Alaska: The Spanish were there too
From Mexico to Alaska passing through Canada: The unknown Spanish Settlements of America, which completed total control of the Pacific Coast. Their presence slowed Russia down the Pacific Coast and limited its subsequent presence in California.
The End of the World Frontier
The last exploratory and colonizing effort of Spain was to arrive and settle in the lands of Canada and Alaska. When it became known that Russian ships were prowling the area, preparations were accelerated. The Viceroys of Mexico ordered new expeditions, reaching Alaska and took possession of it.
+ United States Guide
State of Alaska
The exploration of Alaska involved settling on the Pacific Coast of Canada as a preliminary step.
Overcoming the territories of Oregon to the current Canadian Columbia and the island named in the treaty with England as “Island of Quadra and Vancouver”
The enormous territories of the Alaska Coast, in the farthest reaches of the known world at that time, were also explored and mapped by the Spanish. A little known fact, which meant slowing down the advance of Russia.
Spain had some exploration bases in the area. But a colonization did not take place, due to the difficulties caused by England, until an agreement was reached. The growth of the Hispanic population has subsequently increased especially in recent years. Currently there are about 40,000 Hispanics and usually of Mexican origin.
Russians arrive in Alaska
Bering discovers and dies
The Danish Bering at the head of a Russian expedition reaches the American continent. In the difficulties of the trip the ship is destroyed and Bering dies. After building a new ship, the Russian survivors returned to Russia in 1742. They communicate the news of the discovery and the great commercial value of otter skins. The high value of these leathers considered the finest in the world. promotes new expeditions of merchants.
Although Queen Catherine the Great of Russia, since 1763, tried to protect the natives, sending Orthodox missionaries, there were massacres and slavery, until the missionaries were established 30 years later.
Before 1790, the expeditions were continuous and permanent colonies were established. They enslave the natives of the area, so that they hunt otters for them. In 1784 they settle on the Island of Kodiac. In 1795 they settle in Sitka, after taking revenge for an attack by the natives fed up with slavery, destroying their village.
Since 1800 the work of the missionaries in Sitka and Kodiac became visible, and relations with the Aleutian Indians improved. But already around 1860, Russia lost interest in Alaska. Overexploitation of otter hunting has left the species at a minimum. There is also more competition from Canadians and Americans.
Spain stops the Russian threat
When the Spaniards learned of Russia’s intentions to expand into America, the counterattack began. The King of Spain cannot tolerate that from Alaska the Russians, can advance towards California, by the West Coast of the Pacific. More than a dozen Spanish expeditions are sent to explore, map and take possession of Alaska. Spain controlled the territory and militarily occupied the strategic points, giving a clear message to the Russians who travel to the area to get the valuable otter skins. So that there would be no doubt, they came to carry out a military ceremony of possession, in front of the Russians.
The continuous presence of Spanish ships and the establishment of military forts limit the expansion of Russian traffickers. These use the Spanish settlements as resting and provisioning places for their ships.
Later he decides to leave Alaska, in the year 1795, to avoid a new war with England. For decades Spain has slowed Russian expansion into California. When Spain leaves Alaska, a new country has already been born, the United States of America. The Russians have not managed to establish roots in Alaska, and that will decide their decisions and their destiny in these lands.
Spanish History of Alaska
Spain decided to complete the exploration of the west coast of America. And he sent several expeditions from Mexico (Alta California) to Canada, the entrance to Alaska
The explorations of Spain that crossed the West Coast through the Pacific but also reached North America, Canada and even Alaska, where there are many Spanish place names on its coasts, are little known.
This work and presence of Spain in Alaska, has been reflected in almost 100 Spanish place names of places in the area.
Spain at the forefront
He set out to gain full control of the Pacific Coast.
Once again Spain set out to explore and control the last territory of the Pacific Ocean Coast in America. And began its exploration and the construction of Forts, supply and control.
When the English arrived in Alaska, Spain already had almost a hundred place names placed on places in the area, the fruits of its exploration.
The work of exploration of Spain, in flora, fauna and customs, has also been reflected in the scientific work of the Malaspina Exploration studies and in the place names of the main places in Alaska.
Explorations in Alaska (1774)
They left from the port of San Blas with support from Monterrey
Spain claimed sovereignty over Alaska having explored since 1774 reaching the 61st Parallel. To reaffirm her sovereignty over the area, she prepared several bases.
