Malaspina, New South Wales and the Nootka Crisis

Robert King, Historian, Canberra, Australia, Discussing Malaspina, New South Wales and the Nootka Crisis

Maritime Museum of British Columbia

© 2007 Maritime Museum of British Columbia


Malaspina’s second left Cadiz in July, 1789 and, at that very time, Spanish representatives, the Spanish Commander at Nootka Sound was arresting three English fur trading ships, under the command of James Colnett. That sparked the famous Nootka Sound controversy of 1790, during which Britain and Spain almost went to war over the question of sovereignty, rights to settlement, rights to fish for whales in the Pacific. Malaspina was in the Pacific at that time when the crisis reached its full strength with his two ships, the Descubierta and the Atrevida, named after Cook’s ships, the Discovery and the Resolution. His two ships were, in fact, two very well-armed warships. So when matters turned war-like, began to wear a "war-like" aspect, The British government became very concerned of what these two warships would possibly do to British interests in the Pacific, they might even attack New South Wales. And in fact, Malaspina told the Viceroy of Mexico that he was quite prepared to use his ships to attack the British anywhere in the Pacific. So the British Government decided to send a secret expedition into the Pacific to almost surreptitiously, as it were, found a British settlement at Nootka. They decided to use three warships to do that, sent secretly. Two of them from England and a third, a frigate, from India, from the Indian station. They were to use Port Jackson settlement as a base; they were to rendezvous at Port Jackson and pick up settlers, convict settlers, to form the nucleus of the new settlement at Nootka.

Teachers' Centre Home Page | Find Learning Resources & Lesson Plans