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Spanish navy ship stops in Guam, marking 500 years since Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation

The Spanish Navy training ship Juan Sebastian De Elcano arrives at Naval Base Guam, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Its visit commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation.

VALERIE MAIGUE/U.S. NAVY

By MATTHEW M. BURKE | STARS AND STRIPES Published: March 1, 2021

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The Spanish navy training ship Juan Sebastian De Elcano has arrived in Guam on its journey to retrace the first circumnavigation of the globe 500 years ago.

The four-masted ship — named for the explorer who finished the voyage after the death of Ferdinand Magellan — was greeted at Naval Base Guam on Friday by Gov. Lou Leon Guerrero, Lt. Gov. Joshua Tenorio and Rear Adm. John Menoni, commander of Joint Region Marianas, Indo-Pacific Command said Friday in a news release.

Magellan, a Portuguese explorer sailing for Spain, was killed in the Philippines in 1521. Elcano, a Basque navigator, was the last in a series of men who took charge of the expedition and completed the journey in September 1522 with two of the original five ships, according to Encyclopedia Britannica. Just 17 of the original 243 crew members survived the trip.

The party stopped in Guam in March 1521, a month ahead of Magellan's death.

Midshipmen of the Spanish navy train aboard the vessel, which has taken them across the Atlantic to Argentina, through the Straits of Magellan and across the Pacific to Guam. They sail next for the Philippines on their way back to the Spanish port of Cádiz.

The ship, built in 1927, is the third largest tall ship in the world. It was greeted by a flotilla of canoes from seafaring organizations upon its arrival off Oka Point in Tamuning, on its way toward Apra Harbor, on Friday, the Pacific Daily News reported that day. The crew waved to those who gathered to welcome them.

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the sailors won't be interacting with locals during their brief stay, the Pacific Daily News said, citing Guerrero. However, a small delegation from Spain’s King Felipe VI will attend several events, including a historical tour of the island over the weekend.

The ship will remain at Guam until Tuesday, the Pacific Daily News said. The crew will attend a ceremony at the Port Authority of Guam before heading to the Philippines.

Magellan landed on Guam on March 6, 1521, while leading an expedition trying to find a sea route to the East Indies. He was killed by a poison arrow during the Battle of Mactan in modern-day Cebu Province on April 27, 1521.

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte in July 2018 declared Magellan’s killer, a warrior named Lapu-Lapu, a national hero. During his 2016 presidential campaign, Duterte asked why a statue of Lapu-Lapu was smaller than Magellan’s, according to a Philippine News Agency report in 2018.

The circumnavigation was called "the most important maritime voyage ever undertaken," by Laurence Bergreen in his 2003 book "Over the Edge of the World: Magellan's Terrifying Circumnavigation of the Globe."

The Spanish navy frigate Mendez Nunez also visited Guam in 2019 to retrace the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigational route.

burke.matt@stripes.com
Twitter: @MatthewMBurke1

The Spanish Navy training ship Juan Sebastian De Elcano arrives at Naval Base Guam, Friday, Feb. 26, 2021. Its visit commemorates the 500th anniversary of the Magellan-Elcano circumnavigation.
VALERIE MAIGUE/U.S. NAVY