That is why he built El Fuerte San Miguel. which became a place of refuge and supply for ships from all authorized countries. In the place the ships that sailed through those waters were provisioned and rested.
Spain took possession of the area, including places in Alaska in the center of the coast such as: Córdova, Malaspina, Valdez, etc.
England did not admit it, but Spanish navigators were the first to navigate, explore and map the area to Alaska
Visited in 1774 by Juan Pérez, it traded with the Indians and called the place Surgidero de San Lorenzo. In 1775, Bodega y Quadra arrived in Sitka (Alaska). Ignacio de Arteaga in 1779 explored and called Puerto Bucareli (Spanish Viceroy) a bay.
Places called with Spanish names such as Córdova, Revillagegido, Cape Alava, Nuñez Gaona, Bahía Esperanza, etc. attest to this and were left for later, although many of them were later translated into English.
In 1787, López de Haro visited Unalaska to monitor Russian activities in the area.
On the island of Nootka,
Fort San Miguel, in Nutka controlled the entrance to Alaska
Spain controlled entry to Alaska from Canada. This base was very useful for his ships and helped him in his subsequent reconnaissance of the area.
It was decades of Spanish expeditions. Some were to explore and map the area. One was scientific, when the Malaespina expeditions made a stopover in the area and spent time in Alaska, studying the geology, fauna and flora of the territories. Others were expeditions to monitor the activities of the Russians. Exploration expeditions to Canada and Alaska set out from the Port of San Blas in Mexico.
On the island of Nootka today Columbia (Canada), Spain built Fort San Miguel. Its mission was to prevent settlements in the area of other countries. It was the entrance to Alaska, since from there the Spanish expeditions were completed until reaching Unalaska.
Later in agreement with the English Captain Vancouver it was denominated “Island of Quadra and Vancouver”, but England did not respect it, and shortened the name, happening to the maps like Island of Vancouver.
Curious is the fact that when the English naval officer Vancouver arrived on the island, Spain had already explored and mapped most of the coast of the area as far as Alaska.
Spanish frigates in Alaska, Sutil and Mexicana
The Fort is built (1789)
Directed by Esteban Martínez
He arrives in the area with precise orders from the Viceroy of Mexico. He had to maintain good relations with the natives of these territories and defend the sovereignty of Spain, expelling the intruders.
Faced with the news that there could be Russian ships in the area, as seen in Unalaska and Kodiac, Esteban Martínez quickly built the Fort that he called Fort San Miguel. He also built the Baluarte San Rafael, on a nearby islet to defend the bay between them.
He installs the cannons in front of the bay and the sea, creating the first Spanish defense of the area. Between the cannon shots from the Fort and the Bulwark it could surprise and sink any intruding ship.
Defense of Spanish sovereignty
Capture of 4 English ships
Martínez came with orders to enforce the Spanish sovereignty of the area. For this reason, he seizes 4 English ships that did not follow his instructions and another English ship that came to occupy the island and carry out a settlement. This fact, together with the Spanish takeover of the area, was about to cause a war against England, which was not resigned again to second place.
After the death of the King of Spain Carlos III, the fort is temporarily abandoned. But it was soon reoccupied when the new King Carlos IV was crowned.
Trading post in Alaska
Expedition of 3 ships and new fort (1790)
Fort Santa Cruz de Nootka is created
The new fort was well organized, to live in and defend the area. It had enough weapons, 20 cannons. Prepared to be self-sufficient as much as possible. It had almost a dozen buildings, orchards and corrals.
Salvador Hidalgo went to Alaska, explored the area and took possession of Orca Inlet near Puerto Córdova. He then headed to the Kenai Peninsula and did the same.
A successful settlement
The fort had everything it needed to survive for a long time. Built in the style of the forts of New Spain, they were almost colonists since they had to maintain crops to maintain themselves and survive in lands with extreme climates in this case of low temperatures.
Shelter for boats of all nationalities
Not only were ships from California and Mexico visiting the base. Ships came from other countries, the United States, Russia, France, England, visiting the area, to trade. There they bought provisions and rested.
It was visited by the Spanish Scientific Expedition of Malaspina in the year 1791. They were in the place for a time and carried out scientific studies of the main characteristics, fauna, flora, geology of the territories.
