Ships of Ferdinand Magellan's Armada de Molucca

Modern-day replica of the Nao Victoria, first ship to sail around the globe.

Trinidad, Magellan’s Flagship

The Nao Trinidad was the flagship of Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet, the Armada de Molucca. Configurations of the five vessels are unknown, but the Trinidad was listed at 110 tons, the second largest next to the San Antonio at 120. Trinidad was the third-most expensive.

The Trinidad had a crew of 62 men when the expedition departed from Sanlúcar de Barrameda (south of Seville) on Sept. 20, 1519. Notably, only 29 crew members, just under half, were Castilian. Magellan may have purposely loaded his own ship with Portuguese and other non-Castilians for safety’s sake, given the mistrust Castilian officials and fleet officers had for the Portuguese captain general. Read more.

San Antonio, Rogue Ship

The San Antonio was the largest of the five ships in Ferdinand Magellan’s fleet and the most expensive. While the configurations of the five vessels are not known, the San Antonio was listed at 120 tons and a price of 330,000 maravedis. Compare that with Magellan’s flagship Trinidad, at 110 tons and a cost of 270,000 maravedis.

The San Antonio’s captain, Juan de Cartagena, was also Magellan’s biggest human challenge on the expedition. Cartagena was at the last minute also named inspector general of the fleet, a ploy by Castilian officials who distrusted the Portuguese Magellan and sought to control—or stop—him. (It was Spain’s newly crowned King Carlos I (Charles V) who agreed to back Magellan’s expedition, an 18-year-old from Flanders listening to Flemish advisers.) Read more.

Concepción, Scuttled near Cebu

Notable among the Concepción’s crew were its Castilian captain, Gasper de Quesada; its Portuguese pilot, João Lopes Carvalho; and a master of Basque origin named Juan Sebastián Elcano.

Along with two other captains, Quesada led the failed Easter mutiny at Puerto San Julian in April 1520. The Concepción was one of three ships that turned on the Trinidad, Magellan’s flagship. After a court martial, Quesada was beheaded, his body then quartered and displayed on stakes as a warning. Read more.

The Santiago, the Magellan Shipwreck

The Santiago’s captain, Juan Serrano, had sailed aboard Spanish ships since his youth and had crossed the Atlantic to the coast of Brazil once before, in 1499–1500 … 

Near Puerto San Julian, the Santiago was hit by a fierce storm. Winds tore away its sails and a large wave washed away its rudder, leaving the ship to float helplessly as the winds drove it toward shore. Here, Serrano’s experience came to the rescue. The royal pilot … Read more.

Magellan’s Victoria: First Ship to Circle the Globe

The Victoria became the first ship to circumnavigate the globe in 1522, the only ship in Ferdinand Magellan’s five-vessel fleet to accomplish the feat. 

When the Victoria reached Seville, it carried only 18 members of the expedition, including several who had started out on other ships. A full 7 original crew of the Victoria were among those who returned to Seville; 4 others returned to Spain after being held over for a time in the Cape Verdes Islands. Many died at sea at various points around the globe.

Of note, Juan Sebastián Elcano, of Basque origin, was captain of the Victoria during the final part of its journey. Originally master aboard the Concepción, Elcano is credited with completing the first circumnavigation with the Victoria. Read more.

(C) 2023, by Enrique of Malacca's Voyage.