Around the World...Pop Quiz!

There have been many records set by people who have circumnavigated the earth - on foot, by submarine, boat, plane, balloon, space vehicle, even wheelchair.

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It was in the Spring of 2000 that I met one such person, Hans Georg Schmid (pictured above), when he landed his single engine homebuilt airplane on Maui during a record setting solo flight around the world. Hans was a pilot for Swissair at the time, and usually flew an MD-11 widebody passenger aircraft on international routes. This day he had flown his "slightly" smaller personal plane from San Francisco to Maui, a flight which had taken 16 hours and 31 minutes. I was President of the local chapter of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) at the time and had the privilege to greet him at the airport and dine with him the following night. Hans was setting another record in this plane, by circling our planet twice, once eastbound, and then westbound! You can read about his amazing adventures here: Millenium Flight.

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Schmid in his "Long EZ" Homebuilt

Voyages such as this inspire awe, admiration, interest in other lands and peoples, and a feeling that one can accomplish nearly any goal in life that one sets one's mind to.

The world's FIRST circumnavigation of the earth caused a paradigm shift in the thinking of the people of the time, for it demonstrated in concrete terms what had been theorized for centuries. It proved that the earth was finite - a sphere floating in space. That certain knowledge sparked fear in some quarters and a rush among European powers to grab what they could of the limited land, resources, and even 'souls' of this planet. There were explorations in years before, but once the globe had actually been circled, its finite character was absolutely confirmed. The result was an explosion of exploration, conquest, and colonization.

It goes on today, under the label "globalization", whether for the benefit of mankind or for the exploitation of them and their resources by the most powerful corporations and countries of the world. Whatever one's world view, it was undeniably a pivotal event in world history. Not until Apollo 10 astronauts on the way to the moon in May of 1969 photographed the earth from 36,000 miles in space, was mankind made so acutely aware of our true situation.

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It's all we've got people...

So here's the question:

Who was the very first person known to have circumnavigated the globe?

I will post the answer after I receive 'enough' answers - arbitrarily at my whim, so please answer as soon as you can.


Robin said...

On August 17, 1958, the USS SKATE circumnavigated the globe in about fifty minutes.

The SKATE was at a radius of about two miles from the North Pole at the time, and the distance traveled in the circumnavigation was about twelve miles.


Pandabonium said...

Ah, interesting, Robin, I did not know that. Thanks.

However, that was a circumnavigation of the North Pole. I'm looking for the first circumnavigation of the entire earth.

Hint: It was done by sea, and the route crossed the equator at least two times.

Come back and try again.

By the way, I like your post on your blog about the "Spirit of Doraemon".

Happysurfer said...

Pandabonium, a very enlightening article indeed. I like the part about earth being finite - hit the nail on the head so to speak. My guess is the Chinese, specifically Admiral Zheng Ho who discovered the world in 1421.

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Juan Sebastián Elcano (1522)?. He took over Ferdinand Magellan's fleet after Magellan was killed in the Philippines, a sad ending for the first explorer to lead an expedition for the purpose of circumnavigating the globe.

I've always wondered what happped to Enrique, Ferdinand Magellan's Malay interpreter. It's just too bad that i couldn't get more info on this so-called slave! He should be the first few to get the honour of (attempt on) circumnavigating the globe!

Pandabonium said...

Happysurfer, excellent guess.

Zheng He or Cheng Ho, (I've seen it both ways in translation) made many remarkable voyages in the southwestern Pacific and Indian Ocean and as far as southern Africa. His ships were huge compared to those of Europe at the time.

There is even speculation by some that he reached America, but the evidence for that is not so strong.
In any case he did not cirlce the globe. Sorry.


Low, you are so close to it that if it were a hot iron you would feel the heat intensely.

I'll not reveal the answer quite yet. I will do so before tomorrow arrives in Japan.

Happysurfer said...

What about Vasco da Gama or Christopher Columbus?

Robin said...

Ferdinand de Magellan..

Sir, my final answer

Robin said...

Accordingly to Britannica:

Juan Sebastián de Elcano
born c. 1476, , Guetaria, Vizcaya, Castile
died Aug. 4, 1526, at sea

Basque navigator who completed the first circumnavigation of the Earth.

..... correct?

Pandabonium said...

Well, my friends, it is a good thing that money is not on the line with this quiz! I would have to watch my back, for my answer may seem to make this to be a trick question, and you all did very well indeed.

Happysurfer had great guesses with some very interesting explorers, but none that made it all the way around the world - at least that were documented to have done so.

Frankly, had anyone asked me a few days ago, I would have answered Ferdinand Magellan, but I would have been wrong. Magellan died in the Philippines and never made it back to the longitude that he had been at previously. As they say, "close, but no cigar".

And then there are the answers of Low and Robin (Robin's final, final answer) - Juan Sebastián de Elcano. An excellent answer to be sure and I'd have to say if I had asked for the first to circle the globe on on one voyage, they would be quite correct! So my congratulations to both Low and Robin. Kudos! my friends.