English and James Cook’s surprise
Late visit an already explored Alaska
He found silver spoons from the Spanish Juan Pérez, stolen by the natives several years before during his visit to the area.
The explorer James Cook visited the area in 1778 and came ashore. There he was met with an unexpected surprise. The Indians showed him Spanish silver spoons. The Spanish had also arrived first to the lands of Alaska.
When James Cook arrived on the island 4 years later, that a Spanish expedition. He was surprised to find Spanish silver teaspoons among the natives. He did not know that in this place in 1774, the indigenous people stole some objects from the Spanish, including some silver spoons from Juan Pérez.
Spain presented to England this evidence which appeared in Cook’s English newspapers and in the Spanish ones described by Father Crespi. England never wanted to admit that Spain came before. Just as she never recognized the use of Spanish maps in her travels through the Pacific Ocean.
The so-called and mythologized English explorer practically made a tour of places previously visited by the Spanish and thanks to the fact that he had the Spanish maps that the English stole in the temporary occupation of Manila in the Philippine Islands, Spanish for more 400 years.
Quadra Island and Vancouver
In 1792 Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra, was sent to the island to negotiate the abandonment agreements with the English Captain Vancouver. They maintained very good relations, but Bodega and Quadra refused to leave the island against the orders of their superiors, since the presence in the area preceded the Spanish to the English.
Years later, the English Captain Vancouver wanted to fix it by calling Nootka Island “Quadra Island and Vancouver”. Their idea of him in practice they wanted to forget and later they cut the name. It is currently known only as Vancouver Island. One of many English attributions in history.
Abandoned in 1795, by an agreement with England
The Ultimatum of England, which threatened a new war, if it continued to admit Spanish sovereignty over Alaska and Nootka
The evidence that Spain was in Alaska before England was so evident that although the British did not recognize that they had no historical, or factual rights, they changed their strategy.
forced to leave the fort. The threat was not in vain, in England recruits were made to prepare a military expedition to the area. The facilities are abandoned, and are left in the hands of the indigenous people of the area.
Spanish Monopoly in the Pacific
Trade between Asia and North America
The English used Portuguese flag ships to visit it
For many centuries the Spanish controlled the Pacific trade from America. To such an extent that the Philippine Islands and other Pacific islands depended on the Viceroyalty of New Spain (North American territories)
By not admitting Spain bases of any other country, considering the territories of its sovereignty, the English used other means. Taking advantage of the fact that Spain authorized some licenses to the Portuguese. England promotes trips on Portuguese-flagged ships, in which English crew members were introduced, in order to visit the area and trade with the indigenous people.
Many Spanish place names in Alaska
In 1774 the Spanish were the first Europeans
Although it is hardly known, it was Spanish explorers and sailors such as Perez, Martínez, Francisco Quadra, Caamaño etc, who put names, which still persist today.
Some examples are Alberto islands (Alberto islands), Alberto arrecife (Alberto Reef), Bahía de Quevedo, Ballena islands (Ballena islands), Ballena
Quadra Island and Vancouver abandoned by Spain
The explorations were not continued, nor the establishment of new colonies
Unfortunately the population of the peninsula was not enough. The Crown of Spain had more territory than it could hold. If it was difficult to maintain California, the idea of installing bases in Alaska and Canada was scrapped. Because of the cost and the friction with England.
Spain renounced her sovereignty over Alaska and from that moment on, any country could install bases in the area.
Hispanic Names in Alaska
Almost 80 place names in Alaska
The Spanish, in addition to exploring and mapping the coasts, gave them their names in Spanish.
Many of these place names have been translated into English later, even so, some of the most important ones remain as the Spaniards called them. Most of the Alaskans are unaware of both its origin and the history of Spanish explorations. They find that their history does not add up, but they are unaware of the numerous Spanish expeditions and the Spanish history of Alaska.
Spanish before English
List of Spanish place names, now and its English version.
