Explorers & Pirates Of The Pacific Northwest
The north-west Pacific coastline of North America can be described as a double-edged sword of wild rugged desolate coastline that contrasts the serene security of blissful bays and protected island hideaways. The landscape is anchored by a protected inside passage.
Despite all the beauty and ruggedness of the Pacific Northwest, it is the descriptions of the tropical paradises of the Caribbean Islands and the South Pacific that are made popular and romanticized in modern culture through pirate novels, images and movies. These images and descriptions have become the defacto stereotype of a pirate's "paradise". These "paradises" have been further embellished through classic tales of adventure from such authors as Robert Louis Stevenson, Howard Pyle, Joseph Conrad, and Daniel Defoe.
Who Shall Be Captain: Howard Pyle (1911),
"Tom Chist and the Treasure Box"
Robert Louis Stevenson: Treasure Island
Cassel & Company Limited: 1886
Our typical setting for the Pacific pirate conjures images of warm Polynesian islands where slender palms sway to the rhythm of trade winds, and surging surf drums on coral reefs beyond the outer tidal lagoons, and life is harmonious and easy.
However, despite it's northern latitude, the Pacific Northwest coast can easily be described as a paradise. When the first European explorers discovered the Pacific coast, they described it as "a new vision of Eden".
A soft warm breeze fanned us," the Canadian George Munro Grant wrote in Ocean to Ocean , in which he describes his voyage through Georgia Strait in the 1870's:
"and every mile disclosed new features of scenery, to which snow-clad mountain ranges, wooded plains, and a summer sea enfolding countless promontories and islands, contributed their different forms of beauty. 'The islands are composted of strata of sandstone and conglomerate; the sandstone at the bottom worn at the water line into caves and hollows ; the conglomerate above forming lofty cliffs, wooded to the summits, and overhanging winding inlets and straits most tempting to a yachtsman."
Despite it's pleasantness, the North Pacific can certainly flex it's muscle and mete out its fair share of strong squalls, fresh gales, soupy fog, andblinding blizzards. However, by and large, this ocean generally offers a favourable and gentle climate, particularly to the southeastern part of it's shore. So much so, that the early British travelers rightly boasted that it resembled southern England.
This temperate climate is partially due to the Kuroshio Current, also known locally as the "Japanese current", or Black Stream -- the English translation of kuroshio and an allusion to the deep blue of its water. The warm current, similar to the Gulf Stream in the North Atlantic, begins off the east coast of Taiwan and flows northeastward past Japan, where it merges with the easterly drift of the North Pacific Current.
This current, and mild climate allows for the amazing coastal rainforest of British Columbia. Which today, encompasses the largest remaining intact temperate rainforest in the world. While it is often the beauty of BC's coastal rainforests which enthrall visitors from throughout the world, it is the productiveness of these forests that intrigue scientists and allured European colonists. BC's coastal rainforests feature the highest biomass (the total amount or mass of organisms in a given area) per hectare of any ecosystem on earth. Trees here can often live more than 1,000 years, reaching hundreds of feet into the air, with diameters exceeding 9.4m (31 ft). It is this abundance of life, of thick wild forests, rich vegetation, and bountiful game that intrigued explorers and fur traders, and has provided man with a home for more than 10,000 years.
A giant hollow tree situated in Stanley Park , c.1890 was once part of the massive coastal rainforest stretching from the Olympic Mountains in Puget Sound, through the Vancouver Island range for the Strait of Georgia, and culimnating in the bulky islands of the southern Alaskan shore.
|A path today winds its way through Hoh Rainforest, in Olympic National Park||The 1,500 year old "Hanging Garden Tree" on Meares Island, British Colmbia|
It is against this setting of thick rainforests, massive coniferous trees such as Douglas fir, spruce, hemlock and yellow and red cedar that are spread amongst hundreds of dotted inlets, island and bays, that we add several major river systems which surge into the tidewater, namely, the Columbia, Fraser, Skeena, Nass, and Stikine, all with fresh water sources flowing west from the Rocky mountains.
In addition, countless islands lie interspersed along the indented coastline, giving sheltered waterways and protected navigation from the full on surge of the blue water sweep of the mighty Pacific Ocean. In total, with bays, and inlets added, British Columbia contains over 4,450 miles of shoreline, including hundreds of islands, and passages.
However, not all is bliss for the sailor, the passages not only contain strong currents, but surrounding each island everywhere, rocks, shoals, sandbanks, lying in wait for the careless sailor. The passages between islands and even the inshore straits are often filled with tide ripes that form into vortex like whirlpools, so that passage can only be made during slackwater. In addition, hazards such as submerged floating logs carried downstream from the rivers referred to locally as "deadheads", and gigantic bull kelp stretching like the tentacles of the lengendary giant Kraken, make navigation treacherous in these narrow inland straits.
While much has been written about the pirates of the "Spanish Main", the lesser known maritime history of the Pacific Northwest is also rife with stories of maritime adventure including: piracy, smuggling, rum-running, mutinies, ghost ships, and Shanghaii (crimping).
Chapter One: The Search For The Northwest Passage
From the beginning, European discovery and exploration of the Pacific coast has been shrouded with a cloak of secrecy. The ruggedness, and difficulty in accessing the coast meant that to the Europeans, large untapped resources were waiting to be exploited and extracted.
In addition, these vast resources, coupled with the belief that a northwest passage, known as the Straits of Anian, existed from the Pacific Northwest to Europe that would make trade from the Pacific far less dangerous, and quicker than travelling through Straits of Magellan or around the horn of Africa.
The name probably originated with Ania, a Chinese province mentioned in a 1559 edition of Marco Polo's book; it first appears on a map issued by Italian cartographer Giacomo Gastaldi inabout 1562.
Five years later Bolognini Zaltieri issued a map showing a narrow and crooked Strait of Anian separating Asia from America. The strait grew in European imagination as an easy sea-lane linking Europe with the residence of the Great Khan in Cathay (northern China).
Explorers from Europe, and later Canada and the United States, focused on finding a trade route that would help them to link Europe with the riches of eastern Asia and India. They hoped to sail through the northern waters of the Arctic rather than taking the lengthy and perilous journey south around Africa’s Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America.
It meant that all knowledge of the area, charts and the voyage logs had to be kept a tightly guarded secret. If a nation could find, utilize and have control of the NW passage, then that nation would have virtually unrivalled access to not only the vast riches of the pacifc northwest, but also easy access to eastern Asia and India, and could quickly rise to be the most powerful nation on earth.
Sir Francis Drakes Exploration And Plundering Of The Pacific
One of the first Europeans known to have explored the area was Francis Drake in the 16th century. On December 1577, Frances Drake, Thomas Doughty and a third man, John Wynter left Plymouth England with five ships, on what was reported to be a simple trip trading expedition to Alexandria.
The fleet consisted of the Pelican, one hundred tons, 16 guns, commanded by Francis Drake; the Elizabeth, eighty tons, 16 guns, commanded by John Wynter; the Marigold, thirty tons, commanded by Thomas Doughty; the Swan, fifty tons, 5 guns, commanded by John Chester; and the Christopher, a pinnace of fifteen tons, 1 gun, commanded by Tom Moone.
The first two ships carried sixteen guns, while the Swan and Christopher were provision-boats. One hundred and fifty men and fourteen boys manned the crafts which were well ammunitioned with bullets, wildfire, chainshot, muskets, pistols, pikes, cutlasses, and bows and arrows.
The mission's main goal was to sail into the Pacific and find the western entrance to the Strait of Anian, while along the way interfering with Spanish treasure fleets in the New World with which Drake proceeded with full knowledge and sanction of Queen Elizabeth I.