Ah, but I did not ask that. I asked only for the first person known to circle the globe, without mention of how many voyages. That person was even named by Low. It was Magellan's slave, Enrique de Malaca (Henry the Black).

Enrique was taken as a slave from Sumatra. He was a Malay and served Magellan as an interpreter. He went to Europe westbound around Africa. He then came, on a second voyage, this time around South America. Magellan of course was killed in the Philippines and never made it around to complete a full circumnavigation, but Enrique did. When he returned to his homeland on that ship, he in fact became the first person to have circled the globe! Because of his social status and the fact that he was not the leader or navigator, he was not given credit for it in the history books.

So, Juan Sebastian Elcano and other crew that survived and returned to Europe on that voyage around the world were really second to complete a circumnavigation.

Robin and Low were on it, and Low even mentioned his name and suggested Enrique been given some credit.

I find such historical things fascinating. Had any of you asked the question to me a few days ago, I would not have come so close, so I salute you and hope you will not verbally abuse me too much over this "spliting of hairs" on the answer.

I also hope you all found this little exercise to be fun. Isn't it ironic that a man from Malaysia, taken as a slave, was the first person to do this and aboard ships belonging to his captors who got the credit for it?

Thank you all for your interest and answers. Should we ever meet in person, I owe you each a nice lunch at the least. Cheers! and bon voyage.

Happysurfer said...

Hey, Congrats Low!

Pandabonium, that was some interesting exercise. I had a good workout. haha! Thanks.

The Moody Minstrel said...

Well...I guess I learned something! I was about to guess Magellan, but I knew that had to be too obvious to be right.

I guess it all goes to show you:

Sometimes the greatest people are the lowliest ones.

vrrty - the sound of my former neighbor's Ducati motorcycle before he took it in for a tuneup.

YD said...

awwww..... i missed all the fun!

by the times i sat down and had a good look at this post, the answers are alreay out.... sob sob..

Well, before i scrolled down the comments, the person in my mind was actually Cheng Ho... the great hero depicted in 1421, but not in history books.

So... the first person that circumnavigated the globe is actually a .... Malaysian?

now this is new... :-D

(p/s: should be quicker to respond next time. hehe)

Pandabonium said...

There there YD. You can have a consolation prize - a packet of tissues to dry your eyes.

Sorry I didn't let it run long enough for you to put in your answer.

Next time.

tuebz - how YD gets around in London

Robin said...


I know there must be a catch in this!!

Thanks, I have learnt something too.

@ロウ 。LOW@ said...

Sounds more like "Panda the Trickery" :p

It's amazing what Enrique did before Magellan, maybe that's why he was hired, other than his language ability. Maybe he've got the inspiration from Admiral Zheng Ho. Maybe, maybe...

Keep that lunch, loose the fixed location. Somewhere sometime, i'll get my lunch...yokatta ne! :p

FH2O said...

I missed all the fun too! So dont feel so bad YD.
An interesting history lesson learnt.
Nice posting panda, well done!

Pandabonium said...

Well, Low, Enrique was the first, but only because Magellan took him as slave and took him on the round the world voyage, so he was an unitentional hero in this story.

As for lunch, I'd do that anyway, anywhere we happen to meet.

FH2O - Thanks. Sorry you missed participating.

I think if I do something like this again, I'll just take answers for 24 hours, without making comments myself, and then close it. That way everyone will have a shot at it. I had fun.

Perhaps you'll set a record by going around the world by kayak?

xlywoqv - Star Wars chewing gum for Wookies.

The Moody Minstrel said...

So...who was the first man to orbit the Earth?

Everybody knows the answer to that one: Yuri Gagarin in the Vostok capsule.

However, what most people don't know, mainly because Russia admitted it only very recently, was that Vostok spent most of its flight spiraling completely out of control. In order to beat the U.S. to the punch, the Soviets had launched it before development was complete, and just about everything went wrong. Everybody including Gagarin himself was certain he wasn't going to make it. He actually hoped to himself that Vostok would burn up in the atmosphere quickly and get it over with. It was a combination of skill, tenacity, quick thinking, and pure dumb luck that got him back down safely.

Pandabonium said...

Yikes! I didn't know that. (I'll spare everyone the complete list of things I don't know). He must have felt like "Spam in a can".

lvxzmjm - a wild tumbling maneuver performed by the Russian aerobatic team.

FH2O said...

Dr Hannes Lindemann, a german doctor, was the first man to crossed the Atlantic Ocean intentionally in a kayak in 1956. It took him 76days using a standard off-the-shelf Klepper Aerius 2-seater folding kayak!
This epic journey made the cover of Life magazine in 1957. This was Dr. Lindemann's second ocean crossing, his first was in a large dugout canoe!!
He wrote a book on this "Alone At Sea", published in 1958.

Pandabonium said...

That's amazing. Perhaps he was fleeing a nagging wife. hehehe. I'll to look that story up and read about his crossings.

My brother crossed the Atlantic a few years ago in a 33 foot sailboat. From his description of that trip, there is no way I would want to do that even in a larger boat, let alone a kayak!

