The sailor

Primus circumdedisti me”: you were the first to go round me. Thus reads the inscription on the coat-of-arms bequeathed by Emperor Charles V to Juan Sebastián Elkano after completing the first circumnavigation around the globe

In doing so, he acknowledged the Basque sailor's feat, who reached Sanlúcar de Barrameda 6 September 1522 on board the ship Victoria, three years after setting sail.

Indeed, Elkano was the first. But who was he, actually?  

Juan Sebastián was born in Getaria, on the coast of Gipuzkoa, at the dawn of the age of discover in 1487.
The earliest documents to speak of him belong to the House of Trade of Seville. These are accounting entries recording Magellan’s Armada’s preparations in 1519, when Juan Sebastián was approximately 32 years old. He is identified as a resident of Getaria, and information on his parents is also provided.
His father was Domingo Sebastián Elkano (in Spanish, this was interchangeably spelled “del Cano,” “Cano,” or “de Elcano”).
His mother, a noteworthy figure in the family’s story, was Catalina del Puerto. The family enjoyed a certain economic standing, as seen in Getaria’s register of residence in 1500, showing that they owned pieces of real estate. This family was closely linked to the sea, as shown by the fact that four of the male children, including Juan Sebastián, chose the sailing profession, and at least one of their sisters married a sailor.

At that time, there were normally two commands on board: the captain and the grand master.

The captain generally held an honorary position, or one of political trust more than anything else. He normally did not known much of the sea and his role was mainly military. The grand master was second-in-command, head of the crew, ship administrator and replacement for the captain in governance. Elkano took to the sea as grand master of the ship Concepción, one of the five ships forming part of the expedition. 

After the first journey around the world, Charles V saw fit to organise a new expedition. He organised a squad that departed under the command of García Jofre de Loaysa 24 July 1525, from La Coruña. Elkano participated in this expedition as second-in-command and head steersman, accompanied by several friends, neighbours and family members, including his brothers Antón Martín, Ochoa Martín and Martín Pérez. They all perished in the ill-fated expedition, including Juan Sebastián Elkano, who lost his life in the middle of the Pacific Ocean 6 August 1526.