Discovering the Region: Texts

4. José Narváez, Narrative of a Voyage on the Northwest Coast

Jim McDowell, José Narváez: The Forgotten Explorer; Including His Narrative of a Voyage on the Northwest Coast in 1788
(Spokane: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1998), 109-16.

. . . . TUESDAY, MAY 27. At noon, we continued toward the inside of Prince William Sound. During the afternoon, various Indian canoes came along side and one large one approached the commander's ship. Until evening, we continued navigating along the east coast of Montague Island about one mile offshore. Sighting some [smaller] islands,[28] we passed through the canal between the largest one and Montague Island. At 2:45, being nearby, the commander signaled to anchor. I believed we were at 60°08’N of latitude and 42°32’ of longitude, west of San Blas.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 28. At noon, we remained anchored there, making barrels. At dawn on the 29th, the launch went ashore with the empty barrels to collect water and wood. Half of the troops were armed. Nothing else happened until 25 casks of water were collected. Four canoes of Indians came this morning and [the natives] remained on board until nightfall.

FRIDAY, MAY 30. At 5:30, both boats saluted with 11 cannons in honor of King San Fernando of Spain. We also collected eight more casks of water.

SATURDAY, MAY 31. At 10:00, the commander’s boat arrived with orders for the captain and other officers to take possession of this island the next day. During the day, tar was put on the ship's sides. Four barges were built and loaded with seven casks, three barrels and wood. Near nightfall, two Indians arrived in a canoe. We tied a two-real coin around each of their necks with a ribbon. They left shortly afterwards.

28. The Islas Vertis or “Green Islands” of Cook, which Martínez sighted May 26.

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SUNDAY, JUNE 1. At 8:00, we went ashore in our boat with all the troops armed. The Chief Chaplain and other officers equal to the commander walked in procession along the beach with a big cross, which was already on land for this purpose. The banner of Our Lady of the Rosary was placed on top of it. When the procession was concluded, the chaplain priest Don José María Diaz said Mass. It was the first one said between 55° and 60° [of latitude] on these coasts. The chaplains of both boats, the remaining officers and the whole troop assisted. When the Mass was concluded, the cross was taken in procession to a place that had been selected close to a brook of water that ran out to the ocean, where it was separated by a great pine. The holy cross was nailed with three iron spikes to the side of the tree that faced the island’s interior. Carved down its length was this inscription: Carolus Tertius Hispaniarum & Indiarium Rex. At the head it read: INRI. On the arms was carved Año de 1788.

During the ceremonies of the procession, Mass and procession, the soldiers fired some fusillades, each of which was answered by three cannon shots from each of the ships. Indians in five canoes watched when we came ashore, but when they heard the racket the artillery made, they left in fear. When the function was finished, we walked the entire beach without being able to go inland because of the quantity of snow that covered the edge of the beach. But we found many blackberries, pine and cypress. We also discovered a large beam, carved by a skillful carpenter. We saw a few gray [sea] ducks with red beaks and a large number of sea gulls. The beach was covered with tiny, tiny rocks. The barges were tied to the land without a single worry. At this spot on the island, various brooks of water ran to the ocean. At the cove where we landed, we placed flowers in honor of Señor Don Manuel Antonio Flórez, Como. Viceroy of New Spain. [The place was named Port Flórez[29] after the Viceroy of New Spain.] On

29. Puerto de Flórez

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this day, by order of the commander, the entrance to Prince William Sound was named the entrance to Prince Carlos [Sound].[30]

SATURDAY, JUNE 7. Today the commander and the rest of the officers held a meeting,[31] in which he proposed that, only if the winds were favorable, could we fulfill the first point that the king put in his instructions by sailing north 02°, even though there wasn't a single establishment [in the area] of Trinidad.[32] It was agreed that all of us would meet at 60°44’N of latitude, where we could see the continental shore with the

30. By mentioning this renaming, Narváez may have been hinting at the dispute over locations that had been raging between Martínez and his officers for two weeks. According to official complaints filed by Martínez’ pilot Antonio Serantes and López de Haro upon the expedition’s return to San Blas, which were corroborated by Narváez and José Verdia, the conflict stemmed from a series of disputes between Martinez and Serantes over log entries. The argument began May 15, when a large island was sighted. Martínez insisted it was Isla del Carmen shown on the 1779 chart. Serantes said it was Cook’s Montague Island, which was farther west on the chart. From then on, the infuriated Martínez allegedly treated Serantes with contempt and demanded that he alter his journal to conform with the commander's log. Among all the officers on the expedition, only Estevan Mondofía agreed with Martínez. But the commander refused to give in, prolonged the argument and resisted the urgings of his officers to fully investigate Prince William Sound.

In his report to the Viceroy on October 28, 1788, López de Haro said Martinez “reduced everything to so much foolishness…[that] from the 17th to the 23rd of May we navigated in such a disjointed fashion as Your Excellency will see in the logs, and will know that due to this defect a good many days were wasted and we lost the opportunity of entering where Captain Cook did in Prince William.” [In other words, penetrating to Valdez Arm.] López de Haro alleged that Martínez ordered false courses and winds recorded to cover up his own deficiencies and his “disinclination to enter Prince William Sound.”

