Spanish Exploration of the Pacific Northwest collection, 1788-1793

Overview of the Collection

Spanish Exploration of the Pacific Northwest collection
1788-1793 (inclusive)
0.19 cubic feet (1 box)
Collection Number
6228 (Accession No. 6228-001)
Documents relating to the Spanish exploration of the Pacific Northwest and interactions with Russian settlements, especially in Nootka Sound, and the coast of California to the Strait of Juan de Fuca
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 2065431929
Fax: 2065431931
Access Restrictions

No restrictions on access.

English, Spanish

Historical BackgroundReturn to Top

Spanish interest in the Pacific Northwest began in 1774 with the voyage of Juan José Pérez Hernández on the frigate Santiago. Pérez and his crew of 86 were the first Europeans to visit the Pacific Northwest. In 1775 a second voyage of 90 men led by Lieutenant Bruno de Heceta aboard the Santiago, set sail from the Port of San Blas with orders to make clear Spanish claims on the entire Pacific Northwest Coast. Additional voyages took place over the next eight years, including the 1783 voyage of the Princesa under Juan Francisco de la Bodega. The Revolutionary War in America followed by the Anglo-Spanish War effectively halted Spanish exploration in the Pacific Northwest until 1788.

In March of 1788, Esteban José Martínez commanding the Princesa and Gonzalo López de Haro aboard the San Carlos assisted by José María Narváez, set out to investigate rumors of Russian activity in Alaska and present day British Columbia. After numerous failed attempts to locate the Russians, Martínez and Haro eventually met with Potap Kuzmich Zaikov, a Russian navigator stationed in Unalaska. Unaware of Spanish intentions to occupy the area, Kuzmich revealed that the Russian’s had plans to settle a number of islands and ports, including Nootka Sound. The Spanish explorers quickly made plans to return to the Port of San Blas with the new information they had gathered. Due to increasing conflict between Martínez and Haro, the ships broke off contact within three days sailed south separately. During the voyage south, Haro declared his ship no longer under Martínez's command. They sailed back to San Blas on their own, arriving on October 22, 1788. Martínez spent a month in Monterey waiting for Haro. When he arrived at San Blas in December, he found himself faced with charges of irresponsible leadership. He soon regained favor and was placed in charge of a new expedition to occupy Nootka Sound.

After learning of Russian plans to settle Alaska, the Viceroy of New Spain determined to preemptively take possession of Nootka Sound ahead of the Russians. In 1789, Martínez and Haro were order to return to Nootka. During the occupation of Nootka, Martínez instructed his pilot José María Narváez to explore the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Narváez found the Strait of Juan de Fuca to be a large inlet with much promise for further exploration. By the end of 1789, the Spanish had abandoned Nootka. On the return journey to San Blas, Martínez oversaw the capture of British ships. The capture, believed to be a violation of international law, eventually led to the Nootka Crisis followed by the first Nootka Convention (1790), which gave both Britain and Spain the right to settle along the Pacific coasts.

Once tensions had been eased following the Nootka crisis, Spain made plans to further explore the Straight of Fuca and the coast located between San Francisco and the Columbia River. In 1793, Francisco de Eliza and Juan Martínez de Zayas were commissioned to explore the area. Eliza, believing Martínez de Zayas to be advancing too slowly, left his fellow sailor behind. Eliza soon returned to California while Martínez de Zayas continued his journey north, mapping and surveying much of the land along the Pacific Northwest coast.

This contemporary collection of nine documents was produced by officials from the Viceroyalty of New Spain recording the events of Spanish exploration undertaken by Esteban José Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro in 1788 as well as Don Juan Bautista, Francisco de Eliza, and Juan Martínez de Zayas in 1793.

The following individuals, locations, and entities are mentioned throughout the collection:

Manuel Antonio Flórez was a general in the Spanish Navy and served as Viceroy of New Spain in from 1787 – 1789, stationed in the Port of San Blas. Flórez commissioned Esteban José Martínez and fellow Spaniard, Gonzalo López de Haro, to explore the Alaskan coast in 1787 and occupy the Port of Nootka in 1789.

