it to the Expo in Aichi," Fernandez Vial said.

The Nao Victoria was part of the fleet under Magellan that set sail from Seville on August, 1519, to look for a passage linking the Atlantic and Pacific.

Magellan sailed through the strait at the southern tip of South America now named for him, one of the world's most difficult passages.

Of the original five-ship fleet carrying 237 men, only 18 men on the Nao Victoria, the only surviving vessel, made it back to Seville in September 1522 under De Elcano, who assumed command after Magellan's death in the Philippines.

The 2005 World Exposition runs until 25 September and organizers expect some 15 million visitors.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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