Biography of Juan Sebastián Elcano (1476-1526)

Spanish sailor born in Guetaria in 1476 and died in the nao Victoria in 1526, on the way to the Moluccan Islands. Elcano sent the Spanish ship, which had concluded the first around the world in 1522.

He was son of Domingo Sebastián de el Cano and Catalina de el Puerto, so le is frequently cited in the documentation as "Caño". His parents were fishermen accommodated with own House and boat and had four other children, two of whom were marine. Sebastián was fisherman since his teens and came to have a ship of 200 tons, which served in the marine fleet that assisted the Great Captain in the campaigns in Italy, as well as in the operations carried out by the ardenal Cisneros against the places of Oran, spark plug and Tripoli. Did not receive any compensation in return and was forced to mortgage their boat to some vassals of the Duke of Savoy merchants. As it could not return them the loan did not have more option that sell the ship, something that was forbidden (selling foreign armed vessels in times of war). Cano was pursued by Justice and abandoned his homeland, where he/she left his son Domingo de el Cano, who had in María Hernández Dernialde. He/She took refuge in Seville and in 1518 was enrolled in the expedition organized by Magallanes to discover the spices or Maluku islands. His experience of Seaman was given high office, as it was the master of the nao "Conception", equivalent to the second on board. Its captain was Gaspar de Quesada, and the pilot was the Portuguese Juan López de Carvalho.

The fleet of Magellan sailed from San Lúcar de Barrameda on August 10, 1519 and made its known crossing to the Canary Islands, costa of Brazil, Rio de la Plata and puerto San Julián (vide Magallanes and Cartagena). No chronicler emphasizes that Elcano during her doing anything in particular, apart from complying with their work, but it played a notable role in the mutiny against Magallanes, emerged in that port on 1 April 1520 and played precisely in his ship, the "conception". It departed Gaspar de Quesada and Juan de Cartagena with 30 men to go to the "San Antonio" to ask its captain and crew to join the rebellion. Elcano was to be one of the 30 men, as commissioned by the mutineers of guarding the "San Antonio" with its artillery. It seems that this was their only performance. Since then Elcano stated in 1522 judge ten Leguizano figure of Magellan was not Saint of his devotion, for its authoritarianism and trying to marginalize the Spaniards in the Navy commanders.

Then came the reaction of Magellan, which regained control of the fleet, and the famous trial that sentenced to die more than 40 men, but he/she forgave them "generously" to not stay without crew. Only justice applied was beheaded Gaspar de Quesada and abandon land to Juan de Cartagena and the priest Pedro Sánchez de la Reina. The trip then continued the known incidents. After losing the ship "Santiago" in an exploration to the South, the fleet sailed from San Julian 21 or August 24, 1520. He/She paid for the Patagonia and discovered the Strait, where defected the "San Antonio" to report in Spain of the discovery. The three remaining naos crossed the Strait and November 27 became the South Sea which named Pacific Ocean by have found calm. Then came the dreadful journey nonstop until the Mariana Islands, which reached on March 6, 1521, from where it passed to the Philippines (March 16). Magellan landed in Cebu and finally died in Mactan on April 27, 1521. Then it was named a two-headed command with Juan Rodríguez Serrano and Duarte Barbosa. In this way the Portuguese remained in practice with the control of the Spanish fleet. New problems determined that Juan López de Carvalho was appointed general of the Navy under the command of the "Trinity", while Gonzalo Gómez Espinosa led "Victory" and Sebastián Elcano "Conception". Back to Mindanao, López de Carvalho was dismissed, and in Bohol, they decided to burn the "conception", making lots of water. So were only two ships; the "Trinity", commanded by Gómez de Espinosa, and "Victory", captained by Elcano.

