Expatica news

Five things to know about the first round-world trip

Five centuries ago a fleet set sail from Spain on a voyage that would become the first trip right around the world.

It was an adventure fraught with danger, death, and disputes.

Here are the dramatic highs and lows of a feat that changed history:

– Not everyone was on board –

Spain’s king, Emperor Charles V, backed the voyage after the lead adventurer, Ferdinand Magellan, could not convince the king of his native Portugal to support his ambitious project.

On August 10, 1519, Magellan set off with five ships and 237 men in a quest to discover a new route to Indonesia’s spice-rich Moluccas Islands. But his crew was pessimistic about the trip and he faced mutinies organised by his Spanish captains.

Just a year into the voyage, Magellan had already lost two of the vessels. One of them sank south of the American continent and the other fled back to Spain instead of risking the heavy storms in the southern seas.

– Death of the leader –

The adventure wrote Magellan’s name into the history books, but the lead explorer did not even finish the journey.

He was killed in a fight with indigenous people on the island of Mactan in the Philippines in April 1521.

Spaniard Juan Sebastian Elcano took the helm and completed the voyage with 18 other survivors from Magellan’s crew. They returned to Seville in September 1522 aboard the only surviving ship, the Victoria.

– Disputed triumph –

Magellan was a pioneer in the golden age of exploration that contributed to Portugal’s colonial expansion. But the Spanish have insisted the triumph was theirs.

Spain’s Royal Academy of History said in March the circumnavigation of the globe was an “exclusively Spanish” venture.

The two neighbours have agreed to jointly commemorate this year’s quincentenary.

– Disobeying the king –

The original instructions from Charles V were for the fleet to reach the Moluccas Islands and return to Spain by sailing back east, not to try and make it full-circle around the world.

Two ships made it to the Moluccas Islands. One of them perished in a storm in an attempt to return to Spain by crossing the Pacific. The other, captained by Elcano, defied the king of Spain’s orders and succeeded in its gamble to sail west, avoiding Portuguese waters.

– ‘Conceptual revolution’ –

In spite of the setbacks and the dispute as to who should claim the glory, the story itself sailed into history.

“Magellan marked a conceptual revolution,” said Jose Manuel Marques, who is leading the Portuguese commemorations to mark the 500th anniversary.

“He gave us for the first time a complete vision of the world, which showed us that there is only one ocean and that the sea is the link between peoples.”