The Coveted Pacific Coast

Garrison Life at Nootka

Exploration and Skirmishes Continue

Natives going to meet the Spanish navy schooners Sutil and Mexicana in 1792

Caption: Natives going to meet the Spanish navy schooners Sutil and Mexicana in 1792

In 1791-92, Nootka served as a small naval base for Spanish naval explorations, and several of the garrison soldiers were assigned to ships to serve as marines. These expeditions were sometimes perilous. For example, in 1791 near the town now called Esquimalt warriors in canoes forced Commander Francisco de Eliza's men to turn back. The following year a Spanish navy pilot was assassinated by Amerindians when he was hunting in what is today Neah Bay (Washington). This led his commander, Salvador Fidalgo, to open fire on two canoes of peaceful Amerindians, killing several of them. It is worth noting that Fidalgo was reprimanded by his superiors in Mexico and Spain alike for this impetuous act. To the north, several men of the Aranzazu barely escaped the Haida of the Queen Charlotte Islands. In the vicinity of Vancouver Island the members of the crew of the small ships Sutil and Mexicana, on loan from the Malaspina expedition under the command of Dionisio Alcalâ-Galiano and Cayetano Valdés y Flores Bazan, had more peaceful experiences.

Additional Images

Frigate Captain Dionisio Alcalá-Galiano, Marina real, circa 1792