However, the real goal of this mission was top secret, even the crew and co-captains did not know their final destination nor the purpose behind the voyage. Spanish spies were everywhere at the court of Elizabeth, and secrecy was absolutely essential to the success of the voyage, the fleets ultimate mission was not revealed until the ships had actually set sail, and were far from English shores.
The three men apparently initially shared the responsibility of command for the voyage, but Drake after disclosing the true nature of the expedition, assumed the role of admiral of the expedition, a matter which caused friction between Drake and the aristocratic Doughty.
In order for Drake to be successful, he needed to have the support of his co-captains, so he arranged for a meeting to reveal his plans for the next leg of the voyage with great care and deliberation. John Wynter and Thomas Doughty, were the only ones currently privvy to Drake's official commission, and knew that their objective lay beyond the Straits of Magellan and into the uncharted waters of the Pacific. What they didn't know is that Drake planned on obtaining his provisions, resupplying his fleet and paying off the crew by plundering Spanish ships, and possibly sacking Spanish colonies along the way.
Officially, only the English Lord high-admiral had the authority to seek out in Terra Austalis, South America, and the Moluccas, uncolonised lands suitable for trade and possible settlement. Drake needed the support of his co-commanders in overcoming the natural reluctance of the men, who were already apprehensive as they gazed up at such unfamiliar constellations as the Southern Cross and realized that they were being taken far into the unknown. If crews were to be persuaded to brave the open Atlantic and the notorious straits it would only be by the promise of fabulous rewards awaiting them in lands beyond -- of Spanish galleons laden with treasure that would fall into their hands as easliy as unarmed Spanish fishing boats. But Wynter and Doughty were strongly opposed unprovoked acts of piracy and expressed their concerns. Drake knew that he could awe his subordinates for the time being by what trouble might these discontented colleagues make for him in the royal court at journey's end, especially is pro-Spanish policies were prevailing at that time?
Drake Plunders The Portugese Vessel Santa Maria
On January 20, 1578, Drake's expedition reached the Cape Verde archipelago off the coast of Africa, with soaring mountains and signs of Christian civilization. He was in the "bible-belt" of the catholic (papal) state, and prominently displayed on every cape and headland were large crucifixes. Such objects of 'papistical superstition' angered Drake, and he allowed his chaplain to go ashore with a boatload of men to break one of these crosses down. This senseless iconoclasm, though cheered by many of the crew, offended others, and among them was the cultured Thomas Doughty.
It wasn't long before the tip of the island Santiago, came into view. A sudden cry came from the mast head, "Sail ho!". Less than four miles away were two westward-bound merchantman, bound for the main Portugese port of Ribeira Grande. Drake gave pursuit in the pinnace which was light and fast, and the Portugese captain offered little resistance. Drake successfully captured his first prize of the voyage. a Portugese 100-ton merchant vessel, Santa Maria.
Drake and the pinnace were quick to chase after the second vessel, and was within hailing distance of their prey when an explosion shuddered out across the water. It came from the direction of the harbour fort, and a cloud of smoke drifting upwards showed that the garrision had opened fire with it's cannons on the English pirates. The shot fell well short of the pinnace, but a second shot convinced Drake that he could not secure the second prize wihtout running a great risk, he hove away to rejoin the fleet and gave orders to sail to the south-west.
The captured prize, Santa Maria had left Lisbon in November with linen, canvas, rapiers, corks, hats, skins, combs, fish-hooks, nails, billhooks, knives, scissors, oiive oil, broad cloth, kersey and thread. At Las Palmas she had taken aboard 150 casks of Canary wine. Drake also kidnapped the commander, Nuño da Silva, who knew the coast of South America. Drake made it clear that he did not need Da Silva's help in navigating. Indeed, he robbed him of his charts, rutter and astrolab. What he wanted was information from Da Silva about anchorages where supplies, such as water and wood could be obtained. Drake eventually released Da Silva on 13 April 1579, on the west coast of South America.
Mutiny Brews On The Mary
Possibly in order to gain Doughty's favour and ease concerns over piracy, Doughty was given command of the captured Portuguese ship, the Santa Maria (renamed Mary). However, Doughty was not liked by his crewman, and while the mariners bent their backs heaving cables and risked their necks unfurling sails from the swaying yards, Doughty and the favoured gentlemen lolled on the afterdeck, playing cards with the Portugese prisoners. Some of these gentlemen, it was rumoured, had even taken gifts or bribes from the captives. These rumours spread, and soon the story was going around that Doughty, captain of the Mary, the most despised of all the gentlemen (officers), had pilfered articles from the cargo. Since a share of the booty was the only incentive the seamen had for enduring the rigours of the voyage, they were enraged at the thought that this so-called 'peacock' was helping himself to more than his fair share of the loot. They muttered angrily amongst themselves and decided that something had to be done about Doughty.
Finally, John Brewer, stepped up as the spokesman for the crew of the Mary, and he rowed across to the Pelican ,as the ships lay at anchor at the small island of La Brava. Once Drake heard about Doughty's actions he flew into a rage. The theft of cargo was serious in itself, but in the midst of a tiny community of men under great stress, it would have catastrophic results on the success of the voyage. Drake immediately had himself rowed across to the Mary to confront Doughty along with his accusers. Doughty remained calm and unruffled to the charges of pilferingfrom the Mary's cargo. In the main cabin, he laid on the table in front of Drake: a few pairs of gloves, a ring of no great value and a handful of Portugese coins. These were trinkets given to him from one of the captives for whom he had been able to perform some small service. Drake felt humiliated, and dismissed Brewer, and sat down to a goblet of wine to apologize for the accusations. Doughty revealed to him that he had actually caught Drake's brother, Thomas Drake, stealing from the captured cargo of the vessel. Drake immediately, called for his brother to answer the charges against him, but to his relief the accusation proved groundless. Drake knew he had a big problem on his hands, as the crew did not trust the officers in charge, and the officer's did not trust the crew. To solve the situation, Drake in a typically generous gesture, gave Doughty virtual command of the flagship, the Pelican, while he himself remained aboard the Mary. Consequently, Drake probably hoped to avert trouble by allowing Doughty to play the 'Grand Captain' aboard the Pelican. However, Doughty set to cause dissension aboard the Pelican with a right good will. Matters came to a head when Drake sent John Brewer across to the Pelican with a routine message. Thomas Doughty had him seized and bent over a cannon barrel and under a pretext of amusement invited the other sailor's to take part in a bit of horseplay, by subjecting him to a "cobbey" - whereby each crew member gave him a rough spanking on his bare buttocks. This could hardly be described as suitable behaviour for ship's officers, or suitable conduct towards the Admiral's accredited representative. In fact, this was an insult to Drake himself. Doughty was hitting at Drake's authority and Drake was justifiably incensed. Doughty instead of controlling his motley band of gentlemen adventurers, and efficiently commanding the Pelican, Master Doughty behaved as a swaggering braggart. He openly scoffed at the low-born sailors in whose number he included Drake, and he lost no opportunity to disparage his Admiral, hinting that he knew certain things about Drake which the latter would not like revealed. In addition, Doughty openly boasted of his own importance to the voyage, of his vital role in the planning of the expedition, and of his role in obtaining backing for it at court.
Drake eventually demoted Doughty to command of a tiny supply vessel named Swan. This public insult proved too much for Doughty to take, and he began to complain bitterly about "the Captain General." Doughty taunted Drake himself with the words, 'when back in England you will need me more than you will need any reward from this voyage.' When transferred to the Swan, Doughty caused dissension and preached sedition, but Captain Chester, an officer John Saracold and the Swan's Master Gregory had Thomas Doughty's measure. Captain Chester refused to get involved with Doughty, even though Doughty offered to 'put the sword into his hands and give him the government.' Also he would not be drawn into giving Doughty any scope to provoke any large scale conflict aboard his ship.
