The Sutil and Mexicana sailed along the coast of the Pacific Northwest in 1792, their stated mission to put to rest the persistent rumors of the mythical strait connecting the Pacific and Atlantic in the neighborhood of the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the present-day border of Canada and the United States. This would be the last Spanish exploration along the Pacific Coast after 250 years of primacy in charting those waters.
Commanded by Dionisio Alcalea Galiano and Cayento Valdés y Flores, and inaugurated by Alejandro Malaspina, the voyage is the origin of our knowledge of part of the coast of British Columbia and its inhabitants. The two ships stopped and spent time at Nootka prior to exploring in detail the coastline inside the Strait of Juan de Fuca and north of Vancouver, Canada.
Called the definitive account of the voyage by Donald Cutter, noted expert on the Spanish explorations. Through painstaking research, the translator and editor identified the original manuscript account of the voyage, most likely prepared Galiano. It varies significantly from the account published in Spain in 1802, and translated into English by Cecil Jane in 1930. The variances are carefully noted and accounted for by the editor.
Considerable ethnological data are included in the document. The ships had frequent contacts with the indigenous people along the coast, noting variations in their language, their trading techniques, their fear, friendliness or hostility towards the vessels and crew.
George Vancouver was conducting his explorations at the same time as the Sutil and Mexicana, and the two parties joined for several days to make cooperative surveys and share information. Vancouver and his second in command, Puget, entertained the Spaniards on his ship Discovery several evenings, and their relations were extremely cordial.
The Drawings of José Cardero, an artist assigned to the expedition, depicting the natives and landscapes were a major contribution to the voyage account. Thirteen of his drawings are included in the book, in addition to portraits of the two captains and maps of the voyage.
An extensive introduction is provided giving an historical background to the voyage, the history of the original published account, and a careful analysis of the document now published. Short biographies of the major participants are also provided.
A glossary of place names identifying present-day terms for the Spanish locations named in the document is added for reference. Two appendices containing letters regarding preparation of the voyage account and the ship manifests also supplement the text.