Ferdinand Magellan/Juan Sebastian Elcano's expedition (1519-21)
The first circumnavigation was definitely an eventful one.
In 1518, King Charles I of Spain commissioned an expedition to discover a new trade route from Spain to East Asia via the Americas. On September 20, 1519, the Armada de Molucca, a fleet of five ships and 270 men left Sevilla, Spain under the command of skilled Portuguese sailor and explorer, Ferdinand Magellan.
- Duration: Three years (September 1519-September 1522)
Distance travelled: 43,400 miles/69,800 km
Crew: 270 men - 18 survivors at the end of the journey
The journey initially went without trouble until they came to the Philippines in March of 1521. Upon their arrival, Magellan and his Malay servant Enrique of Malacca approached local ruler Rajah Humabon who received them warmly and would eventually, along with his wife, convert to Christianity under the influence of Magellan. Not long after this, Magellan and Humabon would enter into a sanduguan or blood compact. As part of that, Magellan was asked to attack a rival chieftain, Lapu-Lapu - an attack that would lead to his eventual death.
The route of the Magellan-Elcano expedition
Following the death of Magellan, the surviving crew led by Juan Sebastian Elcano completed the journey on the 6th of September, 1522 - with a loss of three ships and only 18 survivors from an original crew of 270.
Joshua Slocum's boat trip (1895-98)
The first solo circumnavigation
- Duration: Three years (April 1895-June 1898)
- Distance: 46,000 miles/74,030km
- Size of the boat: 36ft 9in/11.2m
A Canadian-born American, Slocum had served as a Chief Mate on a number of British ships before taking up a commission to transport mixed cargo to China, Australia, the Spice Islands and Japan.
In 1895, Slocum set sail on an attempt to circumnavigate the globe, leaving Annapolis, Maryland via the Azores, Brazil, the Galapagos, Australia and New Zealand.
As well as the trip being the first attempt at a solo circumnavigation, it was all the more remarkable since he undertook the journey using an rigged oyster boat - The Spray. The journey took about three years but in 1898, Captain Slocum would return from his epic trip around the world - initially to a quiet welcome as the US was in war but once the war ended and the press picked it up, he became a household name.
Slocum would go on to write Sailing Alone Around the World, an account of his epic trip (which is still in print) and engage on smaller expeditions before disappearing in 1909 on a winter trip to the West Indies. He is presumed to have died at sea.
Laura Dekker's sailing trip (2010-13)
Sometimes an epic trip is epic, not just because of how far you travel but how much happens before you even get to go - something intrepid, young Dutch sailor Laura Dekker knows all too well!
Distance: 31,070 miles/50,000km
Duration: 1 year 5 months (August 2010-January 2012)
Age (at time of completion): 16 years 123 days old
Dekker had long dreamed of circumnavigation ever since she learned to sail (she was even born on a boat!) - a dream which would meet with a lot of opposition from the start as she was only 14! In an attempt to dissuade her from making the trip, her father said he would give his permission if she could successfully make the difficult trip across the English Channel. Surprisingly, she made the trip from the coast of the Netherlands right to Lowestoft, sending confirmation in an email from a local library!
She ended up being put into a care home until her dad could come and collect her and it seemed like her dream of sailing around the world was “in tatters” to quote the BBC’s report on the affair.
Nevertheless, she was unfazed and soon after1, she announced her intention to sail around the world using a Jeanneau Gin Fizz 37 ketch. The ship was equipped for long distances and ready for solo-circumnavigation and a route was set - that was until the Dutch authorities stepped in.
Given her young age and the fact that circumnavigation is a typically dangerous endeavour, Child Welfare services intervened to stop her by successfully applying for joint custody. Eventually the courts stepped in and she was given permission to attempt the epic trip.
On August 21, 2010, Dekker set sail from Gibraltar and 518 days later on the 21st January, 2015 she arrived in Simpson Bay, Sint Maarten, having become the youngest person to have circumnavigated the globe at 16 years and 123 days old.
Following her epic trip, Miss Dekker released a film, Maidentrip, documenting the journey and would also write a book (published in English as One Girl: One Dream in 2015) and also got married to long-term boyfriend Daniel Thielmann in 2015.
It’s worth mentioning she still lives on the same boat she made her round-the-world journey on!