The Spanish fleet reached its goal on November 7, 1521, the island of Ternate, in the Moluccas. For eight months since the death of Magellan and nearly two years since the departure of the Peninsula. The Spaniards made friendship with King Almanzor, loaded spices and got ready to go back. They tried it on December 18, 1521, but the "Trinity" had plenty of water, so it had to go back to Tidore to study their situation. It was then when emerged the great figure of Elcano, who pledged before Gómez de Espinosa to lead "Victory" directly to Spain, and by the Portuguese route, while he/she would try to return to America with the "Trinity", after fixed. There and only then really the idea of the first turn to the world and not before, well the Magellan Navy had the sole purpose of going to the spices and return by the same route of ida, as evidenced by the instructions of the Emperor, Carlos V, Magellan from May 8, 1519 in which authorized him to leave during the trip of ida some exiles in the lands that were discoveredto pick them up to return and learn the secrets of them: "and if you seems to leave it (new Earth) some of the outcasts, so you are going to make your discovery, meanwhile have conversation of what on Earth there, for the return to know what they have discovered and found in the Earth, leave heis". The same instructions ordered you the General take an accurate account of foods that would be spending on the way "for according to which carry, take account of what is expended, and put order into what is, and according to time provide, so to the contina abastanza to the tornaviaje they have". It was therefore in Ternate, and not before, when it was decided that "Victory" would give around the world, and this by agreement of both captains, Elcano and Gómez de Espinosa, said Gómara and confirmed Transylvanian Maximiliano: "than that ("victory"), there you go then, not return by way of the (Philippine) archipelago and Strait where it had gone (Magallanes)"", but that throw the Eastern route to the Cape of the Catigaran". Fernández de Oviedo added that it should also do so "on the high seas (and) transiting much more paragraph could in the coast of Asia, because it was not seen in the Portuguese".

Victory" was released as a burden to the frightening journey that awaited him. Had his 50 quintals of nail and it departed Ternate on December 21, 1521 with 47 European and 13 Indians. There was the "Trinity" in repair. Finished this would attempt to uselessly find favorable winds to return to America. You would not find them and would eventually fall into the hands of the Portuguese.

Elcano put southbound until the Mare Island, where loaded wood, then to the Moa Island, where carenó ship for two weeks and went to East Timor, in whose port from Amaban estibó food and water. 11 February 1522 he/she sailed from the island ready to sail world without scales, to reach Europe; a trip of more than five months by South Asian (not found after Batigara of Ptolemy) and Eastern and southern Africa, away from the coasts, to not be discovered by the Portuguese. During the five months spent hunger, thirst and they suffered illnesses from which several men were killed. May 6 front passed within of the good hope and folded along the western coast of Africa. On July 9 they sighted Cape Verde and decided to land on the island Santiago. The nao had plenty of water and the sailors had no forces to shrink it with the pump. It was no water or food. Elcano sent a chalupa with 12 men to ask Governor water, meat, bread and a few blacks to handle the pump. He/She was granted and took on board two loads, but the third trip the Portuguese seized the chalupa with twelve men who were in it, as they discovered that the nao came from the Moluccas, since the Spaniards wanted to pay it bought with three pounds of nail carrying. Seeing his men prisoners, Elcano ordered set sail immediately and continue trip with 17 sailors who had left. It was the 15th of July. Still had to overcome a storm in the Azores Islands, after which, on 6 September, arrived in San Lúcar de Barrameda. We had to tow the ship to Seville, where finally disembarked Elcano and 17 sailors cadaveric "Victory", with a cargo of more than 500 pounds of nail and other species, as well as any wood of sandalwood. They landed in the capital on the evening of 8 September 1522. For almost 9 months since they had left from Tidore and nearly three years since they left Spain!. They had left five ships with a crew of 275 and returning one with 18 men.

