Where it all began: A brief history of Circumnavigation

Circumnavigation essentially means to travel all the way around the planet, continent or island.

What fascinates us more, of course, is the circumnavigation of our planet Earth. The desire to explore is intrinsic to human nature. Effervescent curiosity, combined with a sense of adventure and accomplishment is what inspired Ferdinand Magellan to be the first person to circumnavigate the world.



  • His nautical expedition set out from Seville, Spain, in 1819, traversed the Pacific, the Atlantic and the Indian Ocean before returning in 1822 – albeit without Magellan who sadly passed away on the journey. His ship, the Nao Victoria, became the first vessel to sail all the way around the globe. The Magellan-Elcano expedition has since inspired the more intrepid amongst us to recreate it in different ways.


  • The HMS Driver, a Driver-class wooden paddle sloop of the Royal British Navy became the first steamship to circumnavigate the globe in 1847, after completing her nearly 2-year voyage.



  • In 1960, the submarine USS Triton completed the first-ever submerged circumnavigation.



  • We have come a long way in terms of nautical ability. While Magellan’s voyage took approximately 3 years, the current world record for nautical circumnavigation stands at just under 41 days and is held by IDEC Sport, a wind-powered vessel.


The maxi trimaran Idec Sport set a new record time for the Jules Verne Trophy, the outright round the world sailing record when the team crossed the finish line off Ushant at 0749 (UTC) on Thursday, January 26, 2017, having sailed the 22,000-mile theoretical round the world course in 40d 23h 30m and 30s. On the water, they actually sailed 26,412 miles at a blistering average speed of 26.85 knots.


  • They shattered the previous record set by Loïck Peyron and the crew of the maxi trimaran Banque Populaire V in 2012 by 4d 14h 12m and 23s.



  • In 2007, the Swiss boat Planet Solar earned the distinction of becoming the first ever solar-electric vehicle to circumnavigate the globe.



  • On April 6, 2013, Indian Navy’s Lt Cdr Abhilash Tomy wrote a new chapter in India’s rich Maritime history by becoming the first Indian to Circumnavigate the Earth under sails – solo, nonstop and unassisted.


He had set sail out of Mumbai on November 1, 2012 in the sail boat INSV Mhadei to undertake a voyage no Indian had attempted before and few had dreamt of. In fact, so far, less than 80 people in the world have successfully completed such a voyage.




  • The Aviation Age brought with it the first aerial circumnavigation, which was carried out by the United States Army Air Service in four Douglas World Cruiser biplanes in 1924.


  • In 1929, the airship Graf Zeppelin became the first lighter-than-air aircraft to complete the feat under its own power.



  • Fast forward to 2002, when Steve Fossett became the first person to fly around the world alone, non-stop in any kind of aircraft, namely, a hot air balloon. He left in the 10-story high balloon Spirit of Freedom from Northam, Western Australia on June 19, 2002 and returned to Australia on July 3, 2002, landing in Queensland.



  • In 2016, Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg completed the first ever solar-powered aircraft circumnavigation of the world in their plane, the Solar Impulse 2.



Circumnavigation has been a badge of honour for adventurers for centuries. Now, the enthusiasm to achieve it shows no sign of waning. In fact, today it is more fervent than ever, with people looking to achieve the feat in new and innovative ways.

The WE! Expedition is looking to join this illustrious list and go down in history by completing India’s first civilian circumnavigation of the globe in a Light Sport Aircraft by an All-woman team.

You can follow the WE! Expedition as we go around the world via our website: http://wefly.org.in


— Team WE!


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The WE! Expedition

The WE! Expedition, World's 1st All-Woman Team to circumnavigate Earth in a Motorglider🛩️, seeks to shatter global, cultural and gender barriers to send a clear message to the world, that for a woman willing to rise, the sky is the limit.

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