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Who was Elcano and why is he significant?

What’s In A Name?

Juan Sebastián Elcano was an explorer who served as a naval officer for King Charles V of Spain.

In September 1519, he set sail as Ship Master on board the Concepción, one of five ships in a fleet searching for a new route to the Spice Islands, led by Portuguese navigator Ferdinand Magellan. Finding a shortcut to the Spice Islands would be worth a fortune to whoever found it.

The other ships that set sail were the SanAntonio, Santiago, Trinidad and Victoria. They headed west and around the southern cape of South America, now called the Magellan Straits.

In early 1521, the expedition, at this time still led by Magellan, reached present-day Philippines where Magellan was killed in battle.


During the long and arduous journey, Elcano had risen from Ship’s Master, led a mutiny against Magellan, been incarcerated and then become second in command of the Victoria. Continuing westward,  the then two remaining ships made a stop in Borneo before finally arriving at the Spice Islands. Packed with valuable spices, the ships set out again, this time with Elcano as the captain of the Victoria.

Elcano sailed the Victoria back to Spain, returning on September 6, 1522. It was the only ship to complete the journey, crewed by 22 men (18 European survivors of the voyage and four Asians they had picked up en route) – a fraction of the 265 men who set sail with the fleet three years earlier.

Besides amassing wealth from selling the spices, the King of Spain awarded Elcano a Coat of Arms bearing a globe and the Latin phrase Primus circumdedisti mihi, or “You Went Around Me First.”

Today, outside of Spain, Magellan is still credited with the first circumnavigation of the globe and for proving the Earth was round while Elcano is largely forgotten. The first European explorer to circumnavigate the world was in fact Juan Sebastian Elcano.

A statue was erected in Elcano’s hometown of Getaria, Spain to commemorate this great achievement.

So, what is in the name?
The story of Elcano is an inspiration to us on our journey, and the lessons and virtues of this great story are beneficial for all SMEs:

> it is not just who starts the journey but who finishes it that counts;
> there are many hardships and unplanned obstacles that have to be overcome on truly inspiring journeys;
> it may take several attempts before the right leadership is found and that leadership may already be in the ranks;
> reaching the final destination takes great navigation, teamwork and the effective use of resources;
> the name Elcano is largely unknown to the general population despite the significance of his achievement –

Elcano logo – representing the circumnavigation of the globe using advanced technology.

popular belief is not a measure of substance.


What’s in a logo?

Our logo represents this incredible achievement.

The grey crescent is the globe, which has been split to represent circumnavigation, while the orange disc represents the “heavenly bodies” used for navigation and being the most advanced technology of the day.


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