The Longest Voyage: The Destination

Find out what happened when the first expedition to travel around the world reached the Maluku (formerly the Moluccas or Spice) Islands.

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

“There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.”

Robert Louis Stevenson, Scottish novelist.

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

Five hundred 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.

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1588) by Abraham OrtelioOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

Antonio Pigafetta

San Lazaro (Philippines) - Borneo | March 16 - July 8, 1521 (114 days).

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


Magellan led his boats west and reached the Philippine Islands. The gold and friendliness of the people there seem to have breathed life back into old dreams for the General Captain who, straying from the main objective of the trip, decided to stay at the islands that he named St. Lazarus. It seems the Maluku Islands could wait.
> Visit the virtual exhibition at the Archivo General de Indias.

Antonio Pigafetta

Antonio Pigafetta kept an account of life on board for the duration of the voyage,The First Voyage Around The World. Written in the first person, it gives a detailed account of everything that went on during the circumnavigation. It contains zoological and botanical descriptions, ethnographic information and described the different native inhabitants encountered during the journey.

Land ahoy! The Impact of the New

After crossing to the unknown, the weakened sailor leaves the boat in a state of excitement. This new land they step down onto could be where they find fame and fortune, as well as unknown danger and death. It is always tense and unpredictable when two different cultures collide. On each shore could be found both the surprise of a world under threat and the desperation of those who had traveled so far for a better life.

In this video, Javier Romero Abrio, whose sculptures are shown in the exhibition, discusses how through his work he has tried to communicate the feelings the sailors and explorers would have experienced and how these can be extrapolated to the modern-day, like the strong human desire to enter into the unknown.

Land!Acción Cultural Española, AC/E

This new dream was as brief and fleeting as the friendliness of the native inhabitants. Magellan formed an alliance with Humabon, the king of the island of Cebu, standing with him against his enemies. He perished in a badly planned, absurd battle against Lapu-Lapu, the chief of the neighboring island of Mactan. Shortly afterwards his successor Captain General Duarte Barbosa and the majority of his officers were duped and slaughtered at a farewell banquet organized by Humabon in their honor. The fleet was weakened, leaderless and aimless. The voyage turned into an escape. For months, the only goal was to survive.

Magellan's Will (1519)Original Source: Archivo General de Indias

Seven men died on the island of Mactan April 27, 1521. Magellan had drawn up his will in his home town of Seville on August 24, 1519. It detailed the order of succession. Unfortunately it was not possible for him to be buried at the monastery of Santa María de la Victoria in Triana, a district in Seville, as he wished.

Declaration of Elcano, Albo, and Bustamante on the details of the first voyage across the world / Page 01Archivos Estatales

After the Victoria returned to Seville, the Emperor ordered that Elcano, his pilot Francisco Albo and the surgeon barber Fernando de Bustamante be interrogated about some dubious aspects of the expedition, including the circumstances of Magellan's death. The declarations were made in Valladolid on 18th October 1522 and can be seen in this document.

Declaration of Elcano, Albo, and Bustamante on the details of the first voyage across the world Declaration of Elcano, Albo, and Bustamante on the details of the first voyage across the world / Page 02Archivos Estatales

Under oath, they answered thirteen questions about extremely controversial matters. As well as Magellan's death, the sailors were interrogated over reports denouncing Magellan, made by the deserters on board the San Antonio in May 1521, the delay at the Patagonian coast, the recovery of gold in the Philippines and shortfalls in the cargo of cloves on the Victoria.

Letter from Andrés de Mirandaola regarding the islands of the Philippines (1565) by Andrés de MirandaolaOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

Years later, in 1564, the sailor Andrés de Mirandaola would be part of an expedition to the Philippines whose aim was to locate the long-desired return route from these islands to the American continent. The letter gives a summary of the expedition route through some of the Philippine Islands and of the contact with native inhabitants.

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

It also mentions the arrival at Cebu, describing it as the island “where Magellan's men were killed.” It says that they came across 'agitated' locals who they ended up having to fight, and that after making them retreat they were able to explore the village. They found a statue of the Holy Child (Santo Niño de Cebú) and some cannons left by the Magellan expedition 43 years previously.

Kunstmann IV Planisphere (ca. 1519) by Jorge ReinelOriginal Source: Bibliothèque nationale de France

Elsewhere, Mirandaola tackles the thorny subject of the limits established by the Treaty of Tordesillas (Tratado de Tordesillas), which since the arrival of the Spanish in the Pacific had produced a lot of unease in the Portuguese court. This resident of Guipuzcoa in Spain would confirm that, after undertaking the corresponding measurement exercises, it was evident that these territories fell within the demarcation belonging to the Spanish Empire (the Crown of Castile).

Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1588) by Abraham OrtelioOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

Destination: Elcano and the Maluku Islands

St. Lazarus (Philippine Islands) - Tidore (Maluku Islands) | September 16–December 21, 1521 (96 days)

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

After fleeing Cebu and setting fire to the badly damaged Concepción, the fleet set out on a fateful voyage to Brunei which would end in tragedy. Back in the Philippines they stopped for repairs and the crew decided to put an end to this listless, dangerous voyage to nowhere that had already lasted more than four months.


The crews replaced Juan Carvalho with two new captains, Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa on the Trinidad, and Juan Sebastián Elcano on the Victoria. They shared responsibility for the fleet with Grand Master Juan Bautista, and were assisted by the notary and accountant Martin Méndez.

Theatrum orbis terrarum (1588) by Abraham OrteliusOriginal Source: Archivo General de Indias

The fleet rediscovered its purpose: to reach the Maluku Islands. Led by local guides who offered their services freely or under duress, they headed south. Their aim was clear and nothing could stop them. At dusk on November 8, 1521, an artillery salute thundered across the port at Tidore. The Trinidad and the Victoria had reached the Maluku Islands.

Details of the salaries, goods, and favors relating to the armada destined for the Spice Islands - Salaries received by Juan Sebastián ElcanoArchivos Estatales

This document details the wages of the crews of the Victoria, Concepción and Santiago, both alive and dead. It also gives the exact date the captains took charge of the fleet: Tuesday, September 17, 1521.
Juan Sebastián Elcano, who started out on the expedition led by Magellan, as grand master of the Concepción, earned a total of 75,600 maravedís, the gold and silver coins used in Spain at the time. As captain of the Victoria he would subsequently earn a total of 46,926 maravedíes for 11 months and 22 days.

Details of the salaries, goods, and favors relating to the armada destined for the Spice Islands - Salaries received by Gonzalo Gómez de EspinosaArchivos Estatales

Gonzalo Gómez de Espinosa received a monthly salary of 4,000 maravedís as master-at arms up until the end of April 1521, when he began to be paid as captain of the Trinidad until his capture by the Portuguese. Espinosa later claimed his salary for the time he was kept prisoner.

Peace Treaties of the Maluku Islands / 02VArchivos Estatales

What went on in the Maluku Islands (Moluccas) is known because of the so-called Libro de las Paces del Maluco, a document written during the actual expedition which records the diplomatic and business activities that occurred on the Spice Islands between October and December 1521, particularly on the islands of Tidore and Ternate. It is not an agreement signed by two parties, but a testament in Castilian Spanish on the way negotiations developed.

In this book, trading in spices appears as a major goal for the fleet, with diplomacy merely a means of facilitating commercial activity.

The Longest Voyage. SeaAcción Cultural Española, AC/E

Continue the adventure using this link. The Longest Voyage: The Return.

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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