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Bust of Fransisco de Orellana (Ricardo Algár/Adobe Stock) Amazon rainforest (William Perez/Adobe Stock)

Francisco Orellana’s Accidental Discovery Of The Amazon

Among the daring exploits of those early Spanish conquistadors intent on claiming the New World for their own, none are as dramatic as Francisco Orellana’s perilous nine month journey to the Amazon in 1542. Originally an endeavor of conquest carried out alongside legendary General Gonzalo Pizarro, an impassable stretch of river would transform it into a desperate struggle for survival as Orellana and his small band of men unwittingly became the earliest explorers of a hidden world. On the way this errant search party would experience wonders and terrors beyond imagination, unexpectedly finding in the unforgiving wildernesses proof of the Grecian myth that gives the Amazon its name. Although Orellana would emerge surprisingly unscathed from the ordeal, in the aftermath luck would ultimately work against him.

Home-museum of Fransisco Pizarro in Trujillo, birth place of Fransisco Orellana, a relative ( Manuel González Olaechea/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

Home-museum of Fransisco Pizarro in Trujillo, birth place of Fransisco Orellana, a relative ( Manuel González Olaechea/ CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Astronomical Rise of Francisco Orellana

In 1511 Francisco Orellana was born in into a wealthy family in Trujillo, which was then part of the Kingdom of Castille and located in the Spanish region of Extremadura. Orellana’s family were true patricians and were related to some of the most powerful figures in the Castilian realm. Among the most prominent figures they shared blood with was Francisco Pizarro, a conquistador who had forged a reputation as a brilliant leader in the New World. In 1527, eager to follow in the footsteps of his famous relative, Orellana arrived in the Caribbean and established himself in Panama, before making his combat debut in its Northern regions. Over the span of a decade, Orellana distinguished himself on the battlefields of Central America, where at the cost of losing an eye he would win the admiration and respect of the Pizarro clan.

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