The Longest Voyage: Transformation

1522 - Nowadays | Discover the impact of the first trip around the world.

By Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

Antonio Fernández Torres, Guillermo Morán Dauchez (General Archive of the Indies) and Braulio Vázquez Campos (General Archive of the Indies).

The Longest Voyage. SpaceAcción Cultural Española, AC/E

"Oceanic voyage offered the Renaissance intellectual process the experience necessary for the construction of the modern world."

Isabel Soler, professor of Portuguese Literature and Culture at the University of Barcelona.

Europa and Asia by Lola Bermúdez (Tannhauser Estudio)Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

500 years ago, a long-dreamed of voyage to the mythical Orient and the Spice Islands on the still unexplored side of the world set out from Seville.
This voyage, started by Ferdinand Magellan in 1519, would, three years later, turn out to be the longest of its time. The first voyage around the world, completed by Juan Sebastián Elcano and the crew of the Victoria in 1522.

A New World by Lola Bermúdez (Tannhauser Estudio)Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

A New World: Repercussions

Seville - Valladolid - Europe | September 1522–December 1523

The Longest Journey: The First Circumnavigation of the Globe by Braulio VázquezAcción Cultural Española, AC/E

Elcano, Albo, and the surgeon-barber Bustamante traveled to Valladolid, summoned by Emperor Charles V. The chronicler Pigafetta gives an account. They took samples of spices to court and other curiosities, but above all they took, in their logbooks and chronicles, details of the longest journey ever made and in their derroteros, the means of reaching a new world. From Valladolid, the news traveled quickly to every corner of Europe. The world had changed for good.

> Visit the virtual exhibition at the Archivo General de Indias.

Maximilianus Transylvanus

When the Victoria returned, Maximilianus Transylvanus, Secretary to Emperor Charles V interviewed Elcano and his comrades, so he could write an account of the voyage and inform the world of the first circumnavigation of the planet.

Description of the West Indies Description of the West Indies by Antonio de Herrera y TordesillasArchivos Estatales

The success of Description of the West Indies (Descripción de las Indias Occidentales) by Antonio de Herrera influenced future editions and impressions of this work, also known as Décadas. Antonio de Herrera covered the most significant events that took place in the Maluku Islands: the death of Magellan in Mactán, the taking of the Philippines by Álvaro de Saavedra in 1527, and, generally, the natural riches that characterized these lands.

Description of the West Indies Description of the West Indies by Antonio de Herrera y TordesillasArchivos Estatales

The edition printed by Nicolás Rodríguez Franco in Madrid in 1730 included, significantly, a map in chapter 16. It gives a detailed description of the terra firma and islands that fell within the demarcation reserved by the Papacy for the Crown of Castile, located in the most westerly part of the Maluku Islands.

Herrera made reference here to the peculiarities of the inhabitants of these lands, as well as the temperate, humid climate of these places where coveted spices were grown, citing pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger, among others.

Treaty of Zaragoza (1529) by Carlos I de EspañaOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

The arrival of the Spanish in the Maluku was inevitably a shock for Portugal who reclaimed its ownership via the Treaty of Tordesillas. The argument between the two powers brought about the signing of a peace treaty in 1529 which would resolve the dispute over the Spice Islands.

With the signing of the Treaty of Zaragoza (Tratado de Zaragoza), the Emperor ceded any rights he had over or had acquired through the discoveries made by the Spanish on the Maluku territory, and he offered not to sail or hire people there in exchange for 350,000 ducats (approximately 52.5 million US dollars) of gold.

Theatrum orbis terrarum (Theater of the World) (1588) by Abraham OrteliusOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

The signing of this treaty struck a balance in the spice trade and on the eastern routes, some could continue to sail to the Indies via the African coast and the Indian Ocean, others could continue to explore the southern seas. A new scenario would emerge with the Spanish conquest of the Philippine Islands and the discovery of the tornaviaje Pacific return route.

New Dreams by Lola Bermúdez (Tannhauser Estudio)Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

New Dreams, New Risks: The Longest Voyage

Humankind and the Unknown | 16th century–21st century

Juan Sebastián Elcano's will (1526-07-16) by Juan Sebastián ElcanoOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

Juan Sebastián Elcano died in 1526 in the Pacific Ocean attempting to repeat the voyage to the Maluku Islands to secure the route, to begin to exploit it, and garner the rewards it promised a priori. Accompanying him on this new expedition, recorded as one of the great disasters of ocean navigation, was a young cabin boy called Andrés de Urdaneta.

The will of Juan Sebastián Elcano

The will of Juan Sebastián Elcano is a symbol the spirit of travel and exploration, and of the promises of riches brought by the coveted spices. The desire to connect with these distant territories overtook logic itself.

Report by Andrés de Urdaneta on the Navigation Across the Mar de Poniente (Sea Toward the West)… (1537) by Andrés de UrdanetaOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

Between 1526 and 1545, five fleets followed one another out to the Pacific, but none managed to find the return route to New Spain, which was the expansive reason behind the departure of the final four. As an older man, 40 years later, Andrés de Urdaneta, the youngster who had accompanied Elcano on his last voyage, discovered the last unknown ocean route: the Pacific return sea route known as the tornaviaje.

The Longest Voyage. SpaceAcción Cultural Española, AC/E

The Pacific tornaviaje: the route that had proved impossible for the Trinidad; a route that would be sailed for the next 300 years by Manila Galleons. From that moment on, the world would become forever more connected.

LIFE Photo Collection

But the borders of the unknown don't disappear, they just change. There will always be a border and before it, a person, a dream and a boat. This is the longest journey of all: dreams are dreamed, boats change, explorers come and go, but there is always the same sailing spirit and never-ending journey: that of humankind towards the edge and the unknown.

What is the limit of exploration?

Every exploration is a dream of breaking down borders, the dreamer turns this into an idea, and the moment and place into reality. It is time to set off, time for adventure and exploration, time to voyage into the unknown.

LIFE Photo Collection

Failure is a lesson, returning is a step towards a new impossible dream, towards a new, higher, deeper, more distant frontier. That is the longest voyage; the never-ending journey of humankind towards the unknown.

We are all seafarers.

Credits: Story

Adaptation of the exhibition "The Longest Journey: The First Around the World".

Organizers: Spanish Cultural Action, Ministry of Culture. General Archive of the Indies
Curated by: Antonio Fernández Torres, Guillermo Morán Dauchez, Braulio Vázquez Campos
Program: Raquel Mesa
Images: Archivo General de Indias, Tannhauser Estudio

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This exhibition is part of the First Voyage Around the World project.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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