On his chart of the voyage, López de Haro marked the Entrada del San Carlos at the head of Valdez Arm, which remains open-ended—i.e. unexplored.

On June 2, Martinez argued again with his officers about the expedition’s position. In full view of everyone of the quarterdeck, the commander slapped Serantes, spat on him and knocked him flat. The next day, he arrested Serantes, placed him aboard the San Carlos as a prisoner, stripped him of all responsibilities, and replaced him with Juan Martínez y Zayas, López de Haro’s second pilot. In his report to the Viceroy, Serantes said the commander’s actions stemmed from “a total insanity due to drunkenness.”

31. Aboard the Princesa.

32. A term Martínez first used to refer to the general area on the mainland above 61° in Prince William Sound and later gave to Cook’s Trinity Islands, immediately southeast of Kodiak Island. Narváez uses the term to refer to (in order): the mainland above 61° in Prince William Sound, the expedition’s destination on Unalaska Island, and the Trinity Islands. It appears that the latter two remained confused until the San Carlos reached the Kenai Peninsula and the expedition obtained better information from the Russians.

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naked eye. According to a report brought by the Second Pilot Don Estevan de Mondofía, who had commanded an [exploration] launch,[33] winds from the first quarter[34] would prevent us from sailing up the sound for about 10 days. If the winds did not change [and come] from below, we would then be unable to ascend Trinidad. But if the winds were to change 02° to 03° on the quintant toward the west, we could sail up to the continent and leave through the other mouth between Montague Island and the coast.[35] Given these conditions, we all agreed and returned to our ship.[36]

TUESDAY, JUNE 10.  I was ordered to sail on a fully armed launch so that I could make a survey of [Montague Island]. During the day, I navigated along the coast of Montague Island at a regular distance to the NE ¼ N. At 12:00 noon, I found myself between the northernmost part of the island and a large one named Green Island by Captain Cook.[37] From this point, I tracked NE ¼ E with a calm wind. At 6:00 P.M., I arrived at the northeasternmost point of Montague Island. But I continued to the northeast to see if I could reach the continent during the day, because I estimated we were about seven leagues from it. By 8:30, I was about four leagues away. I recognized the cove between Montague Island and the coast and the large cove called Puerto de Santiago[38] by the Spaniards of the past expedition.[39] This cove had been described clearly

33. On June 6, Martinez had sent Mondofia in a launch to reconnoiter. He reached latitude 60°44', where he saw the continental shore.

34. North of east.

35. Montague Strait.

36. Martinez recorded that it was decided to abandon any attempt to proceed farther north because of contrary winds and to go to Trinidad.

37. Islas Vertis or the present Green Island.

38. Now Port Etches on the west side of Hinchinbrook Island.

39. In 1799. A note on a later map made by Bodgea, summarizing Spanish discoveries on North America's west coast up to 1791, states: “El Cabo de San Elías, La Montaña de San Elías, La Isla Carmen, La Ensenada de Valdés, and El Puerto de Santiago in La Isla de la Magdalena, were discovered in 1779 by Don Ignacio Artega and Don Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra, in which voyage [the third Bucareli expedition] possession was taken at Santiago, survey made of Los Bocas de Quadra, and also of La Isla de Quirós, now called [Isla] de Montague.” (See: Mourelle de la Rúa, Francisco Antonio, Voyage of the Sonora. . . .)

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to me by the first and second pilots of one of the ships used for the expedition of 1779.[40] They had given me various notes, which I verified.

I sailed into the cove to the ESE and found 21 fathoms of water. From there, I was pleased to see the [inlet] that Cook places[41] at 61° and a multitude of islands along the east coast of this large harbor. At 8:45, I sailed into it until I was even with Montague Island. At 10:30 P.M., I found a sheltered bridge of land and we anchored in five fathoms of water to give the crew a rest. We spent the night there.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 11.  At 3:00 A.M., I began navigating the boat. At 9:00, I arrived at a large cove about five leagues from the northwest point of Montague Island. In this cove I found about eight or 10 reefs near the middle of the island. The largest one was connected to the island. At the edge of the beach I found a large [partly destroyed house] facing the mountain.[42] The side that faced the ocean had four square windows made of wood and yellow cane. Landing the boat, I leaped ashore with the troop and saw that [the house] was intact and made with much beauty and skill. Seeing no people at all, I explored the headland a bit. I found many trees cut down with heavy axes and others with the bark removed. Some of them had been cut in the manner of shingles and placed on the top of the roof.

At 9:30 A.M., I embarked in the boat and continued sailing along the shore. At 7:15 P.M., I arrived back at the ship. During the entire expedition, I didn’t encounter more than four canoes of Indians. I shared all my findings with the captain and he conveyed them to the commander.

40. José Camacho and Juan Pantoja aboard the Princesa. They placed it at 60°14’N & 45°20’W of San Blas; it was actually 60°17’N & 41°17’W.

