The Malaspina Expedition 1789-1794. The Journal of the Voyage by Alejandro Malaspina. Vols. I and II. 2001 and 2003.

Andrew David, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, Carlos Novi and Glyndwr Williams (eds).
The Malaspina Expedition 1789-1794. The Journal of the Voyage by Alejandro Malaspina. 
Vol. I. Cadiz to Panama.
Vol. II. Panama to the Philippines.
Hakluyt Society.
2001 (ISBN 0904180727) and 2003 (ISBN 0904180816).

Alejandro Malaspina is a name probably unknown to most English speaking people, as is the fact that he led one of the great eighteenth century voyages to the Pacific. Part of the reason for this was of Malaspina's own making. On his return to Spain he made an enemy of the King's closest advisor and was imprisoned as a traitor. All his journals and notes were taken from him and so no official account was written, even in Spanish, for nearly fifty years. Even then the role of Malaspina was virtually eliminated.

Malaspina was originally from Palma in northern Italy, at that time under Spanish rule. He joined the Spanish navy and rose in the ranks. He wished to emulate the likes of Cook and Lapérouse and bring some glory once again to Spain so proposed a voyage to the Pacific under his command. This was granted and he sailed in 1789 in two ships. His respect for Cook can be shown in the names of the ships, Atrevida (Resolution) and Descubierta (Discovery). The voyage achieved much, providing new information about Tonga, Alaska, British Columbia and Chile.

Only in recent times has Malaspina been restored to his rightful position as a Pacific explorer. Once again the Hakluyt Society has figured prominently, in conjunction with the Museo Naval in Madrid, by commissioning a group of scholars to translate and edit the material for publication. These scholars have succeeded admirably and readers will recognise among them Andrew David and Glyn Williams, two Cook experts.

Two volumes have appeared so far, which take the voyage as far as mid 1792 at Manila in the Philippines. The first volume covers the expedition rounding South America and reaching Peru. The second volume takes the expedition north to Alaska and back to California and British Columbia before crossing the ocean to Manila. They maintain the Hakluyt's high standard and I look forward to the third and final volume (which should include their half-day visit to New Zealand).

John Robson

Originally published in Cook's Log, page 30, volume 27, number 2 (2004).

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