Esteban José Martínez (1742–1798) was a Spanish navigator and explorer. He was a key figure in the Spanish exploration of the Pacific Northwest. In 1787 – 1788, he and fellow explorer, Gonzalo López de Haro, were commissioned by the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, to investigate Russian presence in Alaska. In 1789, he was instructed to occupy Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island, as show of force to Russian troops stationed in British Columbia and Alaska.

Gonzalo López de Haro was a Spanish explorer. He was commissioned, along with Esteban José Martínez, to investigate Russian activity in Alaska. After arriving in Prince William Sound, Haro sailed the San Carlos west to Kodiak Island where he found the Russian post at Three Saints Bay. Haro returned east, rejoining Martínez at Sitkinak Island. Haro and Martínez then sailed southwest to investigate Unalaska Island, where there was a large Russian post under the command of Potap Kuzmich Zaikov. In 1790 and 1791 he was a primer piloto (first pilot) in the expedition commanded by Francisco de Eliza.

José María Narváez was a Spanish naval officer, explorer, and navigator. He was assigned to the San Carlos along with Gonzalo López de Haro during Esteban José Martínez’s exploration and subsequent occupation of Nootka Sound. Narváez was also tasked with exploring the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

Potap Kuzmich Zaikov was a Russian navigator that operated across the Bering Sea and the Gulf of Alaska during the development of the Russian Maritime Fur Trade from the 1770s to 1791. In 1788, Kuzmich encountered Esteban José Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro , sent to investigate Russian intentions in Alaska. Kuzmich told the Spaniards about Russian plans for occupying various islands and ports throughout the area, which eventually led the Spanish to arrange an additional voyage with the purpose of settling Nootka island before the Russians.

Juan Francisco de la Bodega was a Spanish naval officer assigned to the Pacific coast Spanish Naval Department based as the Port of San Blas in Mexico. He was tasked with implementing the demarcation line between Spanish and British territory in the early 1790s. During a 1779 voyage past San Francisco, Bodega discovered that British troops had landed about 60 miles north of Bodega Harbor. After writing to the Spanish government, the Sutil commanded by Don Juan Bautista Matute is commissioned to investigate.

Don Juan Bautista Matute was a Lieutenant in the Spanish Navy. In 1793, he was tasked with investigating British presence in Bodega harbor (off the coast of San Francisco) and, if necessary, forcefully occupying the area. Matute discovered no sign of the British at Bodega Harbor.

Francisco de Eliza as a Spanish naval officer and navigator. Eliza was in charge of a 1790 expedition to Nootka and a 1791 expedition to the Fuca Straight. In 1793, Eliza was tasked with exploring the Pacific Northwest coast from San Francisco to the Columbia River and the Straight of Fuca along with pilot, Juan Martínez de Zayas. Eliza left behind his pilot and supply ship soon after leaving for the voyage.

Juan Martínez de Zayas piloted the supply ship assigned to explore the Pacific Northwest coast from San Francisco to the Columbia River and the Straight of Fuca along with Francisco de Eliza. Martínez de Zayas continued his journey even after being left behind by Eliza.

Antonio Valdés was appointed Inspector General of the Spanish Navy in 1781 and Minister of the Navy in 1783.

The Viceroyality of New Spain was a territorial entity established by the Spanish government following their colonization of the Americas. It covered an area that included territories in North America, Central America, Asia and Oceania.

The Port of San Blas served as a naval base for the Spanish in the Viceroyality of New Spain. Most Spanish naval missions exploring the West coast of the United States and Canada originated from this port.

Nootka Sound is located of the coast of Vancouver Island in British Columbia. Spanish explorers became aware of the sound and Nootka Island in 1774 with the expedition of Juan José Pérez Hernández. In 1787, following rumors of Russian settlement in the area, Esteban José Martínez and Gonzalo López de Haro were dispatched to investigate the Russian presence. An additional mission was commissioned in 1789 with the goal of officially settling Nootka Island for Spain. The capture of British ships during this second voyage eventually led to the Nootka Crisis followed by the first Nootka Convention (1790), which gave both Britain and Spain the right to settle along the Pacific coasts.

