Twenty-five years after Christopher Columbus had set foot in the New World for Spain, Magellan and two associates presented the idea of western route to the “Spice Islands” to King Charles I in 1517. Excited by the possibility, Charles agreed and guaranteed the men five ships — the Trinidad, San Antonio, Concepcion, Santiago and Victoria. After building a crew of 270, the voyage departed on August 10, 1519 from Seville with Magellan at the helm of the Trinidad. Three months later, the group anchored in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to load up on supplies. Late in the year 1520, the ships reached Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost point of South America. Now through to the South Pacific, Magellan guided his crew northwest. In March 1521, the expedition reached the Philippines. Attacked by native tribes upon landing at Mactan, Magellan and 30 crewmen were killed in fierce fighting. The remaining crew, just enough to fill up theTrinidad and Victoria, setting sail in May and landing in Borneo in mid-June. In November, the 115 remaining crew reached the Spice Islands (Maluku), just as Magellan had intended.
Ready to return to Europe, the remaining two ships split up. Victoria left In December 1521 with Juan Sebastian Elcano in charge. In May 1522, the ship turned north up the west coast of Africa with only rice to eat, causing 20 sailors to die of starvation. In September, Elcano had forced 13 others to disembark in order to save the 26-ton load of cinnamon and cloves. Having covered 42,000 miles of ocean, more than half of it completely unfamiliar — the leaking boat only managed to return thanks to the crew working day and night to pump water from within the hull. The 18 men remaining aboard, gaunt and fatigued, presented themselves to the court of Charles I days later. Completing the full trip around the world only occurred because Elcano, relatively unknown to history, decided to strike to the west. It is interesting to note that whilst on the Cape Verde Islands they had discovered that although all the logs on the boat showed that it was a Wednesday, the Calendars on land all showed it to be a Thursday. At first they puzzled over the mistake they thought they had made before eventually realising that by travelling a 360 degree circumference of the globe they had lost a day.