First circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan 500 years ago

MSeveral shots of salute and applause were received on Thursday in Seville the "Victoria". Exactly 500 years ago, on September 8, 1522, the first sailing ship to circumnavigate the world docked on the banks of the Guadalquivir. On Thursday, a replica moored not far from the Golden Tower – again with a load of spices.

Charles I, the King of Castile and Aragon and later Emperor Charles V, originally only commissioned the Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan to find a western route across the Atlantic to the Spice Islands. Pepper, nutmeg and cinnamon from the Moluccas were worth almost as much as gold and silver back then.

The human price was high

But the journey brought much more to mankind: the final proof that the earth is not flat, but really a sphere. "We have discovered and circumnavigated the whole rim of the world, going west and returning from the east," wrote the chronicler Antonio Pigafetta, who was also on board, after returning from the voyage, the importance of which proud Spaniards associated with the equate to the moon landing.

The human price for this was high. Magellan had set out with five ships. After 1082 days, only a nao, as these robust, bulbous sailing boats are called, returned from the first unplanned circumnavigation of the world with 18 men, who made the pilgrimage from the pier to the cathedral in Seville with the last of their strength. Almost 250 seamen set sail, including three from what is now Germany. More than 200 died or deserted on the furthest journey Europeans had ever made.

Image: dpa

Basque helmsman Juan Sebastián Elcano completed the mission; Magellan was killed by a poisoned arrow while fighting on the island of Macatan. Elcano reached the Moluccas and filled the Victoria's holds with tons of spices. They were so valuable that in the end they not only covered the costs of the entire expedition, but also brought in a profit. On the way home, Elcano then sailed along the west coast of Africa. After more than 37,000 nautical miles, the Victoria first reached the port city of Sanlúcar de Barrameda on September 6, 1522, before continuing to Seville to unload her cargo.

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