The Strait of Juan de Fuca is a large body of water located in the Salish Sea, providing an outlet to the Pacific Ocean. The international boundary between Canada and the United States runs down the center of the Strait. The Straight was explored by José María Narváez during Esteban José Martínez 1789 occupation of Nootka Sound and in 1793, Francisco de Eliza and Juan Martínez de Zayas were ordered to further explore the Straight of Fuca along with the coast between San Francisco and the Columbia River.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Collection of nine documents produced by officials from the Viceroyalty of New Spain between 1788 and 1793 recording the events of Spanish exploration, particularly voyages to Nootka Sound by Esteban José Martínez, Gonzalo López de Haro, and José María Narváez as well as voyages along the coast of California to the Strait of Juan de Fuca by Don Juan Bautista, Francisco de Eliza, and Juan Martínez de Zayas.

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Restrictions on Use

Creator's copyrights are in the public domain.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Acquisition Information

This collection was purchased with funds donated by Daniel Kerlee and Carol Wollenberg in memory of Dr. Donald D. Kerlee and Richard P. Wollenberg

Dr. Donald D. Kerlee (1926-2012) received a Master's degree in Mathematics and a Doctorate in Physics from the University of Washington. His thesis and subsequent work on particle physics was notable in his field. He devoted his career to research and liberal arts education and administration, primarily at Seattle Pacific University and its sister schools, including a short term as President of Roberts Wesleyan College in North Chili, New York.

Richard P. Wollenberg (1916-2014) (Dr. ad honorem, Reed College, University of Puget Sound) was on the Washington Council for Higher Education / Washington State Council on Post Secondary Education for many years including at least one term as chairman. A corporate leader in Washington's forest products industry, he was also a regular participant in Forestry Round Tables at the University of Washington. He served for forty-three years on the board of Reed College in Portland, Oregon, including nine years as board chairman.