41. Valdez Arm.

42. This may have been Potap Zaikov’s winter quarters in 1783-84, but the Spanish logs do not indicate they recognized it at the time as evidence of Russian presence. Later, Narváez would conclude first that it belonged to Captain Evstrat Delarov and then later it had been built by Zaikov in 1787. The mountain was Montague Peak (el. 2,175 ft.).

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THURSDAY, JUNE 12.  At 2:00 P.M., the launch was sent to one of the Green Islands to cut grass and wild celery. It returned at 10:00 P.M. without incident.

SUNDAY, JUNE 15.  At 3:00 P.M., the commander went on watch and we started to turn at our anchorage, changing direction to the S ¼. At this hour, the wind was almost calm, so we remained in this position. After a short time, the commander cast anchor and we passed the gaskets[43] of the top mainsail.

MONDAY, JUNE 16.  At 9:00, we turned at our anchorage. At 9:45, we set sail with the top mainsail and veered to the S and S ¼ SW. At 3:00, we came near the commander’s ship and he sent his boat to tell us that he was going to set sail and that we should follow him. He started out, towing the ship. At 4:00, the tide was flowing through the inside and the wind was still calm, so the commander dropped anchor. We followed suit in 36 fathoms. This anchorage was between the southernmost point of Montague Island to the SSW and San Antonio Island[44] was at 38°W, each of which were about ½-mile away.

TUESDAY, JUNE 17.  At 10:00 A.M., we changed direction. At 4:00 P.M., Indians [from] six canoes came on board. At 7:30, the commander dropped anchor. At 10:00, we dropped ours in 19 fathoms. We were off the southwesternmost point of Montague Island which was to the S 15° E. The most southeastern part of San Antonio Island was to the NW.

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 18.  At dawn, the wind was calm but the sky gave a bad appearance. It remained that way all day. No Indians came.

Note: Two pagans that we have seen in this [region] are of moderate stature. They have light-colored skin and short,

43. Tarred fabric wraps, which were two-to-three yards long, used to bind the furled sail to its yard.

44. Today’s La Touche and Elrington islands.

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black hair. They make a hole inside their lower lip, in which they carry a carved bone with holes, from which they hang guitar-like threads of glass beads. They do the same thing with their ears. At first sight, they look like they are carrying little rattles[45] Their bodies are covered with cloaks[46] made of skins from bears, mountain lions, and wolf-fish. Others are made of duck skin. All are carefully sewn and fitted to the body.

Their canoes are shaped like a harp and sheathed on the outside with little span ropes. The frames of the canoes are fabricated on the inside of very thin ribs of wood, woven into a perfectly engineered shape. In the same style, they have an enclosure in which there is a round hatch, like the mouth of an earthen jar. The Indian gets into this. No matter how much swell there is, he travels free of getting any of his body wet. His arms are free to row with small oars.

It has been noted that these pagans hold iron in high regard. They also value glass beads. On their heads, they were perfectly woven reed hats. They smear their faces with earth that is the color of red meat. Others smudge their faces in black. They eat our food with loathing. Their food is limited to whale, marine animals and all kinds of raw fish. In place of bread they eat sliced whale. Their weapons are arrows, the heads of which are made  of flint or whalebone. They use harpoons for fishing. They also carry iron daggers on some long sticks like iron-pointed staffs. They ground the iron until it is sharp and they use if for cutting things. Lacking this metal, they use flint.

With respect to their language, it is impossible to understand them. We can only make out some terms, which Captain Cook included in his vocabulary. When we repeat these,

45. sarrillos

46. Alba: the alb, or long sleeved vestment worn chiefly by priests.

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they continue their conversations, which remain unitelligible. They study our ship with much attention. In the ease with which they travel the coast, they show they have seen other expeditions. Through various signs that they repeat, they tell us that two expeditions of three-masted ships have come to their ships have come to this spot.  We have asked them various questions about their knowledge of the Russian nation. But they answer in a manner that we do not understand. At the same time, they do not seem to understand us. In talking, it was recognized that they also are governed by a king, whom we have seen various times when he came near our ship. By the way the rest of the pagans treated him and by the things that they bartered for glass beads, we inferred that he was superior to all of them.

THURSDAY, JUNE 19.  At 12:00 [noon], we sailed, fully-rigged. At 4:00 [P.M.], we found ourselves [running] E [to] W of the southernmost point of Montague Island. At 5:30, the commander anchored. At 6:30, the southwesternmost  point of Montague Island was to the NE and the middle of San Antonio Island to the N 12° W, about two nautical miles away from the former.

FRIDAY, JUNE 20.  At 3:45 A.M., the commander set sail and we followed at 4:30. At noon, we were at 59°50’N of latitude and the southwesternmost point of Montague Island was at an angle of 81°02’ on the quintant. I believed the true longitude was 43°26’ west of San Blas.

FRIDAY, JUNE 20 TO SATURDAY, JUNE 21.  I could not observe our latitude because the sun was covered with clouds. The southernmost point of Montague Island was at an angle of 89°01’ on the quintant and about eight or nine leagues away. I believed the true longitude was about 44°00’ west of San Blas. At noon, we continued to the S ¼ SW. At 9:00 P.M., the most southeast part of Montague Island was to the N 63° E, about four leagues away.

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