- 1-Topónimos – (Place Names)
- Islas y arrecife Alberto – (Alberto island)
- Bahía de Quevedo – (Alberto ReefQuevedo`s Bay)
- Ballena islas – (Whale islands)
- Ballena islas banco – (Ballena islands Shoal)
- Bahía de Torres – (Bay of Torres)
- Blanquizal islas – (Blanquizal islands)
- Blanquizal Punta – (Blanquizal Point)
- Bocas de Almirante – (Mouth of the Admiral)
- Bocas de Apodaca – (Moira and chy)
- Boca de Bodega – (Sound Mounth of Bodega)
- Caamaño Punta – (Caamaño Point)
- California Bahía – (California Bay)
- Canal de Nuestra Señora del Carmen – (Channel of Our Lady of the Carmen)
- Canal Ulloa – (Ulloa Channel)
- Cañas islas – (Reeds Islands)
- Canoa Punta – (Canoe Point)
- Cabo Chacón – (Cape Chacón)
- Cabo Flores – (Cape Flores)
- Cabo Suspiro – (Cape Suspiro)
- Cordova Bahía – (Cordova Bay)
- Coronados islas – (Coronados islands)
- Culebra islas – (Snake islands)
- Culebrina islas – (Culebrina islands)
- 2-Topónimos – (Place Names)
- El Capitan Peak – (El Capitan Peak)
- El Capitán Pasaje – (El Capitán Passage)
- EL Capitán Lake – (El Capitán Lago)
- El Capitán Isla – (El Capitán island)
- Ensenada de Torres – (Bay of Torres)
- Evia Punta – (Evia Point)
- Galea Lago – (Galea Lake)
- Galicia Islas – (Galician Islands)
- Hermanos Islas – (Hermanos Islands)
- Isla la Desgraciada – (Unlucky Island)
- Isla Gallegas – (Gallegas Isla)
- Isla Partida – (Parida Island)
- Isla de Paba – (Paba Island)
- Isla del Rosario – (Rosary Island)
- Isla de San Felipe – (Saint Felip Island)
- Isla Totii – (Toti Island)
- Isla del Viejo – (Old Man´s Island)
- Kendrick Bahía – (Kendrick Bay)
- Kendrick Isla – (Kendrick Island)
- Ladrones Islas – (Ladrones Islas)
- Laratita Isla – (Larzatita Island)
- Laratita Isla Arrecife – (Lazartita Island Reef)
- Madre de Dios Isla – (Madre de Dios Island)
- Mariposa Arrecife – (Mariposa Reef)
- México Punta – (Mexico Point)
- 3-Topónimos – (Place Names)
- Nuestra Señora de los Dolores – (Our Lady of Sorrows) –
- Núñez Punta – (Núñez Point)
- Núñez Rocas – (Núnez Rocks)
- Parida Isla – (Parida Island)
- Parida Isla Arrecife – (Parida Island Reef)
- Perlas Punta – (Perlas Point)
- Phillips Rocas – (Phillips Rocks)
- Punta Ildefonso – (Point Ildefonso)
- Punta Lomas – (Point Lomas)
- Punta Miraballes – Point Miraballes)
- Punta Providencia – (Point Providence)
- Puntat SanSebastian – (Point Saint Sebastian)
- Puerto Bagial – (Port Bagial)
- Puerto Caldera – (Port Caldera)
- Puerto Estrella – (Port Estrella)
- Puerto San Nicolás – (Port Saint Nicholas)
- Punta Delgada – (Delgada Point)
- Punta de Evia – (Evia Point)
- Punta de los Islotillos – (Point of the Islets)
- Punta San Cosme – (Point Saint Cosmas)
- 4-Topónimos – (Place Names)
- Punta de San Felipe – (Saint Phillip Point)
- Punta de San Yldefonso – (Ildefonso Point)
- Punta del Sosiego – (Tranquil Point)
- Quevedo Bahía – (Quevedo´s Bay)
- Ranchería Isla – (Ranchería Island)
- Río Beaver Valle Road – (Río Beaver Valley Road)
- Rosario Isla – (Rosary Island)
- San Nicolás Lago – (Saint NIcholas Lake)
- San Felipe Isla – (Saint Philip Island)
- Sal Creek – (Sal Creek)
- San Alberto Bahía – (San Alberto Bay)
- San Antonio Punta – (San Antonio Point)
- San Cristoval Canal – (San Christoval Channel)
- San Cristoval Rocas – (San Christoval Rock)
- Sombrero Isla – (Sombrero Island)
- Toti Isla – (Toti Island)
- Tranquila Punta – (Tranquil Point)
- Trocadero Bahía – (Trocadero Bay)
- Ulloa Canal – (Ulloa Channel)
- Ulloa Isla – (Ulloa Island)
SitNews – Stories in the News – Ketchikan, Alaska
Spanish Explored Alaska in late 1700s
Left numerous place names including Malaspina and Caamano
By DAVE KIFFER
(SitNews) Ketchikan, Alaska – Nearly all Alaskans are aware that the first Europeans to come to the “Great Land” were the Russians in the 1740s. And most Alaskans also know that English explorers such as James Cook and George Vancouver began mapping large expanses of coastal Alaska in the 1770s.