Detailed Description of the CollectionReturn to Top


Container(s) Description Dates
Box/Folder item
1/1 Item 1 Letter from Esteban José Martínez to the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, from the frigate Princesa anchored at the Port of San Blas
8 leaves (6 written on both sides, 1 on one side and a blank). 4to
This letter, penned by explorer, Esteban José Martínez, and addressed to the Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio Flórez, is a personal commentary on an abridged version of Martínez’s diary recounting his voyage to the Pacific Northwest in search of Russian settlements. In 1774, the Spanish established settlements in the Pacific Northwest. They soon expanded up the coast and in 1787, Martínez was commissioned by Viceroy Flórez to establish contact with the Russians in Ounalashka, present day Unalaska Island. Martinez aboard the frigate Princesa along with Gonzalo López de Haro and José María Narváez aboard the San Carlos set sail on the 10th of March of 1787 from the Port of San Blas, which served as the Spanish Naval Base in Mexico. By the 17th of May the expedition had already reached the entry to Prince William Sound. Unable to enter the Sound they headed towards Montague Island, which had been visited by Captain James Cook on his 1778 voyage. In the letter, Martínez remarks on the accuracy of Cook’s maps. After taking possession of Montague Island and unable to find news from the Alaska Natives about the Russians, they proceeded to the Puerto de Flores (Chalmers Port). Following official instructions, they took possession of the port, and soon sighted the Russians off the Island of Floridablanca or Trinidad (Kodiak Island). On the 19th of July, they finally established contact with the Russians on the Island of Unalaska. There they received a Russian delegation headed by the “Capitan o Comisario”, Potap Kuzmich Zaikov (written as Cusmick or Cusmich in the document). The unsuspecting Russians received the Spaniards with open arms, providing fish daily, caring for their sick, and presenting Martínez with 1500 salmon preserved in barrels. They even insisted that Spain and Russia were one and the same. Kuzmich claimed that there were only 2 Russian settlements (Unalaska and Kodiak Island) and 500 Russians scattered around various locations. According to Kuzmich, their only occupation was fur trading with the Tartars and Chinese. Martínez explains that the Russians have six ‘galeotas’ or small sail or oar propelled galley boats. He also describes the location of various Russian artillery. Kuzmich tells Martínez that the Russians had intended to take possession of Prince Charles Sound but had been repeatedly repelled by the Alaska Natives. As an alternative, the Russians established trading agreements which stated that Alaska Natives were obliged to pay a levy of 10% in furs to the Russian Empress on goods traded. Each Russian had to pay three Rubles a year to the Empress. Kuzmich also explained that they had not explored further south than Saint Elias Mountain, but after the arrival of a British frigate and supply ship they discovered the existence of the Ports of Bucareli and Nootka, where the British traded sea otter furs. Kuzmich further announced that they had informed their Empress of the British presence and she had decided to send four frigates from Siberia to occupy the Port of Nootka. In view of this information, Martínez expressed that it was vital to settle the Port of Nootka in the following year. He asserts that the establishment of the settlement would be feasible and would provide Spain with command of the coast from San Francisco to Nootka, Alaska. On the 19th of August, Martínez left the Russians setting sail towards Monterey. They faced serious difficulties with the weather and became separated from the supply ship. They finally reached Monterey (California) on the 17th of September. Martínez waited for a month for the arrival of the supply ship. While waiting, Martínez was asked by the Governor of Monterey to transport timber to Santa Barbara for construction. Following his delivery, Martínez headed towards San Blas where he arrived the 5th of December, still waiting for news of his supply ship.
December 5, 1788
1/2 Item 2 Letter from Esteban José Martínez to the Minister of the Navy, Antonio Valdés, from the Frigate Princesa anchored at the Port of San Blas.
Folio 6 leaves (5 written on both sides, 1 blank). 4to