Doughty's activities also infuriated the Master Gregory who refused to eat with such a man and henceforth 'messed with the crew.' And even here, Doughty aggravated the whole situation by claiming that his share in the adventure entitled him to be used as well as any other man. He accusws Gregory of giving the crew the better rations, whereupon Gregory told him to go and 'eat the throle pins from the boats' if he did not like his rations, 'since anything was good enough for the likes of him.' Doughty even implied that he and his brother were proficient in the black arts, which is a tangible reality to superstitious seamen. This was an attempt to frighten Drake's men into subversion, since bribery and corruption were not working.
He made landfall at the gloomy bay of San Julian, in what is now Argentina. Ferdinand Magellan had called there half a century earlier, and put to death some mutineers. Drake's men saw weathered and bleached skeletons on the grim Spanish gibbets. There they discovered that Mary had rotting timbers, so they burned the ship.
In 1578, at San Julian, Drake accused and charged his co-commander Thomas Doughty of treachery and mutiny in a shipboard trial. The two main pieces of evidence against Doughty were the testimony of the ship's carpenter, Edward Bright, and also that Doughty admitted to telling Lord William Burghley, an English statesman, and the Queen's chief advisor of the true secret nature of the voyage.
Some analysis indicates, that not all of the men wished to be a part of what was swiftly becoming a pirate raid; John Wynter specifically spoke against it. It obvious that Drake wanted to set a stern example against indiscipline in the crew; his choice to hold Doughty's trial on the same spot where Ferdinand Magellan had executed his mutineers was hardly coincidental. Arthur Herman in How the British Navy Shaped the Modern World , asserts that Drake established a precedence, that for the first time in English naval history, Doughty's execution established the idea that a ship's captain was its absolute ruler, regardless of the rank or social class of its passengers.
Drake's action was judged very differently by different contemporaries. The accounts in The World Encompassed , and by Hakluyt, defend Drake; but other authorities, like Camden, virtually accuse him of murdering Doughty, either from jealousy of his superior abilities, or at the behest of Leicester.
The Golden Hind caught up with Cagafuego on March 1, 1579, in the vicinity of Esmeraldas, Ecuador. Since it was the middle of the day and Drake did not want to arouse suspicions by reducing sails, he trailed some wine caskets behind the Golden Hind to slow her progress and allow enough time for night to fall. In the early evening, after disguising theGolden Hind as a merchantman, Drake finally came alongside his target and, when the Spanish captain San Juan de Antón refused to surrender, opened fire. The Golden Hind's first broadside took off the Cagafuego's mizzenmast. When the English sailors opened fire with muskets and crossbows, the Golden Hind came alongside with a boarding party. Since they were not expecting English ships to be in the Pacific, Cagafuego's crew was taken completely by surprise and surrendered quickly and without much resistance. Once in control of the galleon, Drake brought both ships to a secluded stretch of coastline and over the course of the next six days unloaded the treasure.
Drake was naturally pleased at his good luck in capturing the galleon and he showed it by dining with Cagafuego's officers and gentleman passengers. He offloaded his captives a short time later, and gave each one gifts appropriate to their rank, as well as a letter of safe conduct.
There are few reliable accounts of the value of Cagafuego's holds. It is widely accepted that the ship was carrying a considerable amount of valuable items that were not reflected in her manifest. In addition, Queen Elizabeth forbade Drake of ever detailing the amount plundered, probably because she kept a large portion in excess of her share as an investor. In addition to this amount, there was a considerable amount of jewels and metals that were being transported "off the books".
A contemporary report describes, however, the contents of the Cacafuego included 13 chests of royals of plate, 80 lb gold, and 26 tons uncoined silver. The Spanish captain of the Cacafuego estimated the unregistered treasure at 400,000 pesos, which would be worth £12 million today.
Although we may never know the exact amount captured by Drake, we do know the following: Drake has stated that his backers received £47 for each pound invested, which is a 4,700% return even with the portion appropriated by the Queen. At the time, besides the treasure he brought back to England, the ship was carrying sailing charts of the Pacific ocean and this enabled him to sail northward to look for the Strait of Anian. It is reported that he might sailed all the way to Alaska or or at least above latitude 48 degrees before the cold forced him to turn back. It was then he found a harbor to repair his ship and founded New Albion.
In eyewitness accounts, and charts made from his logs it is suggested he reached at least as far north as the 48th parallel. Although, for several reasons most scholars believed he actually explored as far north as the 50th parallel, and there are some suggestions that his navigation recordings had been changed because of Spanish spies. All first-hand records from the voyage, including logs, paintings and charts, were lost when Whitehall Palace burned in 1698.
On 26 September, 1580, Drake's ship Golden Hind sailed into Plymouth with Drake and 59 remaining crew aboard, along with a rich cargo of spices and captured Spanish treasures. The Queen's half-share of the cargo surpassed the rest of the crown's income for that entire year. Drake was hailed as the first Englishman to circumnavigate the Earth.The Queen declared that all written accounts of Drake's voyages were to become the Queen's secrets of the Realm, and Drake and the other participants of his voyages on the pain of death sworn to their secrecy; she intended to keep Drake's activities away from the eyes of rival Spain. Drake presented the Queen with a jewel token commemorating the circumnavigation. Taken as a prize from the Cacafeugo, it was made of enameled gold and bore an African diamond and a ship with an ebony hull. For her part, the Queen gave Drake a jewel with her portrait, an unusual gift to bestow upon a commoner, and one that Drake sported proudly in his 1591 portrait by Marcus Geerharts now at the National Maritime Museum, Greenwich. On one side is a state portrait of Elizabeth by the miniaturist Nicholas Hillard, on the other a sardonyx cameo of double portrait busts, a regal woman and an African male. The "Drake Jewel", as it is known today, is a rare documented survivor among sixteenth-century jewels; it is conserved at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Ioánnis Fokás (Juan De Fuca) Discovery Of Juan De Fuca Strait
Shortly after Drakes Voyage, a Spanish explorer, Ioánnis Fokás (Greek: Ιωάννης Φωκάς), who is better known by the Spanish transcription of his name, Juan de Fuca (1536-1602), is often given credit for discovering the Juan de Fuca Strait in 1592. Fuca was a Greek-born maritime pilot in the service of the king of Spain, Philip II. He is best known for his claim to have explored the Strait of Anián, now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island, now part of British Columbia, Canada, and northwestern Washington State, United States.
Fuca's early voyages were to the Far East, and he claimed to have first arrived in the Pacific, also known as "New Spain" in 1587 when, off Cabo San Lucas in Baja California, the English privateer Thomas Cavendish seized his galleon, Santa Ana and marooned him ashore. He was a well-traveled seaman, perfecting his skill as a pilot in the Spanish fleet. The king of Spain, he also claimed, recognized him for his excellence and made him pilot of the Spanish navy in the West Indies (a title he held for forty years), but there is no record in Spanish Archives of his name or position or of his visit to the royal court. Before he made his famous trip up the northwest coast of the North American continent, he sailed to China, the Philippines and Mexico. The Strait of Juan de Fuca between the United States of America and Canada was named for him by British Captain Charles Barkley because it was at the same latitude that Juan de Fuca described as the location of the Strait of Anian.
According to Fuca's account, he undertook two voyages of exploration on the orders of the Viceroy of New Spain, Luis de Velasco, marqués de Salinas, both intended to find the fabled Strait of Anián, believed to be a Northwest Passage, a sea route linking the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The first voyage saw 200 soldiers and three small ships under the overall command of a Spanish captain (with Fuca as pilot and master) assigned the task of finding the Strait of Anián and fortifying it against the English. This expedition failed when, allegedly due to the captain's malfeasance, the soldiers mutinied and returned home to California.