So how is it that so many of the familiar place names in Alaska, particularly in Southern Southeast, are Spanish?
Ketchikan residents live on Revillagigedo Island. Their airport is on Gravina Island. The Trans-Alaska Oil Pipeline ends in Valdez. Just down the coast is the community of Cordova. One of Alaska’s greatest glaciers is named Malaspina. West of Prince of Wales Island, there are numerous islands with Spanish names.
There are two reasons. First, there were a series of Spanish voyages to Alaska in the late 1700s, but even just as important, the early English explorers were not averse with either keeping the names the Spanish had originally given many landmarks and also adding to the Alaskan map the names of Spaniards they liked or respected.
Within a year of Columbus’ first voyage to the New World in 1492, Spain and Portugal signed the Treaty of Tordesillas in which they divided up the New World into “spheres of influence.” The line was roughly half way between the Portuguese Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa and the newly discovered Caribbean islands of Cuba and Hispanola.
East of the line was Portuguese “territory,” west belonged to Spain. Of course, countries like Russia, France, the Netherlands and England were not part of the treaty, but that mattered little to Spain and Portugal. Eventually Brazil would be a Portuguese colony and much of the rest of south and central America would belong – at least for the time being – to Spain.
Meanwhile, northern European countries like France, England and the Netherlands would begin to colonize North America. And Russia would begin to look east across the north Pacific to what would eventually be called Alaska.
In 1513, Spanish explorer Vasco Nunez de Balboa first glimpsed the Pacific Ocean from the hills of Panama. Naturally, he immediately claimed all the land that bordered it for Spain.
Little was done on the Pacific side of North America for more than two centuries. Finally toward the middle of the 1700s, Spain at last began to colonize the coast. The small west coast – now Mexican – village of San Blas – about 100 miles north of Puerto Vallarta – became the center of Spanish efforts to move north.
First in 1768, Father Junipero Serra went north to begin establishing missions in what would eventually be California. The Spanish also established a navy base in San Blas that year. From that base, Spain vessels would be sent north by King Charles III several times beginning in the late mid 1770s.
Spain was concerned that its territorial claims were not being accepted as the Russians began to move down the Alaskan coast and ships from other countries began to explore the west coast of North America.
The first of these voyages was in 1774, when Juan Jose Perez Hernandez brought the frigate Santiago up the coast as far as the Queen Charlotte Islands and Dixon Entrance.
Alessandro Malaspina (November 5, 1754 – April 9, 1810) was an Italian nobleman who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer and explorer.
Alaskan historian Wallace Olson wrote in his 2002 book, “Through Spanish Eyes: Spanish Voyages to Alaska, 1774-1792” that Perez Hernandez’s goal was to travel as far north as 60 degrees latitude, which would have taken him north to near where Cordova now is, but that he became concerned about his ship’s ability to return back to San Blas because supplies were running dangerously low. In late July, they reached appoint not far from Forrester Island and the current Alaska/Canada border and then turned south.
During his return trip to San Blas, Perez Hernandez parleyed with Natives in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, establishing a Spanish claim to the area that would be tested by England in the next two decades
Since Perez Hernandez had not accomplished the primarily goal of the mission, to explore the coast to 60 degrees north, the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Maria de Bucareli y Ursua, authorized another voyage north. Initially, he planned to reappoint Perez Hernandez, but according to Olson, additional Spanish officers had arrived in San Blas in the interim and they outranked Perez Hernandez. The new expedition would be led by Lt. Bruno de Hezeta.
Hezeta led a convoy of three ships – the Santiago, the Sonora and the San Carlos – left San Blas in March. Among the other officers involved in the voyage was Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Perez Hernandez was second in command on the Santiago.