After returning to the Port of San Blas from his first expedition to the Russian settlements in Alaska in 1787-1788, explorer, Esteban José Martínez, penned two letters. The first was addressed to the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez. This letter, the second of the two, is addressed to the Minister of the Navy, Antonio Valdés. The letter recounts Martínez’s journey to Alaska with Gonzalo López de Haro. He first explains his encounter with the Alaska Natives, whom he calls “Americanos” at Prince William Sound. Martínez inquired whether the Alaska Natives had seen the Russians, whom the Spaniards feared had expanded their permanent settlements in Alaska. They replied that they has seen the ships commanded by Captain James Cook in 1778 and the 1786 ships commanded by La Perouse and Langle, but had not seen any Russian troops. With little information to go on, Martínez undertook a short exploration of the Prince William Sound. He was unsuccessful in finding the Russians. The expedition continued to the Island of Floridablanca or Trinidad (Kodiak Island) on the 18th of June. Martínez explains that a Russian settler boarded the ship here but he was not forthcoming about the whereabouts of the Russian settlements. In the meantime, the Captain of Martínez’s accompanying ship that had been separated from them (‘sobre el Cabo de Elizabeth o de Valdés’) had spotted a Russian settlement near the Island of Unalaska. Martínez left the Kodiak Islands, arriving in Unalaska on the 19th of July. They anchored at ‘el puerto de Bodquin’, where they were visited by Captain Jacof Kuzmich. Martínez and Kuzmich were able to communicate with the help of the second pilot, Esteban Mendosia. To obtain the trust of the Russians, Martínez gave Kuzmich all the gifts at his disposal. Cusmisch shows Martínez the scars on the bodies of several Russians, obtained during Captain Ysmyloff’s (Gerasim Izmailov) attempt to capture Prince Charles Island from the Alaska Natives. This letter contains more information than the above letter about the taxes paid to the Empress from Alaska Natives and Russians. Having spent a month on Unalaska, Martínez remarks on the resilience of the Russians. Finally, he also tells the Minister that he has given a dispatch addressed to Valdés to Captain Gabriel Priviloff (Gavriel Pribilof) who offered to take it to Saint Petersburg for forwarding.
December 5, 1788
1/3 Item 3 Letter from Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, to the Minister of the Navy, Antonio Valdés, Mexico
10 leaves, 8 leaves with text on both sides. “Nº. 702 reservada” written on front cover. 4to On blue paper. 362
In this letter, Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, outlines the strategy to be followed by the Spanish in the Pacific Northwest following the return of Esteban José Martínez expedition to Alaska in 1788. Martínez’s mission had been to gather information about the expansion of the Russians in Alaska. The Viceroy, following Martínez’s reports, states that he is confident that the Russians have only settled in Ounalashka, present day Unalaska Island, and that their knowledge of the coast is limited to the area between Unalaska and ‘cerro de San Elias’, the present day Saint Elias Mountains. Flórez’s chief concern is the information Esteban José Martínez had received that the Russians planned to send four frigates to occupy Nootka the following year. As Flórez tells Valdés, were the Russians to embark on this project, they would pose an immediate threat to Spanish strategic interests. He was also concerned about the Americans though the only American ship the Spanish had sighted was the frigate Columbia which had sailed from Boston. Furthermore, he sees a British as a threat as well. In order to counteract the threats posed by Russians, Americans and British, Flórez informs Valdés that he has decided to ‘feign’ (‘finjamos’) that the Spanish were already in possession of Nootka harbor, which had been discovered by Juan Perez during the first Spanish expedition to the area of 1774. He announces that he has been able, after great diffculties which included the selection of commanders, to make two ships in San Blas suffciently seaworthy to undertake the occupation of Nootka in the following year: the frigate Princesa under the command of the Alferez (Lieutenant) Esteban José Martínez and the supply boat or ‘paquebote’ Filipino under the command of the Pilot Gonzalo López de Haro. The objective of the operation was to create the impression to the Russians and other foreigners that the Spaniards had been occupying the Port of Nootka for some time. For the deception to be more effective he instructed the commanders of the expedition, together with troops, missionaries, settlers and bakers to parade themselves ostentatiously so that any visiting foreigner would gain the impression that the settlement was well established. Flórez also talks about the preparation for the settlement of Nootka: the selection of four chaplains who were to convert the Alaska Natives to Christianity, and the arrangement for the visit of the supply ship Aranzazu to take supplies and gather news from the Nootka settlers. Flórez also mentions the difficulties in San Blas harbor, where they are experiencing difficulties constructing new ships, particularly the frigates Concepcion and Favorita. The Viceroy requests that a new commander, marine officers, surgeons, and chaplains be immediately commissioned and sent to San Blas. He discusses his plans to combine the supplies of Spain’s California ‘presidios’ or military settlements with supplies obtained through expeditions from San Francisco to Nootka and Prince William Sound to Cook River.
