Juan Sebastian´s prestige

After taking on supplies in the island of La Gomera, the captains, pilots and masters met to decide on the route, which had been planned to round the Cape of Good Hope. According to captain Rodrigo de Acuña, in document number 64, Juan Sebastián convinced the other officials to cross the Magellan Straits.

Food poisoning. Ciguatera

They landed on an uninhabited island named San Mateo and we know from Urdaneta's diaries that there was a very bad case of food poisoning due to the men eating a certain type of fish.

Over conidence

The captain ship in danger.
At the Río de la Plata bad weather separated the captain's ship from the rest of the fleet. Juan Sebastián went against orders to continue, and not wanting to abandon the ship and her men to their fate, spent two days searching for them.

We lost sight of the captain's ship, and after the storm spent two days in fruitless search, then headed for the Straits.
We came upon a river mouth before the Straits, and, thinking this was the entrance, tried to sail into it and grounded all the ships - though before high tide we had managed to set ail again. It was indeed a terrible mistake on behalf of those who had already sailed the Straits, and especially Juan Sebastián del Cano, whose navigating skills are boundless. At nightfall we rounded the Cape of the Eleven Thousand Virgins.

At ten o’clock at night a south-westerly wind blew up in such a way that after dawn we began to be dragged through the waves, despite dropping four anchors, and the sea was so rough that many times it broke higher than half-mast, and no man could move from his post.

On seeing that all he could do was to surrender ourselves to our fate, Captain Juan Sebastián ordered us to set our lines and unfurl the foresail, in an attempt to head for the coast - which is what we did.

We escaped thanks to the hand of God, with a great effort and great danger, soaked to the skin in our shirt-sleeves - and the place we escaped to was so damned that there was nothing to see but pebbles.

The chronicler Fernandez de Oviedo, who had known Juan Sebastián in his moments of glory, testified to Juan Sebastián writing: for my sins, the Sancti Spiritus is lost.

When the Sancti Spiritus sank, the other ships sent a boat to get Juan Sebastián so he could pilot them through the Straits. He finally managed to take them to good port, and set about making preparations to gather the survivors from the Sancti Spiritus.


Once again they came into contact with the giants of Patagonia, as Urdaneta explained in his diary - document number 67. The head ship appeared at last, safe and sound, with Loaysa at the helm, and the fleet entered the Straits together.

But their happiness was short-lived. Another storm attacked them and the Victoria bore the brunt of it. The Captain General himself was forced to disembark, while a group of sailors led by the master fought the elements and eventually managed to save her. But she was in ruins. In order to repair the ship properly, the whole navy had to sail back to the river Santa Cruz.

Pacific ocean

It was here that two of the ships abandoned the expedition. Document number 68 gives witness to the desperation of one of the captains, Rodrigo de Acuña, who fled.
Only four of the seven ships which had set sail from La Coruña tackled the Straits and, after suffering greatly because of the intense cold, they sailed out into the ocean on the 26th May. The Pacific, in spite of its name, received them with a new storm which scattered the ships. They would never regroup.
The Victoria, with Loaisa, Juan Sebastián, Urdaneta and another 150 men aboard continued her journey alone. Juan Sebastián did not follow Magellan's route, but turned north. Had he forgotten about the spice islands?

Loaysa´s death

On the 26th July, after two months sailing the Pacific, and having just crossed the Equator, Juan Sebastián made his will.

Shortly after, captain general Loaysa died and the chronicler opened the secret sealed envelope to reveal the new chain of command. Urdaneta was to be pilot and, following the Emperor's orders, a sick Juan Sebastián Elkano was named Captain General. His state would soon worsen.

Juan Sebastian´s death

On Monday 6th August, eight degrees above the Equator, captain Juan Sebastián Elkano died.

In Marco Polo´s wake

Urdaneta followed Juan Sebastián's plans to the letter: his intention had always been to search for Cipango. The pilot, Uriarte, ratifies this in his diary.

The Victoria was the only one of the seven ships to reach its destination: The Spice Islands.

Juan Sebastian´s last will and testament

Today we know that it was not Elkano but his servant, Urdaneta, who wrote down Juan Sebastián's will. It was a sealed will, of the type written by a sick man when he believed he would recover and didn't want others to know his business should he survive.
Juan Sebastián named his captain general as his principal executor, giving irrefutable proof of his excellent relationship with Loaysa.
As he divided up his property, his thoughts were with his family, friends and servants, who he bequeathed clothing and food.
The will gives us an insight into his finances too. Juan Sebastián declares that the King owes him 2,480 ducats, dependent on the success of the voyage; a sum equivalent to one million, two hundred and fifty euros in today's money. Taking into consideration the ship's cargo, the captain stood to come into a small fortune on his return.
Juan Sebastián recognises the son and daughter he fathered with two different women. The daughter, who he had with María de Vidaurreta, lived with her mother in Valladolid. This daughter, whose name we do not know - and possibly he did not either - is left 400 ducats, some 200,000€, on the condition that she goes to live in Getaria and marries well. On the contrary, he would disinherit her.
Domingo was the son he had with Mari of Getaria, and he named him his universal heir. Nevertheless, should the son die, everything was to go to his grandmother doña Catalina, Juan Sebastián's mother, who was also the main usufruct beneficiary of the will.