In addition to surveying the coast for signs of Russian “encroachment,” the convoy was also instructed to go to 65 degrees north. In order to reach that point on the coast, the vessels would have had to go just north of Nome on the Bering Sea.
The three ships sailed together to central California where the crew of the San Carlos was the first to enter San Francisco Bay.
The other two ships continued the coast as far as Point Grenville in what is now Washington State. The crew of the Santiago was sick with scurvy and Hezeta chose to turn back for San Blas. On the way back home he would discover the mouth of the Columbia River.
But the Sonoro – under the command of Bodega y Quadra – continued north and eventually reached Alaska. By August 1, they were off the coast of Baranof Island not far from present day Sitka. The reached 58 degrees latitude and then entered Sitka Sound.
Inside the sound, they named a large, well formed volcano “San Francisco.” The mountain was later referred to as “San Jacinto.” In 1778, English Captain James Cook dubbed it “Mount Edgecumbe.”
Also faced with a crew suffering from scurvy, Bodega y Quadra chose to head south. On the way home, they explored an area west of Prince of Wales Island on August 24th and named it Bucarelli Bay, after the viceroy.
“The bay is so delightful for the mildness of the climate for the calmness of the sea, for the water in rills and reservoirs formed by Nature, and the good bottom and the fish that are in it that undoubtedly I would have stayed several more days had the season not been so advanced,” Bodega y Quadra wrote in his log, as quoted by Olson.
The Sonora continued on to San Blas.
In 1778, English Captain James Cook sailed the Alaskan coast and when the Spanish found out, they ordered another voyage north in hopes of catching him in Spanish “territory.”
Cook – on his third voyage to the Pacific – had already “discovered” the Hawaiian Islands before turning north to seek the western terminus of the fabled Northwest Passage. He reached North America on the Oregon Coast and – like the Spanish before him – traded with the Natives in Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island.
He then continued north, all the way to the Bering Strait, “discovering” Cook Inlet and mapping much of the Alaskan coast in the process. He did not – however – find the Northwest Passage.
Continuing back to Hawaii, he was eventually killed there in a skirmish with Natives.
When word of Cook’s voyage to find the Northwest Passage reached the Spaniards in 1778, they put together a third voyage to Alaska to reassert their claims and to try to catch Cook on Spanish territory.
The 1779 voyage was led by Ignacio de Arteaga and consisted of two small war ships or corvettes, the Favorita (commanded by Arteaga ) and the Princesa (commanded by Bodga y Quadra).
They failed to catch Cook and they also did not meet up with any Russians, but they did explore much of the coast all the way to Cook Inlet and the Kenai Peninsula – where they performed a “possession ceremony” near modern day Port Chatham. Then – plagued by scurvy once again – they headed back to San Blas.
After the 1779 voyage, nearly a decade would pass before the Spanish returned to Alaska. The primary reason was the Spain was embroiled in the war that led to the United States independence and it was not focused on further exploration until treaties were signed in 1783-84 to end that war.
In March of 1788, Esteban Jose Martinez on the Princesa and Gonzales Lopez de Haro on the San Carlos headed north, reaching Montague Island in May. In June they reached Kodiak Island and made contact with the Russians at Three Saints Bay. In discussions with the Russians, they learned that Russia intended to eventually set up more settlements down the coast as far south as Nootka Sound. The Spanish continued west to Unalaska before returning to San Blas in December.
Concerned that the Russians planned to move down the coast, Spanish authorities immediately dispatched another mission north, once again led by Martinez and de Haro. By the summer of 1789, the Spanish were at work developing a settlement at Nootka Sound on West Vancouver Island. They also did some exploring in the area, finding and naming the Strait of Juan de Fuca in the process as well as Lopez Island and Haro Strait north of Puget Sound.
By 1790, the base was firmly established . And several voyages were made north. In 1790, Salvador Fidalgo took the San Carlos as far Kodiak Island. On the way, he asserted Spanish sovereignty at several locations, most notably Port Valdez and Cordova Bay and the Kenai Peninsula south of modern day Anchorage. Valdez and Cordova would henceforth retain their Spanish names. In general, the Russians ignored the Spanish incursion.