In 1592, on his second voyage, Fuca enjoyed success. Having sailed north with a caravel and a pinnace and a few armed marines, he returned to Acapulco and claimed to have found the strait, with a large island at its mouth, at around 47° north latitude. Samuel Purchas in Hakluyt Posthums, or Purchas His Pilgrimes (1906), vol. 14, pp.415-18, recounts Juan De Fuca's descriptions in letters sent to Queen Elizabeth:
With a small Caravela and a Pinnace, armed with Marines onely, to follow the said Voyage, for discover of the same Straits of Anian, and the passage thereof, into the Sea which they call the North Sea, which is our North-west Sea. And that he followed his course in that Voyage West and North-west in the South Sea, all alongst the coast of Nova Spania, and California, and the Indies, now called North America (all which Voyage hee signified to me in a great Map, and a Sea-card of mine owne, which I laied before him) until hee came to the Latitude of fortie seven degrees, and that there finding that the Land trended North and North-east, wich a boad Inlet of Sea, betweene 47. and 48. degrees of Latitude: hee entred thereinto, saylin therin more than twentie dayes, and found that Land trending still sometime Northwest and North-east, and North, and also East and South-eastward, and very much broader Sea then was at the said entrance, and that hee passed by divers Iilands in that saylings. And at the entrance of this said Strait there os pn the North-west coast thereof a great Hedland or Iiland with an exceeding high Pinacle, or spired Rocke, like a piller thereupon. Also he said, that he went on Land in divers places, and that he saw some people on Land, clad in Beasts skins: and that the Land is very fruitfull, and rich of gold, Silver, Pearle, and other things like Nova Spania (The Spanish Main).
The Strait Of Juan De Fuca follows directly into Puget Sound, Washington, beginning at around 47° 59' N and continuing as far south as 47° 01' N at Tumwater, Washington. During the voyage, Fuca also noted a "high pinnacle or spired rock", which may have been Fuca Pillar, a tall, almost rectangular, rock on the western shore of Cape Flattery on the northwestern tip of Washington beside the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
Fuca's Pillar - a "high pinnacle or spired rock" on
the northwestern tip of Washington State
Despite Velasco's repeated promises, however, Fuca never received the great rewards he claimed as his due. After two years, and on the viceroy's urging, Fuca travelled to Spain to make his case to the court in person. Disappointed again and disgusted with the Spanish, the aging Greek determined to retire to his home in Kefallonia but was in 1596 convinced by an Englishman, Michael Lok (also spelled as Locke in English and French documents from the period), to offer his services to Spain's archenemy, Queen Elizabeth. Nothing came of Lok and Fucas' proposals, but it is through Lok's account that the story of Juan de Fuca entered English letters. In 1859, an American researcher, with the help of the U.S. Consul in the Ionian Islands, was able to demonstrate not only that Fuca had lived but also that his family and history were well known on the islands. While we may never know the exact truths that lay behind the account published by Lok, it must be considered unlikely that the man himself was a fiction. With later English exploration and settlement of the area, however, Fuca's claims certainly seem credible.
Ferrer Maldonado Lorenzo's Circumstantial Voyage Into The Strait Of Anian
Another Spanish navigator and adventurer, Ferrer Maldonado Lorenzo, wrote a circumstantial account of his participation in a successful northwest passage voyage in the winter of 1588 known as Relacion del descubrimiento del estrecho de Anian...., 1588 [with charts] f. 157b.
The last voyage of that renowned but unfortunate discoverer, Captain Cook, had made known the vast quantities of the sea-otter to be found along that coast, and the immense prices to be obtained for its fur in China. It was as if a new gold coast had been discovered. Individuals from various countries dashed into this lucrative traffic, so that in the year 1792, there were twenty-one vessels under different flags, plying along the coast and trading with the natives. The greater part of them were American, and owned by Boston merchants. They generally remained on the coast and about the adjacent seas, for two years, carrying on as wandering and adventurous a commerce on the water as did the traders and trappers on land. Their trade extended along the whole coast from California to the high northern latitudes. They would run in near shore, anchor, and wait for the natives to come off in their canoes with peltries. The trade exhausted at one place, they would up anchor and off to another. In this way they would consume the summer, and when autumn came on, would run down to the Sandwich Islands and winter in some friendly and plentiful harbor. In the following year they would resume their summer trade, commencing at California and proceeding north: and, having in the course of the two seasons collected a sufficient cargo of peltries, would make the best of their way to China. Here they would sell their furs, take in teas, nankeens, and other merchandise, and return to Boston, after an absence of two or three years.
Although legends and logs suggest that the Pacific Northwest was first explored by European ships, and privateers in the 16th century, the region was little explored and generally left unsettled by Europeans before the mid-18th century. But by the end of the century several nations were vying for control of the region, including Britain, Spain, Russia, and the United States.
Cook's visit to Nootka Sound would later be used by the British in their claim to the region, even though Cook made no effort to formally claim possession. Spain countered the British claims by citing Juan Perez, who anchored in Nootka Sound in 1774.
By the late 1780s Nootka Sound was the most important anchorage on the northwestern coast. Russia, Britain, and Spain all made moves to occupy it for good.
The Malaspina Expeditions
The Malaspina Expedition (1789-1794) was Spanish a scientific exploration that took place during a five-year voyage around the globe, commanded by Alessandro Malaspina and José de Bustamante y Guerra. Although the expedition receives its name from Malaspina, he always insisted on giving Bustamante an equal share of command. Bustamante however acknowledged Malaspina as the "head of the expedition" since the beginning. The expedition was funded by the Spanish government and originally pursued strictly scientific goals, in the same fashion as the voyages of James Cook and Jean-François de Galaup, comte de La Pérouse. Some of the leading scientists at the time collected an impressive amount of scientific data that even surpassed what was collected during Cook's expedition, but due to Malaspina's involvement in a conspiracy to overthrow the government, he was jailed shortly upon return.
By the time Malaspina reached Mexico it was 1791, and there he received a dispatch from the king of Spain, ordering Malaspina to search for a Northwest Passage recently rumored to have been discovered. Malaspina had been planning to sail to Hawaii and Kamchatka, as well as the Pacific Northwest. Instead, he sailed from Acapulco directly to Yakutat Bay, Alaska (then known as Port Mulgrave), where the rumored passage was said to exist. Finding only an inlet, he carefully surveyed the Alaskan coast west to Prince William Sound.
Malaspina’s professional mentor was no other then Captain James Cook. The fact that Malaspina had never met Cook was irrelevant. Malaspina consulted Cook’s journals, ideas, and actions at each stage of the voyage, and nowhere was this truer than along the Northwest Coast.
Donald C. Cutter writes, Cook's voages "were the yardstick against which Malaspina measured his own." And yet there was more: Malaspina sought to achieve an almost psychic relationship with the late British exemplar of Pacific exploration. Less than a week after leaving Mexico for the Northwest Coast, Malaspina studied the methods by which Cook maintained his authority over sailors. Cook could lead his men with discipline and "direct coercion," while Malaspina believed "in dealing with Spanish seamen one has to consider the sensibility, reasoning, and lively passions so different from those of northern seamen."
During the following month at sea Malaspina repeatedly consulted Cook’s charts, hoping to prepare himself for the notoriously treacherous coastline of the Pacific Northwest. Nearing Sitka Sound on June 23 he noted, "[T]he very detailed description of this stretch of coast by Captain Cook was just what we would expect of the accuracy of that illustrious mariner." Thereafter, Malaspina often found it unnecessary to even use Cook’s surname in his journal entries: Cook was simply invoked as "the English navigator" or "the English Captain." Cook had become a presence, almost a phantom participant, on Malaspina’s voyage. Cook knew something of the nature of the Northwest Coast, and Malaspina studied his mentor’s words and charts as if he were deciphering a map of buried treasure.