December 23, 1788
1/4 Item 4 Copia de la orden instructiva comunicada al Alferez graduado de Navio Dn. Evetvan Jose Martínez para su govienrno y punctual obsservancia de la ocupacion del Puerto de Sn Lorenzo o Notka (Copy of the instructional order communicated to Lieutenant Esteban José Martínez for his governance and punctual occupation of the Port of San Lorenzo or Nootka)
8 leaves, text on both sides of 7 leaves. On blue paper. 8vo
This document, written by the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, provides instructions to navigator and explorer, Esteban José Martínez, to occupy Nootka, Alaska. During his 1788 voyage to Alaska, Martínez had discovered that Russian troops intended to occupy Nootka. The Spaniards decided to preempt the Russians and occupy Nootka first. The instructions state that Martínez should set sail for Nootka between January and February 1789. Martínez would be in command of the frigate Princesa and the supply ship, San Carlos el Filipino, piloted by Gonzalo Lopez de Haro. Flórez also stipulated that Martínez bring additional troops and train/arm his crew in preparation for a conflict with the Russians. Martínez was instructed to meet up with the supply ship, Aranzazu, commanded by Don José Cañizares. Cañizares would then return to the Port of San Blas, where the Viceroy was stationed, with news of Martínez’s progress. The instructions also reference a map created as a result of Captain James Cook’s expedition to the area in 1778. Flórez provides advice on how to interact with Alaska Natives during the journey, including engaging in trading and commerce and suggests that the missionaries aboard the ship begin spreading their religious message to the Indigenous peoples. Martínez was asked to erect a building, possibly to signal the Spaniards intent to create a permanent settlement. Flórez also orders Martínez to be hospitable yet firm with the Russians, making clear their claim to Nootka. If they encountered Russian resistance, they were to defend themselves and prevent the Russians from trading with Alaska Natives. Flórez explains that American ships have not been seen in the area and, if the British arrived, Martínez was to explain Spanish claims to the island. Martínez is also asked to explore the area between Prince William Sound and Nootka by dispatching the San Carlos el Filipino. Flórez explains that he will arrange for the supply ship, Aranzazu and the frigate, Concepcion, to transport additional supplies. The Viceroy ends his instructions with general recommendations on treating Alaska Natives, dealing with foreign powers, maintaining harmony between officers and crew, and preventing scurvy and food supply spoilage.
December 23, 1788
1/5 Item 5 Letter from the Junta de Estado (Regional Government) to the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez
Folio. 2 leaves. On blue paper.
In this letter, the Junta de Estado or Spanish regional government acknowledges the receipt of letters from the Viceroy of New Spain, Manuel Antonio Flórez, and supports his decision to take possession of the Port of Nootka. According to the letter, the King has ordered that Captain Juan Francisco de la Bodega and six other Navy officers be sent to the Port of San Blas from Spain to assist the expedition. The Junta grants permission to the Viceroy to undertake the building of extra ships if necessary in the Port of Realejo on the Pacific coast of Nicaragua. They also inform the Viceroy that the Junta has commissioned four surgeons to accompany the expedition and has ordered the forging of cannons to arm the ships. In the meantime, they report that they are also sending dispatches to the Russian capital informing them that the Spanish King is aware of the Russian presence on the Northwest coast of America and that they expect that future Russian navigators will abstain from settling in Spanish-controlled territories in America.
April 14, 1789
1/6 Item 6 Embarcaciones que hacen el servicio en el Departamento De San Blas son Las Siguientes (In Service boats in the Department of San Blas are the Following)
8vo. 3 leaves written on both sides and one blank leaf.
This list provides an account of the Spanish ships and their captains at the Port of San Blas at the time of the 1790 Nootka expedition, particularly those ships used to establish the demarcation line between Spanish and British territory. The ships prepared for the Nootka expedition were the Santa Gertrudis, Princesa, and Concepción. There was also the Aranzazu which had arrived from the Philippines in 1781 and had been converted from a paquebote (supply ship) into a frigate. The document ends with a list of the Presidios (military outposts) of San Francisco, Monterey, Santa Barbara, and San Diego, the names of their commanders, and the number of soldiers stationed.
