navigator, he was the first to sail around the world. He was born
in Guetaria, Gipuzkoa in 1487 and died in the Pacific in 1526.
Accustomed since childhood to the life of the sea and net and
deep sea fishing, he later refined his maritime experience with
the maritime commerce of contraband in the ports of France. His
enterprising and adventurous character made him participate in
the expedition that cardenal Cisneros organized against Algeria
Upon his return,
he went toSeville, where he came to form part of the crew that
accompanied Magellan in his voyage to connect Spain with the so-called
East Indies or Far East. In the fleet, composed of five ships
and crewed by 265 men, corresponded at first to Elcano the post
of master of the vessel Concepcion. The expedition set sail in
Sanlucar de Barrameda the 20th of September, 1519, and, after
having put in at the Canaries, made for the Brazilian coast, which
they skirted in the southern direction, until they arrived at
the mouth of river which was called San Julian (March of 1520),
where they stopped for the winter.
had to face the opposition of Juan de Cartagena, who, followed
by other captains and numerous crew men, refused to go further
and declared an open rebellion. The mutineers entrusted to Elcano
the military command of the ship San Antonio. The differences
resolved violently, Elcano was able to return with the previous
charge to the ship Concepcion, at whose hand he would cross the
anxiously looked for Estrecho (later said by Magellen) in November
of that year and penetrated the immense waters of the Pacific
vicissitudes and later after having stopped at various islands,
they put into port at the Philipine archipelego in the spring
of 1521, where the genial leader of the expedition would encounter
a violent death on the island of Mactan, near Cebu, on April 27,
1521. With Magellen gone, Duarte Barbosa, his brother-in-law,
and the pilot Juan Serrao, both Portuguese, took command of the
fleet. Within a few days, they were treacherously killed by the
king of the island of Cebu, who had invited them to a banquet.
They were replaced by Juan Carvalho, also Portuguese, in the Victoria,
and Gonzalo Gomez de Espinosa in the Trinidad, since the Concepcion,
now inservable, had to be abandoned in the island of Bohol, Elcano
went then to the Victoria, with the same position he occupied
on the Concepcion.
two ships and 150 men, the expedition dedicated itself subsequently
to investigating the various islands of the Philipine archipelago,
until, guided by indigenous pilots, they finally arrived to the
famous island of Spices, or the Molucas. On November 8, 1521,
they reached the island of Tidore, where, aided by Almanzor, sultan
of Tidore, they founded a commercial center, loading clove, nutmeg,
and other precious goods. Well informed of the presence of the
Portuguese in those waters, the leaders of the expedition determined
that, while the Trinidad, under the hand of Gomez de Espinosa,
sailed for the isthmus of Panama, the Victoria would try to regain
Spain by the same route the Portuguese had followed.
Molucas on December 21, 1521, with a crew that was made up of
47 Europeans and 13 natives, the Victoria could finally leave
the turbulent waters of the island, thanks to the skill of two
indigenous pilots. Meanwhile, Elcano had become the captain of
the expedition, replacing Carvalho in the port of Caldera de Mindanao.
Setting course for the island of Timor, they stopped at various
islands, when they resupplied with pepper, wood and other goods.
at the island of Timor, known for the abundance of white sandle
wood, on January 26, 1522. Elcano immediately began bargaining
with the natives to adquire supplies. The demands of these obliged
him later to choose more expediant methods, taking prisoner one
of the leaders and demanding supplies in return for his freedom.
Victoria was anchored in the port of Batutaria, place of the seaboard
of the island of Timor, about one and a half months, in which
time they received news of the neighboring islands of the archipelago
of the Sonda, from Java, from the peninsula of Malaca and even
from China. They left that place on the 11th of February, 1522.
The 6th of May that same year they turned the point of Buena Esperanza
and, at last, after many vicissitudes and dangers of sea and man
(Portuguese, in this case), they arrived with their battered ship
at the port of Sanlucar de Barrameda the 6th of December, 1522.
Of the 239
men that left Sevilla in five ships only 17 returned in one ship;
but this glorious voyage, of the most scientific importance in
the panoramic of the discovery of the world, placed in the realm
of reality the dream of Columbus of connecting Europe with East
Asia by the Western route, proving in an empirical way the theory
that the world is round (on their arrival, Elcano and the mariners
would see with surprise that they had lost a day in the log they
carried of the record of such a long journey). However, the balance
of the circumnavigation of Magellen and Elcano was nearly null
from the economic and politcal points of view, leaving better
demonstrated that the route to the lands of silk, ivory and spices
was not the western, because of this it was impossible to establish
by it the adequate counterpart to the indo-portuguese route through
the point of Buena Esperanza.
days, Elcano and the crew of the Victoria marched to Sevilla,
where they went to prostrate before Nuestra Senora de la Antigua
to give thanks for their happy arrival.
de Elcano was later recieved by the emperor Carlos V, who, among
other things that he gave to the crew of the surviving ship, he
granted to the native of Geutaria a pension of 500 ducados and
the coat of arms with the legend: "primus circumdedisti me".
We later see
Elcano in Valladolid, where, as fruit of a romance he had with
Maria de Vidaurreta, a daughter was born to him. He was very persecuted
without knowing for certain why, although he suspected that it
was for romantic reasons; the result of which, he obtained from
Carlos V the ability to be accompanied by two armed men at all
He later presented
himself at the juntas of Badajoz and Yelbes, convenied with the
purpose to put to rest the dispute the between Castilla and Portugal
over the possession of the Molucas. But Elcano was not a man that
could live far from the sea for long. So, he went to Portugalete,
to enlist in the armada that under the command of Loaysa had to
set sail again to the Molucas the 24th of July, 1525. This expedition,
in which the man of Guetaria displayed the position of second
in command, suffered in like manner numerous set backs, ending
up as well to lose the vessel in which Elcano traveled. The death
of the commander Loaysa on the 30th of July, 1526 left Elcano
in command of the expedition, although for a short time, as he
died consumed by the scurvy in waters of the Pacific on August
4, 1526, after having given the testament, in which he dedicated
an emotive recollection to his place of birth. - L. F. J.