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Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra (22 May 1744 26 March 1794) was a Spanish naval officer born in Lima, Peru. Assigned to the Spanish Naval Department base at San Blas, in what now is the Mexican state of Nayarit, this navigator explored the Northwest Coast of North America as far north as Alaska.

Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra joined the Spanish Naval Academy in Cadiz at 19, and four years later, in 1767 was commissioned as an officer of the rank Frigate Ensign (alferez de fragata). In 1773 he was promoted to Ship Ensign (alferez de navio), and in 1774 to Ship Lieutenant (teniente de navio).

The Spaniards were given orders to explore the coast and to go ashore so that the newly discovered territories would be recognized as Spanish lands. Most important for the expedition was the identification of Russian settlements. The ships left San Blas on 16 March 1775. Illnesses (scurvy), storms, poor sailing capacities of the Sonora, and other incidents slowed their progress. On 13 July 1775, they reached the vicinity of Point Grenville and Destruction Island in the state of Washington. While searching for a safe place for the ships to anchor, which was one of the duties of the Sonora, Bodega y Quadra sailed over what is now called Sonora Reef. He immediately realized his mistake and signaled the Santiago to not follow. The wind direction and changing tide trapped the Sonora between Sonora Reef and Point Grenville. The Santiago anchored a few miles to the south, in Grenville Bay. The Sonora attracted the attention of a nearby Quinault village. Many Quinault visited the schooner, trading with the crew and giving gifts of food. Early the next day an armed party from the Santiago went ashore and quickly conducted a possession ceremony, which was observed by some Quinaults. Later that morning, Bodega y Quadra decided to sent six sailors ashore to collect water and wood. A large number of Quinaults appeared, attacked, and killed the shore party. Bodega y Quadra was unable to help as the party had taken the schooner's only boat. At noon he weighed anchor, hoping to escape the shoals at high tide. Progress was slow as the wind was low and the crew significantly reduced. Nine large canoes carrying about 30 Quinaults carrying bows and shields followed and came along side the Sonora. They made signs of friendship which Bodega y Quadra rejected. The Quinaults in one of the canoes approached in an attempt to board the Sonora, but once the canoe was in range of the schooner's two swivel guns and three muskets it was fired upon, killing "the greater number of them", according to Bodega's journal. Bodega wanted to avenge his lost sailors was overruled by Heceta, who pointed out the expedition had orders to use force only in self-defense. Quinault ethnologists have come up with theories about the sudden attack, one being that the land-claiming ceremony was understood for what it was. Of particular note was the placement of a large cross on the beach. The Quinault would have understood that the erecting of a tall pole with a crossbar during an obviously religious ritual was a symbolically powerful act.

Related websites

Spanish Place Names on the Face of Alaska

History of Southern Oregon: Pacific Coast -- by A. G. Walling 1884

Vancouver Island History

Canadian Military Heritage

Spanish Exploration: Hezeta (Heceta) and Bodega y Quadra Expedition of 1775 to Formally Claim the Pacific Northwest for Spain

BC Bookworld on Bodega y Quadra

Biography at the Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online

HistoryLink: Spanish Exploration (1775)

HistoryLink: Spanish Exploration (1779)

THE SPANISH Explore the West Coast

Spanish exploration

Book Review: At the Far Reaches of Empire: The Life of Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra

American memory

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