1/6 Item 7 Noticias de los sueldos actuales del Departamento de San Blas (News of the Current Salaries of the Department of San Blas)
3 leaves [4p.] + plain cover with heading
An important issue raised in the previous report (Embarcaciones que hacen el servicio en el Departamento De San Blas son Las Siguientes) was the question of the salaries. This report provides the salary details of all personnel including pilots, divers, cooks, and cabin boys from the arrival of the first officers in 1774 until 1789. The letter also alludes to a Royal Order approved by the King of Spain in 1777 which changed the type of salary for many personnel from fixed to daily, ensuring that personnel were only paid when they worked.
1/7 Item 8 Resultas de la Comision del Teniente de Fragata Don Juan Matute a ocupar el Puerto de la Bodega (Report of the Commission of the First Lieutenant Don Juan Matute to occupy the Port of the Bodega)
6 leaves (4 written both sides, 1 on one side, 1 blank). 8vo
This report accounts the occupation of the Port of Bodega near San Francisco by First Lieutenant Don Juan Matute. Juan de Bodega was tasked with implementing the demarcation line between Spanish and British territory, which was decided at the Nootka Convention of 1789. During a voyage past San Francisco, Bodega discovered that British troops had landed about 60 miles north of Bodega Harbor. On his return to the Port of San Blas on the 9th of February of 1793, Bodega communicates the news to the government at the Port of San Blas. On the 17th and 18th of the same month, the government orders the immediate dispatch of the frigate Sutil under the command of Lieutenant Don Juan Bautista Matute to lay claim and settle the Port of Bodega for Spain. If they encountered the British there, they were instructed to present an official protest and withdraw. Land troops provided by the Govenor of California would support Matute’s occupation. The report recounts that Matute, who had set sail on the 23rd of March and arrived on the 26th of May, reached Bodega Harbor, the only apparent sign of the British was the presence of some small cut trees that seemed to indicate that a ship had been there. Matute suggested that it could have been the ship of James Colnett ‘Colmet’ driven to the port due to bad weather. After having explored the area for three days, he discovered that the port was in shallow waters and could only be entered by ships with a low keel. He also found that there was no timber or water within easy reach. Deeming that the establishment of the port was not feasible, he sent the frigate Aranzazu, with troops, artisans and other equipment, back to San Francisco. He also sent back the small contingent of cavalry led by the commander of the presidio (military post) of Santa Barbara who had lent Matute assistance. On the 9th of August, he returned to San Blas in the company of the frigate Atrevida, which was on its way back from exploring the Strait of Fucar.
1/8 Item 9 Resultas del Viage de las Foletas Atrevida y Mexicana al mando de Teniente de Navio D. Francisco Eliza en el reconocimiento de la Costa de Californias (Report of Mexican and [de las Foletas Atrevida] travel under Lieutenant Francisco Eliza to explore the coast of California)
12 leaves 10 written on both sides, 8vo.
This report features the accounts of Lieutenant Francisco Eliza and Pilot Juan Martínez de Zayas during their exploration of the Pacific Northwest coast from San Francisco to the Columbia River and the Straight of Fuca. The exploration of this portion of the coast had been postponed due to the urgent need to examine the coast north of Nootka and determine the extent of the Russian presence. The Viceroy of New Spain had previously commissioned Dionisio Galiano and Cayetano Valdés, commanders of the Goletas Mexicana and Sutil, to explore the area between San Francisco and the Columbia River. However, they were unable to complete the mission due to the quickly approaching winter weather. After consulting with the Commander of San Blas, Juan de Bodega, chose Lieutenant Francisco Eliza and Pilot Juan Martínez de Zayas to lead the exploration. Eliza had previously been in charge of the occupation of Nootka in 1790 and had explored the Fuca Strait in 1791. They set sail from the Port of San Blas on the 30th of April of 1793 with enough food and water supplies to last them eight months. This report states that on the 26th of May, Eliza left behind the supply ship piloted by Juan Martínez de Zayas, which he believed to be too slow. The commanders agreed to meet in Puerto de Nuñez Gaona (present day Neah Bay). Eliza piloted his own ship further north and eventually began working his way back down while exploring the coast. During this time, he reports on his difficulties in finding fresh water and his encounters with Native Americans. Eliza sets anchor