The first recorded expedition to successfully circumnavigate the Earth returned here to Seville, Spain, 500 years ago today. This was the remnants of the Spanish fleet that had set sail under the command of Ferdinand Magellan almost exactly three years previously with the goal of finding a western sea route to the rich Spice Islands of Indonesia.
While Magellan gets the glory as leader of the expedition, he didn"t actually complete the marathon voyage—he had been killed in a skirmish in the Philippines in April 1521. In the end, his place as leader of the five-ship voyage was filled by Juan Sebastián Elcano, whose command ship, the "Vittoria," was the only one in the convoy that survived the trip. Harsh conditions, starvation, scurvy, hostile encounters, and other struggles had taken their toll: Of the roughly 270 crew members who set out, only 18 returned with the expedition.