The Íbero III, a sailboat that becomes a classroom
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The historian and journalist assures Ramón Jiménez Fraile (Vitoria, 1957) that as a result of the discoveries of the Magallanes-Elcano expedition, between 1519 and 1522, we should have called our planet Water, instead of Earth. The conquest of those immense seas, which cover two thirds of the globe, and the coming into contact with the peoples located in the most remote places, set in motion the globalization process. Therefore, 500 years after this adventure, the ”La Caixa” Foundation promotes historical outreach visits aboard the sailboat Íbero III, curated by Jiménez Fraile. Since Sanlúcar de Barrameda (Cádiz), the sailboat has started a journey with a stopover in the ports of Seville, Lisbon, Valencia and Barcelona.
Of the 237 men who left the port of Sanlúcar, only 18 returned three years later; and only one of the five ships, the Nao Victoria, managed to complete the trip. Was the first round the world a miracle or is there some other explanation?
Of the five boats that were part of the expedition, only two (Trinidad and Victoria) reached the Moluccas archipelago, which was the objective set because there were the most precious spices of the time: cloves and nutmeg, something which may seem banal to us today, but which at the time was an absolute treasure. However, the expedition discovered in the meantime that the entire globe was navigable, thanks to the interconnection between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, and experienced the vastness of the Pacific Ocean, which represents a third of the planet’s surface. However, the head of the expedition, Fernando de Magallanes, died in the Philippines, which was a power vacuum. And that is when personal initiative, the ability to adapt to circumstances and, above all, the way to face adversity and to draw strength from weakness (resilience) took on all their importance.
And how did that important event come about?
The captain of the Trinidad decided to stick to the plan previously designed and to undertake the return trip by the route by which they had come, that is, crossing the Pacific in the opposite direction. This attitude would lead to disaster. Instead, the captain of the Nao Victoria, Juan Sebastián Elcano, adapted to the situation and made the only realistic decision possible: to return to Spain by a route that he did not know, the Portuguese route, crossing the Indian Ocean and skirting the coast. African. Besides being unknown to him, this itinerary represented enormous difficulties and the probability of being captured. But he took those risks and went ahead achieving one of humanity’s greatest achievements.
You usually compare Elcano’s feat with the trip to the Moon on Apollo 13.
Elcano’s decision to contravene the orders issued when leaving Sanlúcar was something like when the crew of the first trip to the Moon took manual control of the spacecraft when it was flying over the far side of the satellite, or during the landing maneuver, already that the capsule was in a place that was not foreseen in the on-board computers. Neither the Casa de Contratación in the 15th century nor NASA could do without personal initiative, which is always decisive. Elcano showed that discoveries often depend on not clinging to pre-established rules, based on the known, but adapting to circumstances and being guided by intuition and willpower, excellent allies in the face of the unknown.
Is there any similarity between the Ibero III, where the pedagogical activity takes place, and the five boats that left in the Magellan expedition?
The Íbero III is comparable in length to the Nao Victoria, the only one that returned of the five that left. It was a small boat, since there were others that housed food, livestock and material. Up to 50 crewmembers slept in it like canned sardines, each resting his head on the other’s feet. Today, unlike the Nao Victoria, the Íbero III can be handled by just two people. It is built and moves with the latest technology, but the fuel remains the same: the wind. Quite simply, this ship reflects all the knowledge and experience accumulated over 500 years of sailing history.
Visits, driven by EduCaixa and focused on a school audience, they have a double objective: to delve into the adventure of the first round the world and to highlight the values of sailing. Are these values and the meaning of that adventure applicable to all areas of life?
This is precisely what we are trying to achieve with this activity. A trip is a metaphor for life. Especially when it comes to an overseas adventure. So, on the one hand, we try to show the nautical techniques of the 16th century and delve into the adventure of exploring the world; and on the other, to highlight the values of navigation, applicable to any field: leadership, teamwork, cooperation and responsibility, as well as respect for colleagues and willingness to help in any circumstance. The monitors use educational material to explain to the students the historical context in which the expedition took place, the route it covered and the causes that motivated it. The life lesson is to understand that what really marks us is what comes out of the everyday, what leads us to know the unknown and grow as people.
Text: Amalia bulnes
Photography: Sonia Fraga