“We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.”   __T.S. Eliott

The word “circumnavigator” has many meanings. Wikipedia says, “Circumnavigation is navigation completely around an entire island, continent, or astronomical body (e.g., a planet or moon)…The first known circumnavigation of Earth was the Magellan-Elcano expedition, which sailed from Seville, Spain in 1519 and returned in 1522, after crossing the Atlantic, Pacific, and Indian oceans.”

Past and Present: World Explorers

Magellan Elcano Circumnavigation

Magellan Elcano Circumnavigation

Note that Magellan had to sail around the Cape of Good Hope and Cape Horn, the two most dangerous capes in the world, whereas Gunter and I could transit the Panama and Pacific Canals. (See our route below):

Pacific Bliss Circumnavigation map

The Circumnavigation of Globe by Pacific Bliss, 2000-2008. 

The second person to complete a circumnavigation (1577-1580) was Francis Drake, who discovered the Drake Passage. The English circumnavigator sailed westward from England but entered the Pacific via the Strait of Magellan. He was the first captain to lead an expedition throughout the circumnavigation.

The third circumnavigator was Martin Ignacio de Loyola who completed a westward circumnavigation from 1580-84 westward from Spain and then completed another circumnavigation from 1585-1589 eastward from Spain; he was the first to circumnavigate each way and the first to use an overland route during his circumnavigation. With his two trips from Europe to South America, Loyola was probably the most widely traveled man in history up to the 17th century.

Noted First Circumnavigators in History

There were many more firsts to follow:

  • Giovanni Francesco Gemelli Careri sailed around the world in multiple voyages from 1693-1698 using nothing but public transportation. He inspired Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days.
  • William Dampier, an Englishman, was the first to circumnavigate three times (1708-1711).
  • The Dolphin was the first ship to survive two circumnavigations (with Samuel Wallis and Philip Carteret).
  • Jeanne Bare, disguised as a man during the first French circumnavigation, was the first woman to circumnavigate the globe.
  • My hero, James Cook, made the first circumnavigation that lost not one man to scurvy. (HMS Resolution; 1772-1775).
  • Sir James Simpson made the first land circumnavigation by crossing Canada and Siberia (1841-1842).
  • The paddle sloop HMS Driver made the first steamship circumnavigation. (1845-1847).
  • Joshua Slocum made the first single-handed circumnavigation (1895-1898). He wrote a sailing memoir, published in 1900, called Sailing Alone Around the World about his single-handed global circumnavigation aboard his sloop, Spray. His successful book inspired decades of voyagers.
  • During Operation Sandblast in 1960, the USS Triton made the first underwater circumnavigation.
  • Yuri Gargarin, Soviet pilot and cosmonaut, circumnavigated the planet in 1961 for 108 minutes.
  • David Scott Cowper made the first circumnavigation by motorboat in 1985.
  • Dodge Morgan was the first American to sail solo around the world, nonstop. (American Promise. 1985-1986)
  • Hank de Velde, in 1997, sailed a catamaran around the world—eastward—in 119 days nonstop. To my knowledge, he is still the only person to perform this feat singlehanded on a catamaran.
  • Ellen MacArthur, to my knowledge, is still the fastest female circumnavigator. She sailed a trimaran B&Q/Castorama around the world in 71 days in 2005.
  • Laura Dekker, 16 in 2012, was the youngest person to complete a circumnavigation.

A Sense of Accomplishment

Anyone who completes a circumnavigation can’t help but feel pleased and proud of his or her accomplishment. I describe how we felt in the last chapter of my nautical/adventure coffee table book trilogy, The Long Way Back:

“We’re back where we started,” Gunter says. “It feels strange—like a miracle.”

“I know. We always sailed on…always westward toward the setting sun.”

We’re part of that uncommon and exceptional breed: circumnavigators. That word begins to sink in. What does that mean to us? We’ve fought the sea and won. Yet, in the end, we’ve taken that sea—with all it’s raw power and wisdom—into our souls.

A myriad of emotions assaults Gunter and me—feelings that we sort out and share with each other later. First, we feel the relief that we made it around the world safely. There’s a sense of completion, that we don’t have to push anymore. We’ve closed a momentous chapter in our lives, and we can never return to who we were before. But even though this adventure has ended, we know more adventures and Moments of Bliss lie ahead of us as we travel through life together. Beyond all that, there’s outright elation as well, and we bask in what we’ve accomplished. We set a goal, and we achieved it!

Pacific Bliss Circumnavigation

Lois and Gunter on the deck of Pacific Bliss at the completion of their world circumnavigation

About the Author: Lois and Günter Hofmann lived their dream by having a 43-foot ocean-going catamaran built for them in the south of France and sailing around the world. Learn more about their travel adventures by reading Lois’s award-winning nautical adventure trilogyRead more about Lois and her adventures at her website and stay in touch with Lois by liking her Facebook page. Lois’s books can be purchased from PIP Productions on Amazon and on her website.

Over the weekend, I worked on a chapter in the second book in my nautical trilogy In Search of Adventure and Moments of Bliss: SAILING THE SOUTH PACIFIC.  This chapter is titled  New Zealand Adventure. While writing a section called “Following in the Wake of Ancient Explorers,” I came across a statistic related to my hero, Captain James Cook.  That he “discovered” more of the earth’s surface than any other explorer is indisputable. Cook’s three epic voyages, though, are said to be the equivalent of sailing from the earth to the moon. Could that be true?   I fact checked the statement. Yes, indeed. The distance from the earth to the moon is 238,857 miles (384,403 km) but since the orbit is elliptical, this distance at the closest point is only 225,622 miles.

From my book (to be published in 2012):

“Ambition leads me not only further than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it is possible for a man to go,” said James Cook on January 30, 1774…His maps were so accurate that some are still used in our paper charts that we have on board Pacific Bliss.

“Cook’s Voyage of Discovery on the HMS Endeavor was launched in order to observe the transit of Venus, when the disc of Venus would pass over the face of the sun. Based on the length of time it took to do this, astronomers could calculate the distance between the earth and the sun, which it was thought would help to gauge the size and scale of the universe. Tahiti was perfectly positioned in the Southern Ocean to observe the Transit. When given command of the Endeavor in 1768, Cook was not even a lieutenant, let alone a captain. But Cook was an astronomer who was also known for his superb navigational skills, an ideal balance of seaman and scientist. The Transit observations proved disappointing, so Cook used his remaining time to survey Tahiti.”

“Cook was an amazing man! No wonder he is my hero.

“Sailing from Tahiti, Cook opened a sealed packet of orders from the British Admiralty: he was to sail to 40° south in search of the great Southern Continent. His men’s hands were freezing as Cook pushed on to 40° without sighting land, so he headed north and west to the coastline charted by Tasman over a hundred years earlier.

“Cook sighted land on October 1769. Although skeptical that this was the Great Southern Continent, Cook made a thorough survey of what turned out to be the two islands of New Zealand, which he claimed for King George III.  By the time he departed, he had established a life-long friendship with the local Maori, dashed the hope of a southern continent, and charted 2,400 miles (3860 km) of coastline—all this in less than three months of sailing.”

At the New Zealand Maritime Museum’s Store in Auckland, I purchased a few books about my hero. You may be interested in these: Captain’s Log, New Zealand’s Maritime History, by Gavin McLean; The Explorations of Captain James Cook in the Pacific, as Told by Selections of His Own Journals, Edited by A. Grenfell Price; and Captain James Cook by Richard Hough.

Cook’s First Voyage of Discovery 1768-1771

Image source:  Clip Art from Florida Educational Technology Clearing House