In 1789, the King of Spain sent Alessandro Malaspina on a round the world voyage of exploration with the warships Desubierta and Atrevida . As part of that voyage they were to explore the Northwest Coast in search of the fabled Northwest Passage.
They reached the Alaska Coast in 1791 and spent some time exploring between Yakutat and Prince William Sound. They did not find the Northwest Passage but artists and other scholars on the ships made a study of the Tlingits, one of the first to record social mores, language, economy, warfare methods and burial practices.
In the meantime, Spanish occupation of Nootka Sound was pushing England and Spain – already ill at ease because of the recent war – on a course toward another one. Fortunately for both countries, the men they chose to sort it out were Bodega y Quadra and Captain George Vancouver.
Alessandro Malaspina (November 5, 1754 – April 9, 1810) was an Italian nobleman who spent most of his life as a Spanish naval officer and explorer.
Capt. Vancouver named Gravina, after Frederico Gravina, a prominent Spanish naval officer of the time, during his explorations that lasted from 1791 to 1795.
Starting in 1790, the two men met and concluded three agreements that sorted through the territorial claims of Spain (going back to the Treaty of Tordesillas) and England (beginning with the voyages of Captain Cook). In some ways, both countries were operating from positions of weakness due to the recent war and neither was in a strong position to press all its claims.
As further agreements were signed it became clear that Spain’s interests lay further south on the continent and that England would have its hands full staking its claim to the Pacific Coast with both Russia and the fledgling United States looking to establish presences in the Pacific Northwest and Southeastern Alaska.
By the mid 1790s, Spain had withdrawn its settlement from Nootka Sound while Vancouver had undertaken several voyages to Alaska that had surveyed – and named – hundreds of miles of new territory. The English also agreed to not establish a permanent presence at Nootka Sound.
In 1792, there was one last Spanish voyage north of Puget Sound.
Don Jacinto Caamano in command of the Aranzazu sailed north to Bucarelli Bay. While much of the outer coast had been explored, he concentrated on some of the inner channels. He sailed Clarence Strait as far north as what is now called Point Caamano on the southern tip of the Cleveland Peninsula. He named Revillagigedo Channel and Boca de Quadra.
Caamano was also responsible for many of the Spanish place names west of Prince of Wales Island. According to former Ketchikan author Lonnie Haughton, the names the Spanish bestowed in that area show the “trials and tribulations of exploration 200 years ago.”
“Puerto de los Dolores named for the word for ‘sorrows,’ Haughton wrote in the Alaska Fisherman’s Journal in April of 1987. “Cabo Amargura for the word for ‘bitterness,’ Punta de Castigo (Punishment Point), Isla Triste from the word for ‘sad.’”
Although the first mariner to chart Gravina Island was Caamano in 1792, he did not name it on his charts (which also concluded that what are now Gravina and Annette islands were a single island). It was Capt. Vancouver who named Gravina, after Frederico Gravina, a prominent Spanish naval officer of the time, during his explorations that lasted from 1791 to 1795.
Caamano, who named the point at the tip of the Cleveland Peninsula after himself because that was the point he turned around at, had named a large channel just north of the Canadian border for Don Juan Vicente de Guemes Pacheco de Pedilla y Horcasitas, also known as the Count of Revillagigedo and the Viceroy of New Spain. Pedilla y Horcasitas was a strong supporter of the voyages to Alaska to spread the Spanish influence up the coast, according to Dr. Arsenio Rey-Tejerina, a former University of Alaska-Anchorage professor who has written frequently about the Spanish exploration of Alaska.
“Because of his energy and intelligence, he won the admiration of all who knew him,” Tejerino wrote in 1987, in the Southeastern Log. “Mexican historians have judged him as one of the best of the viceroys (of New Spain).”
After exploring the large island between Gravina and the mainland, Vancouver also named it after Revillagedo.
Vancouver clearly respected the efforts of his Spanish counterparts to explore the Northwest Coast. For his good friend, Bodega y Quadra he originally named Vancouver Island, Vancouver’s and Quadra’s Island. He named several Alaskan landmarks after the Spaniards such as Point Alava after the Spanish Governor at Nootka.
Even some non-Spanish sounding locations actually had Spanish connections.
Point Higgins sounds like a good old fashioned English name. Vancouver actually named it after the President of Chili, Higgins de Vallenar, whose last name was also appended to the northern tip of Gravina Island.