No. 39: Saturday May 16, 1795
Madrid, April 4
The corvettes the Descubierta and the Atrevida, and the Schooner the Sutil, which set off from Cádiz towards the end of July 1789 in order to reconnoitre the coasts of South America, and the adjacent islands from Cape Horn to the shores of North-west America, have recently returned to our ports: through the discoveries made during this expedition it has been established with certainty that there is no passage from the North-west coasts of America to the Atlantic Ocean in the latitudes of 59, 60 and 61 degrees. The schooners the Sutil and the Mexicana, which separated from the other ships at the very beginning of 1792, have collaborated with the English vessels commanded by Captain Vancouver to determine the location of the immense archipelago named after Admiral Fonte and Juan de Fuca. The corvettes dedicated most of that same year to the observation and study of the Marianas Islands, the Philippines, and Macao on the coast of China: they sailed together between the island of Mindanao and those of New Guinea, and, crossing the equator and proceeding to the east, they traversed 500 leagues of unknown seas. They passed the New Hebrides, visited New Zealand, New Holland, and the archipelago of the Friendly Islands including Vavau, which up to that day had not been explored by any foreign navigator. This expedition has considerably increased our knowledge of botany, lithology, and hydrography. The experiments conducted on the gravity of bodies, repeated in various latitudes, will lead us to important discoveries about the irregularity of the shape of the earth; these discoveries will serve as baselines for a universal measure [of length] of the kind it is desired in Europe to establish, which is easy to verify and as consistent as the laws on which it depends. Through the study of the civil and political history of the nations visited, the men of the region have been examined, and the gathering of artefacts has shone much light on the various migrations of these peoples, and on the progress of their civilization. Throughout the immense extent of the Spanish dominions, Nature has produced species, treasures until now unknown, which will give rise to new speculation capable of increasing the strength and power of this Monarchy. By the greatest fortune none of these discoveries has cost humankind a single tear, an event without parallel in voyages of this kind, whether ancient or modern; all the tribes and peoples visited will bless the memory of those who, far from dyeing their rivers red with blood, have comported themselves in such a way as to offer nothing but new ideas, tools and useful seeds. Finally, the corvettes were no less fortunate in the preservation of the health of their crew. They lost only three or four crew members from each ship, despite having been exposed for a long period of time to the burning heat of the torrid zone: the death of Don Antonio de Pineda was the only unhappy outcome of this expedition. The journal of the voyage will be published, and the prospectus is already being prepared. If judged by the merit of Captain Alexandro Malaspina, it will certainly be most interesting.
Text courtesy of Robert King; translated by Manula Fahme and John Black. Italian Original
Updated: January 21, 2015