Exploration and Settlement

Ferdinand Magellan

Who was the first to go around the world?

By sea, the first to circumnavigate the globe was the Basque navigator Juan Sebastián de Elcano (c. 1476–1526), though 18 sailors who made the trip with him also claim the distinction. The trip was completed in 1522 and had taken nearly three years. In 1519, Elcano had set out with Ferdinand Magellan (c. 1480–1521) on a Spanish-sponsored expedition that became the first one successful in finding a western route to the East. Having rounded the southernmost point of mainland South America in 1520, and entering into the South Pacific, the expedition reached the Philippines in 1521. When Magellan was killed there, it was Elcano who took leadership of the crew and guided the expedition westward, returning to Spain as the first sea captain to go around the world.


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