Espacio Exploraterra (formerly Espacio Primera Vuelta al Mundo) and Nao Victoria 500
By Fiona Flores Watson
Magellan’s Voyage First Trip around the World - 1519-1522
In 1519 Portuguese explorer Ferdinand Magellan set sail from Seville with a fleet of five naos (carracks or carvel-built wooden sailing ships) to find the Molluca spice islands, in modern-day Indonesia.
Three years later, only one of his naos returned, the Nao Victoria, captained by Juan Sebastian Elcano; Magellan had been killed in a conflict in the Philippines.
This ship and the few remaining crew aboard had circumnavigated the globe for the first time, discovering the passage around the southern tip of South America, which was named after the expedition’s leader: the Magellan Straits. They were also the first to sail across the Pacific Ocean.
For more details about the background to the voyage, see our page on Magellan here.
The fifth centenary of this historic venture was celebrated with events in Seville and Sanlucar de Barrameda, throughout Spain and beyond during 2019-2022.
Exploraterra Visitor Centre
In Seville, a riverfront visitor centre retraces the Portuguese explorer’s voyage, and puts it into the context of other voyages of discovery.
Espacio Exploraterra is located on the riverside walkway (Paseo Marqués de Contadero) next to the Guadalquivir river, close to the Torre del Oro. The naos (ships) departed from here, as Spain’s most important and richest port in the 16th century.
This visitor centre is divided into eight areas, each with a theme: Sueño (antecedents and context); Partida (preparation for leaving, including the construction of the ships); Exploración (the voyage); Destinos (the Molluca Islands); Regreso (the return); Transformación (repercussions of the voyage, in geographical, political, cultural etc terms); Corazón (the sailors, life on board; and Biblioteca (library of the Ignacio Fernández Vial Foundation).
In the first three rooms, you can find out why the voyage took place and what was its aim; the preparations - how the five ships of the Armada del Maluco (the Molluca Fleet) were built; who their 245 crew were, where they came from, and what each one's job on board was; and how they navigated across the oceans. Historic pictures of Seville show how the city and its river looked in the 16th century.
You can see a scale model of the Nao Victoria, and of the full fleet moored at Seville's port and waiting to depart, as well as original documents such as contracts and crew manifests, listing all nine nationalities of the crew.
Then, in the Exploración (Voyage) room, a huge map traces each stage of the fleet's journey, with dates and locations, keeping a tally of how many days into the journey they were. The route starts from Seville, down the river to Sanlucar de Barrameda, then westwards across the Atlantic Ocean to the Canary Islands, and thence to Brazil and around the southern tip of Chile. From here, they crossed the Pacific Ocean to Australia, the Philippines and Molucca Islands, and finally continued across the Indian Ocean, passing Africa and back to Spain. On the same wall are three huge screens, representing the three oceans. These screens show rolling oceans, night skies full of stars, and a ship with a lantern that was the fleet's guide to follow. The AVs giving a sense of the perilous nature of these long voyages of discovery. You can also look at physical maps which show specific sections of the journey, such as the Rio de la Plata in modern-day Uruguay, 10 January-22 February 1520.
Next, the Corazon section explains what life was like for the sailors on board - what supplies they took on board, what they ate and drank, the guardias (watches, or shifts) throughout the day.
The last remaining ship of the fleet's five, Nao Victoria, and 18 crew arrived back in Seville under the captainship of Sebastian El Cano in September 1522, with a load of spices worth more than the entire original fleet. The ship had completed the first ever round-the-world voyage. You can see a list explaining the fate of all the crew members - died, disappeared, deserted, etc.
You can also scan QR codes for more in-depth information on events such as the death of Magellan.
A large multi-function space, Plaza Exploraterra, shows audio-visual presentations that pay homage to explorers across the eras. It has quirky maps in small domes inset into the ceiling, and beautiful sculptures expressing the stages of the journey in human figures, from the journey to the destination (these were originally created for the superb exhibition at Seville's Archivo de Indias from 2019/20, El Viaje Mas Largo). A smaller space, Sala Torre del Oro, will also be used for exhibitions.
There is also a shop with tasteful, pricey clothes such as button-down shirts and polos, as well as T-shirts for children, books, and model ships.
The Nao Victoria500
A full-size (26 metre) replica of the Nao Victoria, named Nao Victoria 500, is moored on the river close to the Espacio Exploraterra. This three-masted wooden carrack was constructed for Expo 92 in Isla Cristina (Huelva) by a multi-disciplinary team of historians, engineers, carpenters and other skilled artisans, using painstakingly-researched traditional materials and methods. In 2004-6, the replica retraced the explorer’s round-the-world journey, and was the first historical replica ship to circumnavigate the earth, visiting 17 countries. Both the ship and the visitor centre are now managed by Fundación Nao Victoria.
On board, you can see the Captain's cabin, the main deck where most of the 42 crew worked, ate and slept, the crow's nest (commonly known as the carajo, hence the expression "mandar al carajo", to tell someone to go to hell), navigation instruments, and downstairs (beware - it's a very steep ladder) in the hold, food supplies and other stores to keep the crew fed and watered during the long voyage. There are information panels showing how the ship worked, and life on board, and also QR codes linking to audio explanations.
In Espacio Exploraterra, you can see photos and videos of this replica wooden nao crossing oceans in full sail, recreating the sensations of riding the swells, with nothing to see except miles of wide open water. You can imagine how the sailors felt in Magellan`s day, as they set off on a voyage into the unknown.
If you’re interested in marine expeditions and the great explorations of the 15th and 16th centuries, check out the Pabellón de Navegación on the other side of the river, near Torre Sevilla.
The offical website of the fifth centenary celebration of the First Trip around the World (in Spanish) is at vcentenario.es
Entry: 5 euros
Tuesday to Friday 11.00 - 14.30 hrs and 16.30 - 20.00 hrs,
Edificio No1, Paseo Marqués de Contadero