The Nao Victoria was the first documented ship to successfully circumnavigate the globe. It left the port of Sanlúcar de Barrameda in southern Spain in 1519, only to return, significantly more worse for wear and with drastically fewer crew, in 1522. Captained firstly by Ferdinand Magellan, and latterly by Juan Sebastián Elcano at the behest of the Spanish Crown, this maritime expedition was the first documented to have crossed all meridians and as such was a remarkable achievement in terms of navigation and human endurance.

Today the Nao Victoria has become the basis of a contemporary art project known as ‘Virtually Nao’, begun by artist and art historian Rosamund Garrett,  with technical advice from IT engineer and entrepreneur Jon Bennell. The journey of the Nao Victoria was momentous in terms of globalisation. Today we are faced with a different world, where one can acquire information or goods, or even visit cities and museums via Google Street View and Art Project, without leaving our own homes. The project aims to examine globalisation by creating juxtapositions of data from the route of the Nao Victoria from the journey it began in 1519, to the same route today.

The project will be using the technological spearheads of modern day globalisation, primarily the Internet, networking tools and Google Earth, in order to virtually recreate the route taken by the Nao Victoria, to send the ship virtually once more around the globe. As well as examining the original route of the Nao Victoria, we shall recreate this journey using recent flight paths of major airlines, as well as track the route of data sent to approximately the same co-ordinates of the ports that the ship was known to have docked at, in order to juxtapose our relative impressions of world geography as seen through the eyes of globalisation, then and now. Unlike the two physical journeys, the route of data between two locations is often indirect, passing through many cities that are not always in places you would expect. The Nao Victoria took three years to complete this journey. It is likely that aircraft could take about three days, whilst data, though taking by far the longest and most complex route, may take less than a minute. It is these routes and their timings that we would like to discover, in order to create visualisations that may challenge our concepts of globalisation, world geography and our perspectives relative to the world around us. This project will require assistance from individuals across the world, particularly the ports in question, and as such, is a truly global effort. We are looking for volunteers in these locations that have access to the Internet, have a reasonable grasp of English, and have two minutes to spare. The contribution of the volunteers is very straightforward, and will take very little time, but is absolutely vital for the success of our project. As such, we would be very grateful if you could spread the word about Virtually Nao!

If you would like to become involved in this project, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Update: Virtually Nao has successfully circumnavigated the world with the help of our global volunteers!  I’m now in the process of creating the exhibition which will be in the Edinburgh College of Art degree show in June. Please keep checking back on the website for more visualisations, exhibition photos and interesting articles/films/artists posted in the Sketchbook. You can also follow the project on Twitter: @VirtuallyNao