Famous Sailors who Have Sailed Around the World

There are many sailors who were famous explorers for discovering new oceans and unknown lands, but only some of them were sailors who actually circumnavigated the world.

The First One

Ferdinand Magellan

The first trip around the took place in the 16th century. This was the journey of Ferdinand Magellan and Juan Sebastian Elcano, which was the very first circumnavigation of the world. Unfortunately, Magellan was killed in the Philippines and thus it was up to Elcano and the remaining fleet to actually finish the trip. The fleet was known as the “Armada de Molucca”. They left from Spain in September 1519 and took about three years to sail back to Spain. Not all of the ships returned since some had been shipwrecked during the journey.

The second successful circumnavigation of the world was achieved by Sir Francis Drake in 1580. The trip began in 1577, and also took three years to complete. They set out with six ships, but by the time they reached the Pacific Ocean through the Straits of Magellan, only three of the ships remained. The final ship of the fleet was renamed “Golden Hind” and finally returned to Plymouth. There is controversy regarding Sir Francis Drake since he is believed to have captured some Spanish treasure ships while on his voyages. This has led many to brand him more of a pirate rather than an adventurer to be admired.

The Sad Truth

Captain James Cook
Harry Pidgeon

Many of the early circumnavigations had men die from scurvy. Captain James Cook undertook the first trip around the world in 1771 in which no men died from scurvy because he insisted on keeping the ships supplied with fresh food as much as possible. He sailed in the ship “HMS Endeavor”, which nearly shipwrecked on the Great Barrier Reef. In the end, Captain Cook was able to circumnavigate the world twice, becoming one of the greatest sailors in the history of sailing.

Sailors from other countries including Russia, Peru and Denmark were to successfully travel around the world in later years. The first solo circumnavigation of the world was achieved by an American in 1925. Harry Pidgeon was the first person to successfully sail around the world completely on his own in his yawl named the “Islander”.

In the early years of sailing, sailors were able to traverse the world often with ships that were not that seaworthy. Sailing across massive oceans and into dangerous storms caused a loss of quite a few ships. Many sailors also succumbed to illness or encountered conflict with indigenous people when they made landfall along the way. As a consequence, many of these sailors finished their travels with only several ships and few men to tell the tale.

In later years solo trips were made by sailors. Sailing around the world is certainly a remarkable achievement, even today. Many sailors have attempted and failed to sail by themselves around the world. These sailors were very courageous and at the mercy of the weather and dangerous ocean conditions. Those who have been successful have been highly skilled and possibly to some extent, lucky.


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