MOURELLE, Francisco




Author Tags: 1700-1800, Spanish

“Both sexes exhibited docility and agreeableness.”
—MOURELLE SUMMARIZING CONTACTS WITH HAIDA IN 1774

An English translation of Francisco Mourelle’s 1775 journal mysteriously appeared in 1781 amid Daines Barrington’s compilation of scientific articles entitled Miscellanies. It is not known how a copy of Mourelle’s journal was acquired for English translation. It rivals John Rickman’s journal as the earliest account of British Columbia to appear in English.

Francisco A. Mourelle de la Rúa (1750-1820) served as navigator for Bodega y Quadra during his first two voyages north. In 1791, Mourelle was assigned the task of compiling records pertaining to the 1774 voyage of Juan Pérez. Despite failing health, Mourelle was conducting an overview of all Spanish maritime activity on the Pacific Coast for the viceroy Conde de Revillagigedo. Without having sailed with Pérez, Mourelle prepared a summary of the Pérez voyage and a “Tabla Diaria” that lists all latitudes and longitudes for each day of the voyage.

Describing the first contact between Spaniards and Haida in 1774, he wrote, “It was then observed that they were of robust stature, cheerful in appearance, with beautiful eyes and handsome faces. The hair consisted of a queue, although some simply had it tied up. They have beards in the manner of the Chinese; they are white in color, and many of them have blue eyes. The women are good looking; they have the lower lip perforated, in which incision is inserted an object that is a different size depending on whether [the wearer] is young or old; it appeared that only the married ones had them. Both sexes exhibited docility and agreeableness; the women were dressed in pelt tunics fitted to the body, with bracelets of copper or iron, and rings of the same metals.”

Mourelle’s evidence of the first Spanish visit to B.C. is housed in the Bancroft Library in Berkeley. The National Library of Canada has a copy of Mourelle’s 1781 memoir. Mourelle is also the subject of a 1978 book in Spanish by Amancio Landín Carrasco. The Maurelle Islands in Alaska and Maurelle Island in the Inside Passage are named after him although Mourelle is the correct spelling of his name.

BOOKS:

Miscellanies by Daines Barrington (London, 1781) containing Mourelle's translated memoir entitled "Journal of a Voyage in 1775 to Explore the Coast of America Northward of California etc."

Full title: Journal of a Voyage in 1775 to Explore the Coast of America Northward of California, by the Second Pilot of the Fleet, Don Francisco Antonio Maurelle [i.e. Mourelle] in the King's Schooner Called the Sonora and Commanded by Don Juan Francico de la Bodega (London: J. Nichols, 1781).

[Alan Twigg / BCBW 2004] "1700-1800" "Spanish"