At Yakutat Bay, the expedition made contact with the Tlingit. Spanish scholars made a study of the tribe, recording information on social mores, language, economy, warfare methods, and burial practices. Artists with the expedition, Tomas de Suria and José Cardero, produced portraits of tribal members and scenes of Tlingit daily life. A glacier between Yakutat Bay and Icy Bay was subsequently named after Malaspina. The botanist Luis Née also accompanied the expedition, on which he collected and described numerous new plants.
Knowing that Cook had previously surveyed the coast west of Prince William Sound and found no passage, Malaspina ceased his search at that point and sailed to the Spanish outpost at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.
Malaspina's expedition spent a month at Nootka Sound. While at Nootka, the expedition's scientists made a study of the Nuu-chah-nulth (Nootka peoples). The relationship between the Spanish and the Nootkas was at its lowest point when Malaspina arrived. Malaspina and his crew were able to greatly improve the relationship, which was one of their objectives and reasons for stopping in the first place. Due in part to Malaspina's ability to bequeath generous gifts from his well-supplied ships about to return to Mexico, the friendship between the Spanish and the Nootkas was strengthened. The gaining of the Nootka chief Maquinna's trust was particularly significant, as he was one of the most powerful chiefs of the region and had been very wary of the Spanish when Malaspina arrived. The Spanish government was eager for the Nootka to formally agree that the land upon which the Spanish outpost stood had been ceded freely and legally. This desire had to do with Spain's negotiations with Britain than over Nootka Sound and the Pacific Northwest. Malaspina was able to acquire exactly what the government wanted. After weeks of negotiations the principal Nootka chief, Maquinna, agreed that the Spanish would always remain owners of the land they then occupied, and that they had acquired it with all due properness.
In addition to the expedition's work with the Nootkas, astronomical observations were made to fix the location of Nootka Sound and calibrate the expedition's chronometers. Nootka Sound was surveyed and mapped with an accuracy far greater than had previously been available. Unexplored channels were investigated. The maps were also linked to the baseline established by Captain Cook, allowing calibration between Spanish and British charts. Botanical studies were carried out, including an attempt to make a type of beer out of conifer needles that was hoped to have anti-scorbutic properties for combating scurvy. Malaspina was very concerned about the health of his crew, and the prevention of scurvy was one of the foremost experiments on his voyage. Malaspina's expedition was the first major long distance sea voyage that experienced virtually no scurvy. Malaspina's medical officer, Pedro González, was convinced that fresh oranges and lemons were essential for preventing scurvy. Only one outbreak occurred, during a 56-day trip across the open sea. Five sailors came down with symptoms, one seriously.
After three days at Guam all five were healthy again. James Cook had made great progress against the disease, but other British captains, such as George Vancouver, found his accomplishment difficult to replicate. It had been known since the mid-18th century that citrus fruit was effective, but for decades it was impractical to store fruit or fruit juice for long periods on ships without losing the necessary ascorbic acid. Spain's large empire and many ports of call made it easier to acquire fresh fruit.
In addition, Malaspina's ship was outfitted with one of the newest scientific devices of the time, the eudiometer. Invented in the 1770s, the eudiometer purportedly measured the healthfulness (actually the oxygen content) of air. In an age when miasma theory (the belief that unhealthy vapors induced various illnesses) reigned, the air’s "salubrity," "goodness," "breathableness," and "dampness" seemed significant indicators to monitor. Malaspina had the ships’ air tested on numerous occasions as they approached the Northwest Coast, perhaps because he had never sailed in the North Pacific. On May 31, 1791, Malaspina reported with delight "a salubrity of ninety-five in the atmospheric air, but also that the air taken below showed a quality very close to this . . . Here it was realized that the lack of salubrity noted in previous experiments" with the eudiometer "was caused almost entirely by a large open cask of pickled sauerkraut, somewhat spoilt." Two weeks later, fearing dampness in the ships’ air, Malaspina ordered a "cleaning and ventilating below decks, but also by airing all the boatswain’s gear, whose storeroom we feared might have become damp." With the below deck ports fully open, Malaspina observed, "we saw the whole crew in such a fine state of health and strength that the eudiometers showed, on the morning of the 15th, no difference at all between the air below decks and that of the atmosphere." During one stop in the Pacific, the French-born naturalist Louis Neé concluded, "[T]he constant vapours arising from the earth, here rich in minerals and full of moisture, made it much more unhealthy." These vapors, Neé suggested, had contributed to the death of fellow naturalist Arcadio Pineda on the island of Luzon. Malaspina could do little about dangerous miasmas once his crew reached shore, but his two ships offered a more controlled environment, and there he ordered frequent testing of the shipboard air quality through use of a new gadget, the eudiometer.
The expedition ships took on water and wood, and provided the Spanish outpost with many useful goods, including medicines, food, various tools and utensils, and a Réaumur scale thermometer. After departing Nootka Sound the two ships sailed south, stopping at the Spanish settlement and mission at Monterey, California, before returning to Mexico.
In 1792, the Spanish had been exploring the Pacific Northwest for some years, and just as Malaspina was returning to Mexico another Spanish expedition, led by Francisco de Eliza, had discovered a large body of water inland beyond the eastern end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. This was the Strait of Georgia. The pilots José María Narváez and Juan Carrasco had not had time to fully explore it, but had noted a promising opening leading to the east (which turned out to be the estuary of the Fraser River, which from offshore appeared to be a channel. It was the last reasonable chance of a possible Northwest Passage. One of the ships of the exploring party, the schooner Santa Saturnina, had been unable to return to Nootka and instead sailed south to Monterey, where Malaspina had just arrived. Thus Malaspina learned about the Strait of Georgia before the viceroy himself, who had been preparing another exploration expedition to the Strait of Juan de Fuca. In 1791 he had appointed Francisco Antonio Mourelle as commander and ordered two new schooners, Mexicana and Sutil, to be built for the mission. When Malaspina returned to Acapulco in late 1791 he managed to have Mourelle replaced with his own officer, Alcalá Galiano. Another of Malaspina's officers, Cayetano Valdés, was assigned to command the second schooner, replacing another of the viceroy's pilots. This effectively removed the two schooners from the viceroy's jurisdiction and placed them under Malaspina's authority. The vessels were moved from the shipyard at San Blas, where they had been built, to Acapulco, where they were fitted out under Malaspina's direction.
The Galiano and Valdés Expeditions
The expedition left Acapulco on March 8, 1792. Galiano commanded the Sutil, and the expedition overall, while Valdés commanded the Mexicana. These ships were "goletas", a Spanish term often translated as "schooner". However goletas were not necessary rigged as schooners. The Sutil was rigged as a brig and the Mexicana began rigged as a topsail schooner but was changed during the voyage to a brig.
On June 13, near Point Roberts, they encountered the HMS Chatham, under William Robert Broughton, second in command of the British expedition of George Vancouver. They met Vancouver himself on June 21, near present-day Vancouver, British Columbia. Galiano and Vancouver established a friendly relationship and agreed to assist one another by dividing up the surveying work and sharing charts. They worked together in this way until July 13, after which each resumed circumnavigating Vancouver Island separately. Galiano's ships sailed north around the island, proving that it was in fact an island. They reached Nootka Sound, completing the circuit, on August 31. Vancouver's ships had arrived earlier.
Since Galiano had set out from Nootka while Vancouver had entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca directly from the south, Galiano and his crew became the first Europeans to circumnavigate Vancouver Island. They were also the first Europeans to discover and enter the Fraser River, on June 14, 1792.