at the Cape of San Sebastián and reaches the Port of Trinidad (Kodiak Islands) reaches on the 1st of August. He is able to supply himself with water and timber here. He describes Trinidad Harbor as being small, rocky, and surrounded low hills covered with pines and oaks. He also mentioned four small houses. Eliza describes the Native Americans that he encounters as affable and obliging and mentions that they use heavy, roughly made canoes. According to Eliza, unlike the Native Americans further to the north they did not use guns and seemed to have had very little contact with outsiders. On the 9th of August, Eliza reaches Bodega Harbor, where he finds the goleta Sutil under the command of the Lieutenant Don Juan Matute, who has been sent by the Viceroy or New Spain, to establish a settlement and ascertain if the British have landed. Eliza sets sail once more from Bodega Harbor towards San Francisco accompanied by the goleta Sutil. On this second leg of the journey, Eliza explains that the coast is entirely inhabited by Native Americans, whom he provides gifts of cloth to as a gesture of goodwill. He arrives in San Francisco on the 3rd of September and commissions his pilots to create a map of the bay. Eliza then sails to San Blas via Santa Barbara and San Diego. Having made it all the way to the Columbia River, Martínez de Zayas’ account provides additional information on the voyage. On the 5th of June, after having been left behind by Eliza a few days earlier, Martínez de Zayas encounters the frigate Aranzazu. He provides the frigate with 12 barrels of fresh water. On the 24th of July, Martínez de Zayas reaches the Strait of Juan de Fuca and heads towards the Puerto de Nuñez Gaona. While waiting for Eliza, he repairs his ship, with the help of the local Native Americans, who provide Martínez de Zayas with fruit and fish. During this time, Martínez de Zayas comes across some unmapped islands which he calls ‘Deseados’. He sails down the coast, passing the Isla de los Dolores and Punta de Labastida, mapping and taking depth soundings. On the 6th of August, they reached Puerto de Grek, present day Grays Harbor. Martínez de Zayas describes the harbor as being exposed and recounts encounters with both peaceful and aggressive Native Americans. On the 11th of August at 8 o’clock in the morning, Martínez de Zayas begins his exploration of the Columbia River using a sloop and a launch boat loaded with supplies. He enters the river with ‘innumerable’ canoes loaded with ‘robust’ Native Americans of ‘good disposition’. After covering 14 miles by noon, the Native Americans became threatening. The Spaniards respond with open fire. Unable to proceed and unwilling to leave his troops at the mercy of ‘treasonous’ and ‘proud’ Native Americans, Martínez de Zayas orders his men to head out to sea with the low tide. The next day, Martínez de Zayas heads south, reaching the Cape of Santa María de La Luz, passing through Lucout Harbour on the 15th, the Cape of Fonrreatel on the 16th, Cape Perpetua on the 19th, Cape Gregori on the 20th, Punta del Marques on the 30th, and the Cape of San Sebastián on the 31st. Here, Martínez de Zayas discovers an entrance to the Cape which he believes leads to Sigman Harbour. At 2pm on the 1st of September, Martínez de Zayas and his men spot Trinidad Harbor and map Cape Montecino, about two hundred miles north of San Francisco. He described the Cape as ‘a mountain the highest one after the Cape of Toledo’. He then sails down the coast passing Cape Vizcaíno and Punta Delgada before reaching Bodega Harbor on the 4th of September at 2:30 in the afternoon. Here, Martínez de Zayas had planned to meet up with Matute, though he learns that Matute is no longer there. Instead, under the order of Juan de Bodega, he maps the harbor from the 5th to the 11th of September. Martínez de Zayas claims that, if the harbor entrance were broad enough to allow big ships to enter, it would be ‘the best harbur on the whole coast´. He also attempts to ascertain the extent of the Native American population, but finds that it is difficult due to the scattered nature of settlements. Martínez de Zayas arrives in San Francisco on the 17th September and on the 16th of October he sets sail for San Diego where he joins the goleta Sutil. Both ships reached San Blas on the 4th of November.
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Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

Subject Terms

  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)

Personal Names

  • Flores, Manuel Antonio,  -1799--Correspondence
  • Martínez, Esteban José, 1742-1798--Correspondence

Geographical Names

  • Northwest, Pacific--Discovery and exploration--Early works to 1800
  • Northwest, Pacific--Discovery and exploration--Spanish--Early works to 1800
  • Pacific Coast (U.S.)--Discovery and exploration--Early works to 1800
  • Pacific Coast (U.S.)--Discovery and exploration--Spanish--Early works to 1800