The Coveted Pacific Coast

Russian, British and Spanish Plans

Continued Spanish Exploration

Captain Alejandro Malaspina, Marina real, circa 1795

Caption: Captain Alejandro Malaspina, Marina real, circa 1795

View Multimedia - Changing Boundaries

Caption: View Multimedia - Changing Boundaries

As early as 1788, Spain was preparing an expedition to the Pacific with both a scientific and a political aim. It was to be commanded by one of Spain's foremost scientists, Captain Alejandro Malaspina. Although these scientific and political objectives were important, the military aspect of the expedition was important as well. In fact, after receiving his instructions Malaspina had to identify those harbours that would be suitable as bases for Spanish warships, to evaluate the security and defence of colonial maritime trade, and to determine how advanced were the European establishments in the Pacific, in particular those of the British in Australia. One portion of his route would also include a detailed exploration of the northwest coast of North America, along what is now British Columbia. Two corvettes, the Descubierta and the Atrevida, equipped with the most advanced scientific instruments and each carrying 24 guns, were built for the project, and Malaspina's expedition left Cadiz for the Pacific as planned on July 30, 1789.