Galiano had received letters of suggestion and order from both Malaspina and Viceroy Revillagigedo. Malaspina urged a stop at San Francisco on the return, in order to map and assess the Spanish colony there, which Malaspina's expedition had been unable to do. The viceroy, while not directly contradicting Malaspina, informed Galiano of the "almost continuous fog" at San Francisco and the lack of provisions compared to Monterey. Careful not to give contrary orders, the viceroy strongly suggested that Monterey would be a better place to stop than San Francisco. As it turned out, Galiano stopped at Monterey and not San Francisco, due to incliment weather. Both Malaspina and the viceroy also urged Galiano to investigate the "Entrada de Ezeta" (the mouth of the Columbia River), which the Spanish expedition of Bruno de Heceta (also spelled Ezeta) had sighted in 1775, but had been unable to enter or even determine whether it was a river or a strait. At Nootka Sound Galiano learned from Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra that Robert Gray had already entered the river. Quadra had given Galiano a sketch map of the river's mouth based on Gray's information. Galiano sighted the Columbia River on September 8, 1792. He did not enter the river, claiming that his ships were inappropriate for the task. However he did fix the location and determine that is was a river and not a strait.
Galiano returned to Mexico in late 1792 and began to write an account of his explorations, which was published in 1802, unusual in that Spain typical kept its exploration results secret. Galiano would likely have remained obscure if not for his exploration of the Strait of Georgia and Vancouver Island.
In 1795 Malaspina was imprisoned for plotting against the state. Spain had planned to publish a grand report and atlas about his expedition, but after his political downfall this became impossible. After reports of the voyages of La Pérouse and George Vancouver were published in 1797 and 1798, the Spanish authorities, unwilling to publish Malaspina's report, which would have surpassed any other, settled on publishing only the account of Galiano's expedition. Malaspina's name was totally removed and the fiction that Galiano operated under the direction of viceroy Revillagigedo was inserted. In effect Galiano replaced Malaspina as Spain's great explorer of the late 18th century.
George Vancouver's Expeditions (1791-1793)
Vancouver entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the Washington state mainland on 29 April 1792. His orders included a survey of every inlet and outlet on the west coast of the mainland, all the way north to Alaska. Most of this work was in small craft propelled by both sail and oar; maneuvering larger sail-powered vessels in uncharted waters was generally impractical and dangerous.
Vancouver was the first European to enter Burrard Inlet on 13 June 1792, naming it after his friend Sir Harry Burrard. It is the present day main harbour area of the City of Vancouver beyond Stanley Park. He surveyed Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet over the next nine days. Then, on his 35th birthday on 22 June 1792, he returned to Point Grey, the present day location of the University of British Columbia. Here he unexpectedly met a Spanish expedition led by Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés y Flores. Vancouver was "mortified" (his word) to learn they already had a crude chart of the Strait of Georgia based on the 1791 exploratory voyage of José María Narváez the year before, under command of Francisco de Eliza. For three weeks they cooperatively explored the Georgia Strait and the Discovery Islands area before sailing separately towards Nootka Sound.
While at Nootka Sound Vancouver acquired Robert Gray's chart of the lower Columbia River. Gray had entered the river during the summer before sailing to Nootka Sound for repairs. Vancouver realized the importance of verifying Gray's information and conducting a more thorough survey. In October 1792, he sent Lieutenant William Robert Broughton with several boats up the Columbia River. Broughton got as far as the Columbia River Gorge, sighting and naming Mount Hood
The next year, 1793, he returned to British Columbia and proceeded further north, unknowingly missing the overland explorer Alexander Mackenzie by only 48 days. He got to 56°30'N, having explored north from Point Menzies in Burke Channel to the northwest coast of Prince of Wales Island. He sailed around the latter island, as well as circumnavigating Revillagigedo Island and charting parts of the coasts of Mitkof, Zarembo, Etolin, Wrangell, Kuiu and Kupreanof Islands. With worsening weather, he sailed south to Alta California, hoping to find Bodega y Quadra and fulfill his territorial mission, but the Spaniard was not there. He again spent the winter in the Sandwich Islands.
In 1794, he first went to Cook Inlet, the northernmost point of his exploration, and from there followed the coast south. Boat parties charted the east coasts of Chichagof and Baranof Islands, circumnavigated Admiralty Island, explored to the head of Lynn Canal, and charted the rest of Kuiu Island and nearly all of Kupreanof Island. He then set sail for Great Britain by way of Cape Horn, returning in September 1795, thus completing a circumnavigation.
Vancouver is mostly credited for the quality of his accurate charts, geographic work, and surveys of the north pacific coastline. His charts were so extremely accurate that they served as the key reference for coastal navigation for generations. Robin Fisher, the academic Vice President of Mount Royal University in Calgary and author of two books on Vancouver, states:
He [Vancouver] put the northwest coast on the map...He drew up a map of the north-west coast that was accurate to the 'nth degree,' to the point it was still being used into the modern day as a navigational aid. That's unusual for a map from that early a time.
However, most of Vancouver's charts were made from information he had obtained from both the Spaniards, and Robert Gray. In fact, Vancouver failed to discover two of the largest and most important rivers on the Pacific coast, the Fraser River and the Columbia River. He also missed the Skeena River near Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia. Vancouver did eventually learn of the river before he finished his survey—from Robert Gray, captain of the American merchant ship that conducted the first Euroamerican sailing of the Columbia River on 11 May 1792, after first sighting it on an earlier voyage in 1788. However, it and the Fraser River never made it onto Vancouver's charts. Stephen R. Bown, noted in Mercator's World magazine (November/December 1999) that:
How Vancouver could have missed these rivers while accurately charting hundreds of comparatively insignificant inlets, islands, and streams is hard to fathom. What is certain is that his failure to spot the Columbia had great implications for the future political development of the Pacific Northwest...."
While it is difficult to comprehend how Vancouver missed the Fraser River, much of this river's delta was subject to flooding and summer freshet which prevented the captain from spotting any of its great channels as he sailed the entire shoreline from Point Roberts, Washington to Point Grey in 1792.
However, after he arrived in Great Britain, Vancouver was not met with a hero's welcome - the accomplished and politically well-connected naturalist Archibald Menziescomplained that his servant had been pressed into service during a shipboard emergency; sailing master Joseph Whidbey had a competing claim for pay as expedition astronomer; and Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron of Camelford, whom Vancouver had disciplined for numerous infractions and eventually sent home in disgrace, challenged him to a duel.
Thomas Pitt, had originally signed on the HMS Discovery in 1791, as an able bodied seaman, since all of the officers positions were filled. Pitt, at the time was an unruely 16 year old teenager. When the expedition reached Tahiti, Pitt was flogged for trying to trade a piece of broken barrel-hoop for the romantic favours of an island woman. Vancouver had given strict orders against romancing the natives, since such escapades had played a major role in the Mutiny on the Bounty; in addition, any captain must punish pilferage. Pitt was flogged again for unauthorized trade with Indians at Port Stewart and then again for breaking the binnacle glass while skylarking with another gentleman. Finally he was placed in irons for being found sleeping on watch, and served this sentence with common seamen. No-one on the expedition could have known that Pitt was a member of the House of Lords, since his father had died on 19 June 1793, but his subsequent conduct leaves no doubt that he resented being disciplined by the low-born Vancouver.
When HMS Daedalus left the expedition to return home in 1793, Vancouver sent Thomas Pitt back with her, along with a letter to Evan Nepean complaining of his conduct.
Thomas Pitt, jumped ship from the HMS Daedelus in Hawai'i, found his way to Malacca and joined HMS Resistance as an able seaman on 8 December 1794. He was soon appointed acting lieutenant, but on 24 November 1795 was summarily discharged and left to find his own way home. He took passage in the Union, which was cast away on the coast of Ceylon. He eventually made his way to Europe, roistering and enjoying himself.
