There is no doubt that the geatest voyage in maritime history is the first circumnavigation of the world by Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano. Five vessels, all painted black, and known as the ‘Armada de Molucca’ departed Spain in August 1519 seeking to find a route around South America to the Pacific Ocean and then to the valuable clove trees of the Spice Islands located in Eastern Indonesia.
After wintering on the South American coast, they found and were able to navigate the narrow straits that became known as the Straits of Magellan and entered the Pacific Ocean in 1520. By this time one ship had been shipwrecked and another turned back to Spain. Not knowing the size of the Pacific, Magellan believed it could be crossed in one month, a time similar to the crossing of the Atlantic by Christopher Columbus. In fact it took them three months and many of the crew had died from scurvy by the time they reached the Phillipines in April 1520.
Their time in the Phillipines was a disaster because Ferdinand Magellan was killed trying to establish his authority over a chief on the island of Mactan, then twenty seven of the most prominent crew members were killed in a massacre on Cebu and because of reduced crew members they were forced to scuttle one of their ships. The two remaining ships, the Victoria and the Trinidad did not reach finally reach the clove islands of Tidore and Ternate until November 1521.
Commanded by Juan Sebastian De Elcano the Victoria left Tidore fully loaded with cloves and a crew of sixty men before finally returning to Spain in September 1522 with only eighteen surviving crew, after completing the first circumnavigation of the world.
To commemorate this historic voyage the Juan Sebastian De Elcano a traditional sailing ship used for training by the Spanish Navy has placed a plaque on the island of Tidore.
A complete description of the Magellan/De Elcano voyage and the first circumnavigation of the world is in the book Spice Islands by Ian Burnet. Please go to the website for more information.