The reception was enthusiastic and popular nature, especially when the Mariners fulfilled his promise to go barefoot with candles to the main church of our Lady of victory. Elcano arrival told the Emperor, begging him to assist the Spanish who had been prisoners of the Portuguese (they were actually in a Lisbon jail) and Carlos I ordered him to go visit him accompanied by two of his crew members. Elcano elected Francisco Albo and Fernando Bustamante and stood on the road to Valladolid. The interview was held in the Court, where everyone looked with curiosity and admiration those men who had been in unknown worlds, who had traveled all the oceans and that had demonstrated experimentally that the world was round. The emperor was generous in his reward. He/She gave his Royal fifth or 20% of the value of merchandise brought to the sailors (including the Portuguese prisoners) and appointed Knight to Sebastián Elcano, giving him a shield that recalled his feat. It was divided into two barracks; at the top I had a castle on a red field; in the lower two cinnamon sticks, three walnuts, nutmegs in blade and two cloves, represented on a golden field. As Crest a helm closed over a globe with the legend "Primus circumdediste me".

Carlos I ordered to Santiago Leguizano Diez, Mayor's House and Court, that sworn statements taken three sailors on the events most important and confusing of the trip. Elcano informed then conduct authoritarian of Magellan, of having disobeyed Royal orders and his clash with Juan de Cartagena, causes of the mutiny of San Julian. He/She acknowledged that Captain Quesada, head of the rebels, charged the command and artillery of the nao "San Antonio" and said that Magellan hardness against the mutineers was designed to deliver the command of ships to Portuguese friends and relatives. The emperor was pleased with the affidavits of three sailors and awarded Elcano the mercy of 500 ducats per year and with life on the funds of the House of hiring of La Coruña, which had created, and pardoned him for the crime of having sold his ship to some merchants of Savoy. Elcano asked the Emperor other mercedes, as the greater authority of any Navy that will be sent to the Maluco (could do it being already named for the following García Jofre de Loaysafrey), possession of the fortress which was to found in the Moluccas, a habit of Santiago, etc.

Elcano was then nearly three years of well-deserved peace of mind. He/She spent them in the Valladolid Court and had love with María Vidaurreta, where was born him a daughter (who left a manda of 40 ducats in his will). He/She attended meetings of Elvas and Badajoz and finally asked permission to enlist in the new expedition that was sent to the Maluco, that of García Jofre de Loaysa frey. He/She was appointed Lieutenant of the General and most of the Navy pilot. He/She embarked on the ship "Sancti Spiritus".

The new armada for the spices sailed from la Coruña on 24 July 1525 with six naos and faced all sorts of misfortunes. Two ships were lost before reaching the Strait; We confused plus entrance the nao "Sancti Spiritus" they lost in a storm and defected the "San Gabriel". Navy crossed the Strait of Magellan from May 26, 1526, and began the journey through the Pacific Ocean. A storm scattered the ships on June 2 and July 30 died García Jofre de Loaysa frey. Elcano assumed command of the fleet, but not for long, because died also from August 4, 1526, the "victoria" Captain aboard. Before dying he/she made Testament naming heir to his property to his son Domingo de el Caño, and provided that if this should die without heirs passed all her daughter. As executor of their property named his mother Catherine de port, which should be a widow, having had the great satisfaction of seeing his son Knight and famous, having captained the first ship that turned to the world.


Of the first voyage around the world were numerous stories like those of Antonio Pigafetta, Francisco Albo and the "Roteiro" of a Genoese, all sailors who traveled in the same, as well as the relations of the Ginés de Mafra, Maximiliano of Transylvanian, Vasco Gomez Gallego, etc. Seems that Elcano also wrote a diary that has been lost, but which reached to read Fernández de Oviedo, using it in his work, as he/she told us: 'But in the suso I have followed the relationship Joan Sebastián de el Cano gave me'. Vide likewise:

Fernández DE NAVARRETE, M. works of..., Madrid, Atlas, 1964, t. II (containing the relations of Transylvanian, Brito, Albo, etc.)Fernández DE OVIEDO, GONZALO: General history and natural of the Indies, Madrid, Atlas, 1959, t. II.LOPEZ DE GOMARA, F. General crónica de Indias, historians primitive de Indias, Madrid, t. I, Publisher Atlas, 1946.MELON, to. The early days of colonization... Magellan and the first return to the world, Salvat, 1952PASTELLS, P. The discovery of the Strait of Magellan, Madrid, 1920