Juan Sebastián Elkano 

Juan Sebastián Elkano, been born in 1476 to Getaria and died in the Pacific Ocean on August 4th, 1526, is an explorer and Basque sailor which realizes  the first tour of the globe from 1519 till 1522, during the expedition commanded originally by Magellan. He returned to Seville with the last survivors of the expedition aboard Victoria.

(source image : domingo leiva)

“Really this captain Juan Sebastián Elkano deserves of eternal one memory, because he was the first one to put on the world, and because nobody until then, either among the famous Former, or among the Modern, can be compared with him”, writes, in 1601, the Big Columnist of India in the court of Spain, Antonio de Herrera y Tordesillas.


Captain of a merchant ship, Elkano broke the Castillan law by handing its boat to Genoese bankers in payment for a debt. Trying be forgiven by king Charles the Fifth, he made a commitment as junior officer in the expedition of Magellan which left in August, 1519 for, not to go round the world, but to find a passage between the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, to reach islands spices, the Moluccas. To summarize, reach these regions by a road leaving westward.

He took part in ” the mutiny of Easter ” in the Port of San Julián the April 1st 1520 but was spared by Magellan as well as 39 men having participated in the mutiny. Victoria was confided to Barbosa and the Conception to Juan Serrano.

When Magellan was killed by autochthons on the island of Mactan, in the Philippines, on April 27th, 1521, Duarte Barbosa was named Capitaine-général and Juan Serrano, his second. After the massacre of May 1st, 1521 to Cebu (26 members of the expedition were killed), the fleet sails hastily and on May 2nd, the Conception is burned, for lack of sufficient staff to equip three boats. On September 16th only, Juan Sebastian Elkano becomes a captain of Victoria whom he will lead to Seville, where he will arrive on September 8th, 1522. On March 18th, 1522, Elkano discovered the island Amsterdam, in the South of the Indian Ocean, but did not name it.

« Primus circumdedisti mihi »

On September 6th, 1522, he arrived at Sanlúcar of Barrameda (in Andalusia) with 18 survivors (on 240 men at first) and 3 natives of Tindore in the Moluccas (on 13 embarked). Emperor Charles the Fifth awards him coat of arms representing a globe carrying as registration “Primus circumdedisti mihi” (“You were the first one to make my tour”) and grant he a life pension of 500 ducats.

In 1526, Elkano was the captain of one of the seven vessels of the expedition commanded by García Jofre of Loaísa, to explore East Indies, to assert the territorial claims of the Spanish crown. Elkano dies in peaceful mid-ocean on August 4th, 1526 a few days after Loyasa, “overcome by the bad weather and the disease.”.