Dionisio Alcalá Galiano was born in Cabra, in southern Spain. He became a midshipman as a teenager and began work under renowned Spanish hydrographer Vicente Tofiño de San Miguel (1732-1795), charting the Spanish coastline. He continued to work with Tofiño for a number of years, gaining cartographic experience and conducting surveys in locations such as the Azores, Portuguese islands in the Atlantic, in 1788. In 1789, at the age of 27, he was selected for Malaspina’s planned global circumnavigation, sailing aboard the Atrevida under Captain Bustamante. Galiano completed work in Mexico while the Malaspina expedition travelled to the northern Pacific, but he was appointed commander of the schooner Sutil for a second phase of their Pacific Northwest expedition in 1792. He returned to Spain in 1794 to continue his cartographic work and rose up the naval ranks, eventually becoming a brigadier. He died in battle in 1805 as commander of the Bahama.
CayetanoValdés y Flores was an officer in the Spanish navy and the nephew of Antonio Valdés, Minister and later Captain-General of the navy. His experience in squadrons in the Mediterranean and his connection to his uncle helped him earn a place in the Malaspina expedition: he sailed as an officer on the Descubierta in 1789. Upon return to Acapulco, he was sent out with Galiano on the expedition to the Strait of Juan de Fuca as commander of the Mexicana. When he returned to Spain, he fought in naval battles, including the Battle of Trafalgar in 1805, during which he commanded the Neptune. He served as Deputy for Cádiz, and again for a second time following return from exile to Britain. He became Regente Provisional del Reino in 1823, and was eventually appointed commander of the Spanish fleet.