The ship Victoria returned to Spain as the only survivor of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet that circumnavigated the globe.
Despite being Portuguese, Magellan’s voyage was funded by the Spanish king Charles I. Better known as the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V, Charles was determined to find a westward route to the Indies in order to avoid violating the Treaty of Tordesillas that reserved the eastward route around Africa for the Portuguese.
Known as the Armada de Molucca, the expedition departed Seville on 10 August 1519. After crossing the Atlantic Ocean, the five ships succeeded in finding what became known as the Strait of Magellan that took them through the South American land mass and into the South Pacific.
The expedition finally reached the Spice Islands on 6 November 1521, by which time the fleet had been reduced to just two ships and Magellan himself had been killed in the Battle of Mactan. Six weeks later, and fully-laden with spices, the ship Victoria departed the Moluccas under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano. The other surviving vessel, Trinidad, followed in April 1522 but was later captured by the Portuguese.
Victoria returned to Spain across the Indian Ocean before rounding the Cape of Good Hope and heading home. Victoria arrived in Sanlúcar de Barrameda on 6 September 1522 and returned to Seville two days later as the first ship to circumnavigate the globe.
The final leg of the voyage had seen the remaining crew forced to survive by eating nothing but rice, and only 18 men returned from the initial expedition of around 265. Meanwhile the 26 tons of spices on board the ship survived the homeward voyage. Their sale more than covered the entire cost of the expedition.