CAAMANO, Jacinto (1759 - 1825?). Plano de la Entrada de Bucareli... ,descuvierto Pr Dn Juan Franco del la Bodega y Quadra. Spain: 1792
Single sheet (21 4/8 x 18 1/8 inches). Fine original manuscript map, "Plano de la Entrada de Bucareli situada en el Latitud N de 55.15' Longitud 28.58' al O des Blas,descuvierto Pr Dn Juan Franco del la Bodega y Quadra". [Manuscript chart of Bucareli Sound, Alaska, scale in nautical miles], pen and ink on paper.
A RARE EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY SPANISH MANUSCRIPT OF ALASKA
This fascinating Northwestern Pacific chart showing Bucareli Sound, Alaska,was probably prepared on Jacinto Caamano's return to Europe in 1792, after his journey of exploration to the Americas. Caamano's voyage was the first on behalf of the Spanish crown to examine the Northwest coast of America north of 53 degrees, near Queen Charlotte Island, British Columbia. It was here in 1787 that James Colnett, an Englishman, reported to have discovered the Strait of Bartholemew Fonte, believed to provide a deep water passage between the Pacific and Hudson's Bay. Fearful of losing ground to the English and French in the lucrative field of American colonization, the Spanish government hoped that Caamano's voyage to the New World would result in the discovery of the fabled passage to the Orient and thereby revive Spain's international commercial predominance.
Caamano sailed his ship, the Aranzazu, into Nootka in May 1792. The Spanish commandant at Nootka, Bodega y Quadra, decided to send him to survey the coast of the Alaskan panhandle from Bucareli Sound south to eliminate the last gaps in cartographic knowledge of the coastline in that region. The Spanish by this time knew that there was a maze of islands and channels at that latitude (the Alexander Archipelago in the Alaskan panhandle), and thought there was an outside chance they could still find the legendary Strait of Bartholemew de Fonte. If such a passage existed, it was critical to find it before any boundary agreement was signed with Britain. At one point, Caamano entered a large strait and followed it north for 100 miles. It was an inland passage just north of Ketchikan, named Clarence Strait by George Vancouver a year later, but Caamano thought for some time it must be the de Fonte Strait. Although incorrect Caamano's voyage did show that much of what had previously been considered mainland (Prince of Wales Island, with Bucareli Sound on its west coast), was in fact an archipelago, thus adding considerably to Spanish cartographical knowledge. Caamano returned to Nootka in September. Though he was unable to confirm the mythical Northwest Passage described by Colnett, his voyage resulted in crucial new discoveries along the coasts of Northern British Columbia and Southern Alaska.
Bucareli's Sound is on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island, Alaska, in the area of Klawak and Craig, near the most northern point of Caamano's voyage. The sound was discovered by Bodega y Quadra in 1775, as Caamano duly notes on this map of the region. This chart is delicately executed, with delineations of the coastlines, sand banks, depths and rocks, and Caamano names the islands and headlands. The fineness of draftsmanship suggests that it was a presentation piece for the royal hydrographic authorities in Spain.