On 29 August 1796, upon knowing of Vancouver's arrival in Britain, he sent Vancouver a letter heaping many insults on the head of his former captain, and challenged him to a duel. Vancouver gravely replied that he was unable to "in a private capacity to answer for his Public Conduct in his official duty" and offered instead to submit to formal examination by Flag Officers. Pitt chose instead to stalk Vancouver, ultimately assaulting him on a London street corner. The terms of their legal dispute required Vancouver to keep the peace, but nothing stopped his civilian brother Charles from interposing and allowing Thomas Pitt, a blow aftter blow caneing until onlookers restrained the attacker. Charges and counter-charges flew in the press, with the wealthy Camelford faction having the greater firepower until Vancouver, ailing from his long naval service, died.
Throughout Pitt's life, many thought him to be mad due to his violent nature, there was rarely a time in his later life when Pitt was not engaged in some legal battle. Most of Pitt's troubles were problems with accepting authority. He had a strong sense of honour and was far from cowardly, but he was frequently embroiled in violence, and when he lost a duel with a friend, ultimately this was the cause of his death.
Robert Gray's Voyages and Discoverer Of The Columbia River (1787-1793)
Robert Gray was an American merchant sea-captain who is known for his achievements in connection with two trading voyages to the northern Pacific coast of North America, between 1790 and 1793, which pioneered the American maritime fur trade in that region. In the course of those voyages, Gray explored portions of that coast and, in 1790, completed the first American circumnavigation of the world. Perhaps his most remembered accomplishment from his explorations was his coming upon, discovery and then naming of the Columbia River, in 1792 while on his second voyage. This river known as "the Great River of the West", was to become an imporant part of the history of the Pacific Northwest. As Washington Irving, in his work Astoria, comments:
Among the American ships which traded along the northwest coast in 1792, was the Columbia, Captain Gray, of Boston. In the course of her voyage she discovered the mouth of a large river in lat. 46 19' north. Entering it with some difficulty, on account of sand-bars and breakers, she came to anchor in a spacious bay. A boat was well manned, and sent on shore to a village on the beach, but all the inhabitants fled excepting the aged and infirm. The kind manner in which these were treated, and the presents given them, gradually lured back the others, and a friendly intercourse took place. They had never seen a ship or a white man. When they had first descried the Columbia, they had supposed it a floating island; then some monster of the deep; but when they saw the boat putting for shore with human beings on board, they considered them cannibals sent by the Great Spirit to ravage the country and devour the inhabitants. Captain Gray did not ascend the river farther than the bay in question, which continues to bear his name. After putting to sea, he fell in with the celebrated discoverer, Vancouver, and informed him of his discovery, furnished him with a chart which he had made of the river. Vancouver visited the river, and his lieutenant, Broughton, explored it by the aid of Captain Gray's chart; ascending it upwards of one hundred miles, until within view of a snowy mountain, to which he gave the name of Mt. Hood, which it still retains.
The existence of this river, however, was known long before the visits of Gray and Vancouver, but the information concerning it was vague and indefinite, being gathered from the reports of Indians. It was spoken of by travellers as the Oregon, and as the Great River of the West. A Spanish ship is said to have been wrecked at the mouth, several of the crew of which lived for some time among the natives. The Columbia, however, is believed to be the first ship that made a regular discovery and anchored within its waters, and it has since generally borne the name of that vessel. As early as 1763, shortly after the acquisition of the Canadas by Great Britain, Captain Jonathan Carver, who had been in the British provincial army, projected a journey across the continent between the forty-third and forty-sixth degrees of northern latitude to the shores of the Pacific Ocean. His objects were to ascertain the breadth of the continent at its broadest part, and to determine on some place on the shores of the Pacific, where government might establish a post to facilitate the discovery of a northwest passage, or a communication between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific Ocean. This place he presumed would be somewhere about the Straits of Annian, at which point he supposed the Oregon disembogued itself. It was his opinion, also, that a settlement on this extremity of America would disclose new sources of trade, promote many useful discoveries, and open a more direct communication with China and the English settlements in the East Indies, than that by the Cape of Good Hope or the Straits of Magellan. This enterprising and intrepid traveller was twice baffled in individual efforts to accomplish this great journey. In 1774, he was joined in the scheme by Richard Whitworth, a member of Parliament, and a man of wealth. Their enterprise was projected on a broad and bold plan. They were to take with them fifty or sixty men, artificers and mariners. With these they were to make their way up one of the branches of the Missouri, explore the mountains for the source of the Oregon, or River of the West, and sail down that river to its supposed exit, near the Straits of Annian. Here they were to erect a fort, and build the vessels necessary to carry their discoveries by sea into effect. Their plan had the sanction of the British government, and grants and other requisites were nearly completed, when the breaking out of the American Revolution once more defeated the undertaking.
On September 30, 1787, Robert Gray and Captain John Kendrick left Boston in two ships, Lady Washington and Columbia Rediviva to trade along the north Pacific coast. They were sent by Boston merchants including Charles Bulfinch.Bulfinch and the other financial backers came up with the idea of trading pelts from the northwest coast of North America and taking them directly to China after Bulfinch had read about Captain Cook’s success doing the same. Bulfinch had read Cook’sJournals, published in 1784, that in part discussed his success selling sea otter pelts in Canton, and thus the American merchants thought they could copy that success. Prior to this, other America traders, such as Robert Morris, had sent ships to trade with China, notably the Empress of China in 1784, but had had trouble finding goods for which the Chinese would trade. Bulfinch’s learning of Cook's pelt-trading solved this problem, so that New England sea merchants could trade with China profitably.
Kendrick and Gray sailed around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, first stopping at the Cape Verde Islands and the Falkland Islands in the Atlantic Ocean. In January after passing Cape Horn, the ships encountered a storm that separated the two vessels and damaged the Columbia Rediviva. The damage forced Kendrick to sail for the nearest port, Juan Fernandez. Juan Fernandez was a Spanish port under the control of Don Blas Gonzalez commandant of the garrison.There the Columbia Rediviva was repaired before sailing for the northwest coast. Meanwhile, Gray sailed northward in the Lady Washington. In September 17, 1788 the Lady Washington with Gray in command reached Nootka Sound. The Columbia arrived soon after and the two ships wintered at Nootka Sound.
During their trading up and down the coastlines of what is now British Columbia, Washington, Oregon, and California the two explored many bays and inland waters. In 1788 Gray encountered Captain John Meares of England. Meares subsequently published reports and maps of the Pacific Northwest that included a voyage by Robert Gray through a large, imaginary inland sea between the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Dixon Entrance. When George Vancouver asked Gray about this in 1792 Gray said he never made such a voyage.
In 1788 Gray had attempted to enter a large river, but was unable to due to the tides, this river being the Columbia River. At the outset of the voyage, Gray captained the Lady Washington and Kendrick captained the Columbia Rediviva, but the captains swapped vessels during the voyage, putting Gray in command of the Columbia. After the switch, Kendrick stayed on the North American coast trading for pelts and furs, while Gray sailed their existing cargo of pelts to China, stopping off at the Sandwich Islands en route. Gray arrived in Canton in early 1790 and traded his cargo for large amounts of tea. Gray then continued on west, sailing through the Indian Ocean, around the Cape of Good Hope, and across the Atlantic, arriving back in Boston on August 9, 1790. As such, the Columbia Rediviva became the first American vessel to circumnavigate the globe. Although the commercial venture was disappointing, Gray was paraded through Boston for the circumnavigation accomplishment.