Stick to the calmer waters FH2O.

qbmiofm - Latin Jazz station in Havana

FH2O said...

This guy, Ed Gillet, paddled from California to Hawaii paddle across 2200 miles of open ocean in a twenty foot kayak! You can read his account here -

Your brother would be an interesting guy to meet.

Don't worry - I prefer calmer waters!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks FH2O. What an adventure (torture?) Ed Gillet had.

I'm with you. My kayaking has been limited to the shorelines of Maui and trips to Vitilevu off shore of Taveuni Island, Fiji - as described on this blog. That's fine with me.

A long over water flight in a small plane would not be against my nature however.

My brother is an interesting guy. Much smarter than I too (and older as I love to remind him now). He taught me to sail when we were kids. I should perhaps mention, he was not alone crossing the Atlantic, he was with three other people. He has also sailed down the West coast of Mexico and Central America, and from San Diego in a 49' tri-maran to Maui (with my dad).

Personally, I'd rather fly and spend my time at the destination rather than on the open ocean. But perhaps when I have more time, I'll try my hand at off shore sailing as well.

Keep those beautiful kayaking photos coming FH2O and remember - "never smile at a crocodile".

Robin said...

"never smile at the crocodiles"


BTW, where got enough time to smile?

The Moody Minstrel said...

Calmer waters? Fh20, why don't you try kayaking down the Rogue River in Oregon? It's one of the most popular white-water rafting/kayaking places in the world!

Pandabonium said...


I hope we all find time to smile.

"Never smile at a crododile" is a Disney song from my childhood. It is from "Peter Pan" the complete lyrics (aren't you glad you mentioned it now? haha!) are:

Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile
Don't be taken in by his welcome grin
He's imagining how well you'd fit within his skin
Never smile at a crocodile
Never dip your hat and stop to talk awhile
Never run, walk away, say good-night, not good-day
Clear the aisle but never smile at Mister Crocodile
You may very well be well bred
Lots ot etiquette in your head
But there's always some special case, time or place
To forget etiquette
For instance:
Never smile at a crocodile
No, you can't get friendly with a crocodile
Don't be taken in by his welcome grin
He's imagining how well you'd fit within his skin
Never smile at a crocodile
Never dip your hat and stop to talk awhile
Never run, walk away, say good-night, not good-day
Clear the aisle but never smile at Mister Crocodile

FH20 - yeah, Rogue River. Go for it. Be sure to take Moody as your guide!

Pandabonium said...

Now that I look at the lyrics, there are some missing. I recall:

laugh with glee at a chimpanzee, he reminds you of someone in your family
but if you see a croc, throw a kiss, not a rock, and don't ever, ever smile at mr. crocodile.

Not that anyone is reading at this point....

YD said...

hehe... good one panda!
Now do the Hook's Waltz!

Happysurfer said...

Attaboy! Pandabonium. Looking at the lyrics, it must have been accompanied by a lively and light-hearted tune. I'm not familiar with this song so excuse the ignorance.

Your brother and dad must have had quite a few adventures. Hats off to them as ocean-crossing takes guts and lots of it.

Have you all ever encountered sharks? What's the scariest experience you've ever had?

Pandabonium said...

Happysurfer - There is a midi file of the song here -

I encounter sharks from time to time while snorkeling. Mostly just sleeping on the bottom. Once one swam underneather me while I was on a surfboard. I had a grey whale go right under my small sailboat off California - that was very cool actually. But, I've never really had a scary experience on or in the ocean.

Flying too. I have several hundred hours of flight time as a pilot- mostly over water in a single engine plane. I've had a couple of times when I had a concern about something, but nothing scary up there either.

Sorry to disappoint you. (Not). hehehe

Robin said...

I'm sure you were whistling :

I'M FLYING to NEVER NEVER LAND (two other tunes from Peter Pan)

Happysurfer said...

Pandabonium, I'm glad for you.

Don Snabulus said...

33 comments!!! I'd have to say something like "Bush is a fag**t" to get that many remarks on my blog. It is refreshing to know you can get that many with an awesome question.

Somehow I keep thinking of Burt Rutan who accomplished something NASA did 40+ years earlier then badmouthed them as inefficient. I guess he ticked me off.

People like Schmid or even Richard Branson are much more fun and awe-inspiring because they are following a dream rather than being prima donnas.

Thanks for a great exploration into exploration!

Pandabonium said...

Thanks Snabby. This post amazed me with the response. Imagine if I had offered a prize! Might had to go into hiding though.

Burt Rutan is a brilliant engineer, no doubt about it, but I too thought his ribbing of NASA went over the line. He is after all standing on their shoulders in a lot of ways, so compare what anyone does with technology today with projects 40 years ago is ignoring all the developments in materials, propellants, and knowledge of what to expect on such a mission which were acquired and developed because of NASA's work. I just chalk it up to overblown salesmanship, but I can empathize with your reaction.

I can attest to Schmid not being a prima donna. Just a guy following a dream as you say, very warm and jovial, and surprisingly "down to earth". hehe