We're open every day over the Australia Day long weekend, with reduced opening hours on the Australia Day public holiday, Monday 28 January. More information ›
Series 61: Letters and related papers, received by Banks from Archibald Menzies and others, 1791-1795, 1798
The documents in this series, previously located at ML A79-2, were purchased in 1884 from Lord Brabourne by Sir Saul Samuel, the Agent-General for New South Wales, and transferred to the Mitchell Library in 1910. They were part of the accession which became known as the Brabourne collection.
Some of these documents were used by the compilers of Historical records of New South Wales, vol 1, part 2 (1892), and include some annotations made by the compilers.
Archibald Menzies, at the recommendation of Sir Joseph Banks, was appointed botanist, and later also served as surgeon, on George Vancouver's voyage to survey the largely unknown north west coast of the American continent.
On 1 April 1791 HM Ships Discovery and Chatham sailed from England calling first at the Canary Islands. The ships continued to the Cape of Good Hope, remaining until August, then sailed east toward the west coast of Australia. Arriving at King George Sound in late September, Vancouver then proceeded east surveying the south coast of Australia as far as the Great Australian Bight. Passing around Tasmania at the end of October, the ships proceeded to Dusky Bay, New Zealand for repairs and refuelling in November.
December 1791 and January 1792 were passed at Tahiti. Their first Hawaiian visit of the voyage followed in March 1792 when the islander Toweroo, on board the Discovery from England, was returned to his homeland.
From Hawaii Vancouver steered a course to the north west coast of America arriving at New Albion in April 1792 to commence the coastal survey. In September 1792 the Discovery rendezvoused with the store ship Daedalus at Nootka Island and learned of the deaths in Hawaii in May 1792 of the commander, Lieutenant Hergest and the astronomer, Mr Gooch.
In September Vancouver named Quadra and Vancouver Island in honour of his friendship with the Spanish Governor of St Blas and Commander in Chief of the Spanish Royal Navy of Mexico and California, Juan Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra. Today the island is known simply as Vancouver. Quadra and Vancouver had tried unsuccessfully to negotiate a resolution on the sovereignty of Nootka Island on behalf of the Spanish and British courts.
From the island of Vancouver the expedition sailed to California and remained at San Francisco and Monterey from November 1792 until January 1793. In January the ships left California for a second visit to Hawaii where they stayed from February until March. During this visit the trial and execution of the men responsible for the deaths of Hergest and Gooch took place.
In May 1793 the ships arrived at Nootka to recommence the coastal survey northward during the summer. As winter again closed in they turned southward and arrived at San Francisco in October 1793. They remained on the Californian coast until December before again sailing for Hawaii in January 1794. This third visit to Hawaii ended in March.
The continental coastal survey was recommenced and continued as far north as possible until May 1794 from whence the Discovery and Chatham again turned south. They anchored in Nootka again in September 1794 to await, vainly, the arrival of a vessel from St Blas bearing dispatches to resolve the sovereignty of Nootka.
In October the ships returned to Monterey to collect some deserters, and remained until early December 1794 before sailing south along the coasts of California and Mexico. They arrived at Valparaiso, Chile in March 1795 to repair a broken mainmast, and departed early in May. They returned home, with the question of Nootka still unresolved, via Cape Horn. At St Helena in July they took possession of a Dutch East Indiaman, England and Holland being at war.
In October 1795 the Discovery and Chatham arrived at Long Reach at the end of a voyage which had lasted almost five years. Archibald Menzies, diligent in his botanical duties, was also diligent in reporting to his friend and patron Sir Joseph Banks, detailing the course and events of the voyage in letters to Banks.