Alexandro Malaspina to his brother Azzo Giacinto  (*)

Puerto Deseado, December 11, 1789

      I am seizing the opportunity afforded by the arrival here of a brigantine which will shortly return to Buenos Aires to inform you that my health remains strong and that the work I have undertaken is proceeding with the greatest success.
      In the account of Byron’s voyage, you will find the details of this harbour, where however I have had greater success than he, having entered it to finalise [the charting of] the whole Patagonian coast reconnoitred thus far, to make observations of the harbour itself, and to occupy myself with astronomy and natural history. I hope that this particular part of our findings will satisfy the curiosity of those in Europe, since we had the good fortune to be visited by a tribe of Patagonians, which has enabled us to investigate their customs and language with more exactness than has been achieved by other Europeans so far (1).
     Our method of conducting the astronomical work is undoubtedly the most precise that has been employed for the preparation of the charts, and our timepieces, most of them at least, maintain a highly uniform rate even in the extreme cold. I will have no more rest until I reach Valparaiso, in Chile, from where you will receive news that constraints of time oblige me now to withhold; urging you only to greet my friends and relatives on my behalf, I beg you to keep close to your heart your …


(*) Unpublished; original now lost; copy in ACAM; D. MANFREDI, Alessandro Malaspina e Fabio Ala Ponzone. Lettera dal Vecchio e Nuovo Mondo (1788-1803), Bologna, Il Mulino, 1999, pp. .211-212. The document is in the handwriting of Azzo Giacinto Malaspina.  [Editing Criteria]

(1) Europeans nourished in themselves a great curiosity about the Patagonians, since the earliest accounts of voyages (e.g. those of Sebastian Cabot and Francis Drake) took pleasure in describing them as of gigantic proportions. The later testimony of Sarmiento de Gamboa set the matter to rights, but in the second half of the 18th century the curiosity had still not been allayed; cf. Viaggio intorno al mondo fatto dalla nave inglese Il Delfino comandata dal Capo-Squadra Byron, Florence, 1768, pp. 36-46. [English readers should consult: An Account of the Voyages Undertaken by the Order of His Present Majesty for Making Discoveries in the Southern Hemisphere, And successively performed by Commodore Byron, Captain Wallis, Captain Carteret, and Captain Cook, in the Dolphin, the Swallow, and the Endeavour: Drawn Up from the Journals which were kept by the several Commanders, and from the Papers of Joseph Banks, Esq; By John Hawkesworth, LL.D. In Three Volumes. Illustrated with Cuts, and a great Variety of Charts and Maps relative to Countries now first discovered, or hitherto but imperfectly known. Vol. I. London: Printed for W. Strahan; and T. Cadell in the Strand, MDCCLXXIII.]

Text courtesy of the Centro di Studi Malaspiniani, Mulazzo, Italy; notes by Dario Manfredi.     Italian Original

Updated: June 5, 2018