Gray set sail for the northwest coast again in the Columbia on September 28, 1790, reaching his destination in 1792. Gray and Kendrick rejoined each other for a time, after Gray's return to the region. On this voyage Gray, though he was still a private merchant, was sailing under papers of the United States of America signed by President George Washington. Gray put in at Nootka Sound on June 5, 1791. Captain Gray, ordered the most seriously ill members of his scurvy-ridden crew ashore, near the present day vtown of Tofino. He ordered the sickly seamen, to "smell the turf and eat greens of various kinds." Although the Columbia Redivivia had been more than six months out from Boston, and ten of her crew were in the final stages of the dread sailors' disease, the treatment worked. Gray spent rest of the summer, ranging the Northwest coast from Juan de Fuca to the Queen Charlotte Islands trading for furs. On September 20th, aided by husky oarsmen in the ships boats, the Columbia Redivivia, worked her way up what is know today as Lemmon inlet on Meares Island, to a small, sheltered cove called Clickslecutsee by the natives. Here the Columbia was snugly moored for the winter. The crew immediately set to work to build a log structure which they christened Fort Defiance. Some of the 2000 bricks the Columbia Redivivia had brought as ballast from Boston were taken ashore to build chimneys and a blacksmith's forge. Over the winter, they began work on a small sloop, the Adventure, making it the first American-built vessel to be built and launched in the Pacific Northwest. In her honour, the snug little cove was renamed Adventure Cove. There on December 25, 1791 the first recorded Christmas celebration was held on the Northwest coast, with American Sailors and Clayoquot first nations joining together in mirth and festivity. The 45-ton sloop Adventure, which was launched in the spring with Gray’s first mate, Robert Haswell, in charge. He sailed as far north as the Queen Charlotte Islands during this voyage.
During his 1792 journey aboard the Columbia Rediviva, Gray noticed muddy waters flowing from shore and decided to investigate whether he might have encountered the "Great River of the West." While waiting for favorable weather, on April 29 Gray spotted a ship and exchanged greetings with her. This ship was the HMS Discovery commanded by British Naval officer Captain George Vancouver. The two captains met and discussed the geography of the coastlines: Gray told Vancouver about the large river he had attempted to enter in 1788, but Vancouver doubted there was a large river at that latitude. So Gray continued south, leaving the Strait of Juan de Fuca on April 30, 1792, trading for more pelts as the ship sailed. On May 7, he took the Columbia into the estuarine bay of Grays Harbor, Washington. (Gray himself actually named this Bullfinch Harbor, but Vancouver's after-the-fact choice was the name that stuck.)
Afterward, Gray carried on south to what was, he rightly suspected, the mouth of a great river, and looked further for a way into this river. On May 11 his men discovered what he sought, and he ordered a small boat launched to attempt to find a safe passage across the sand bars in the process known as sounding. Finally in the evening of May 11, 1792, Gray's men found a safe channel, and so ship and crew sailed into the estuary of the Columbia River. Once there, they sailed upriver and Gray named this large river Columbia after his ship.
After entering the Columbia, they were met by many natives in their canoes, while the crew prepared to take on fresh water. The ship and crew traveled approximately 13 miles up river and traded items such as nails for pelts, salmon, and animal meat over a nine-day period. In addition to naming the river, Gray also named other landmarks such as Adams Point and Cape Hancock. However, many of these places have since been renamed. The farthest point Gray explored upriver is now known as Grays Bay, and the river that flows into it Grays River. These names were not given by Gray, but by William Broughton, George Vancouver's lieutenant, who explored the Columbia in October 1792. Robert Gray had made a chart of the bay and the mouth of the river and a copy was acquired by Vancouver.
Gray's success in entering the river would eventually form part of the basis for U.S. territorial claims to the Oregon Country. On May 20, Gray and crew sailed from the Columbia, heading north to rendezvous with their sloop Adventure before setting sail for China. In the last week of September, Bodega purchased the Adventure from Gray. After this, Gray took the Columbia across the Strait of Juan de Fuca to Port San Juan (today the site of Port Renfrew, British Columbia), where the final preparations were made for the long voyage across the Pacific. Gray eventually arrived back in Boston on in jul 1793 after circumnavigating the globe a second time.
Gray did not publish his geographic discoveries on the Columbia River, nor those elsewhere along the Pacific coast. Captain Vancouver did publish Gray's discoveries in England, along with his own explorations, and gave Gray credit. At the time these discoveries by Gray did not gain him any renown nor were thought important. However, the trading opportunities Gray pioneered (in regard to Americans) were soon followed up by other New England merchants, with the result that the Indians of the Northwest Coast came to call Americans "Boston men". Moreover, Gray's priority in entering of the Columbia was later used by the United States in support of its territorial claims to what Americans called the Oregon Country. The rival British claimants called the more southerly portion of this disputed area the Columbia District, which they derived from the river-name chosen by Gray. Columbia District eventually lent itself to the name of the mid-19th century colony of British Columbia. When that colony joined Canada in 1871, it became the existing province of British Columbia.
John Meares Fur Trading Pirate or Patriot?
John Meares is best known for his involvement best known for his role in the Nootka Crisis, which brought Britain and Spain to the brink of war. In 1771 John Meares entered the Royal Navy as “Captain’s servant” in HMS Cruizer and, after serving in several small vessels, passed his lieutenant’s examination on 17 Sept. 1778, at which time he was said to be more than 22. He was promoted lieutenant the following day. He later hinted that he had been involved in naval action on Canadian lakes during the American revolution, and it has been stated that he “served against the French in the West Indies.” In 1783 he entered the merchant service and sailed for eastern seas.
Meares was an odd one, young, good-looking, impetuous, brave, a romantic with an eye for a quick pound, an imaginative man with a weakness for self-glorification and a cheery disregard for fact when distortion or prevarication offered more immediate rewards. The Indians called him Aitaaita Meares "the lying Meares". He was an instrument of destiny.
When Cook's men returned to England, talking of fortunes to be made in the fur trade between the Northwest coast and China, Meares listened. He was no man to overlook the possibility of fast money, even though danger might be involved. Meares had been unemployed since the end of the American Revolution, when, at the age of twenty-seven, was still looking to make his fortunes.
At the time, there was one big difficulty about entering the fur business: the trade in Northwest furs was in the hands of a royally chartered monopoly, the British East India Company. The East India Company held a monopoly on British trade in the Pacific and required all British traders to be licensed with the company and pay duties to the crown. Meares decided to circumvent the need for a license and the taxes, and thus engage in illegal trade on the Northwest coast by using the Bengal Fur Trading Company.
Meares, become a partner in a foreign company, known as the Bengal Fur Company. While the details of this company are still unclear, the man principally responsible for it appears to have been John Henry Cox. He was based in Canton (China) and Macao but a man having close connections with the British East India Company supercargoes resident there and, importantly, also with the representative there of the Austrian Imperial East India Company, John Reid. Reid, a Scot by birth, had taken naturalization as an Austrian subject and by virtue of his position as representative of the Austrian Imperial East India Company had consular status which enabled him to evade the charter restrictions of the English Company. Cox had apparently convinced members of the British East India Company to allow cargos of opium and cotton between Canton(China) and India. A hefty profit was being made, and Meares then convinced his backers of a clandestine operation, by which the venturers proposed sending two vessels of not more than 250 tons each, flying under the green, scarlet, and gold colors of Portugal to the Shumagin Islands off the southern coast of the Alaska Peninsula. As explained in the newspaper article:
The Schumagin isles are those that are the farthest North on the coast, where our researches for the furs are to begin, and to continue on as far to the Southward as they are to be found. Moderate sailing vessels may reach the coast of America about the middle of June, and to continue on it till October; they will then steer to the southward within the Tropicks to get the N.E. trade; they then may steer either for the Sandwich islands to refresh, or proceed direct to Canton, where the necessary orders from the subscribers will be in waiting for them
The costs of the voyage were to be defrayed by taking a cargo of opium from India to the coast of Malaya.