The Journal of San Diego History
Winter 1984, Volume 30, Number 1
Thomas L. Scharf, Managing Editor

Book Review

Raymond Starr, Book Review Editor

The Voyage of the Frigate Princesa to Southern California in 1782. The logs of Juan Pantoja  y Arriaga and Esteban José Martínez. Translated by Geraldine V. Sahyun; Edited by Richard S. Whitehead. Santa Barbara: The Santa Barbara Mission Archive-Library, 1982. Preface. Introduction. Maps. Notes. Glossary. Bibliography. Index. 178 pages. $25.00.

Reviewed by Howard O. Welty, Volunteer Curator of Maps, San Diego Historical Society.

Spain’s 18th century outposts along the remote California shore depended on supplies sent from the naval base at San Blas, on the west coast of Mexico. The annual resupply expedition of 1782, made by the vessels Princesa and Favorita, is recounted here, principally in the words of Juan Pantoja y Arriaga, navigator and cartographer, whose logbook is translated into English for the first time. Also included is the incomplete log of Esteban José Martínez, skipper of the Princesa and commander of the expedition. The volume is fleshed out with background essays, full annotation of texts, a glossary of nautical terms, and reproduction of eight Pantoja maps.

It was on the 1782 cruise that Pantoja produced his best-known map, a detailed and reasonably accurate chart of San Diego harbor, surveyed during a seven-week layover. The map was widely circulated in English and French versions as well as Spanish, and in 1848 was attached to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, for use in fixing the western end of the U.S.-Mexican boundary. Having Pantoja’s own account of the survey clarifies events-and raises a new question, too.

The ships cleared San Blas for San Francisco in March, setting the customary course far at sea to avoid coastal winds and currents; the tedious trip north required two months’ sailing out of sight of land. (A nice endpaper chart, showing each day’s leg of the cruise, illustrates this.) After a long stop at San Francisco, the ships called at Monterey; spent extra time charting the coast in the Santa Barbara Channel area, where the new Santa Barbara Presidio had just been established; and dropped anchor at San Diego August 21.

After completing preliminary work (“bearings and demarcations”), Pantoja outfitted the ship’s launch with provisions and a crew “armed for war”(against possibly hostile Indians), and set out “to investigate all of this harbor with minute attention.” First reconnoitering the coast to Todos Santos Bay (Ensenada), the party returned and devoted the afternoon of September 11 (Wednesday) to surveying the broad inlet-(” Spanish Bight”) that once separated Coronado and North Island.

The surveyors spent Thursday along the 6-mile strand that encloses the bay on the west, landing twice- near present Coronado Cays marina to establish a baseline and make demarcations; and again to obtain the view from a bluff (now on the grounds of a U.S. Navy radio station). Rounding the head of the bay Friday morning, the party landed to fill water casks at the mouth of a river (Otay), then worked up the eastern shore, anchoring that night off the Choyas Indian rancheria (foot of 32nd Street.) Pantoja completed his swing around the bay Saturday, reboarding the Princesa at sunset. No trouble had been experienced with the natives, who came out repeatedly in reed canoes to look, to engage in trade, and to profess their Christianity.

On September 16, Pantoja began placement of buoys about the harbor for use in studying tides. He recorded completion of the map on the 28th. During this period he also was making final drawings of the expedition’s coastal surveys in the Santa Barbara region. All work finished, the Princesa and Favorita departed for San Blas October 9.

The Pantoja map that received wide distribution in later years shows the harbor, all of Pt. Loma, and False Bay to the north. Two versions of this are reproduced in the book. However, the log and the Santa Barbara charts-now that they can be studied together -establish in this reviewer’s opinion that Pantoja surveyed only the main harbor in 1782 (perhaps finishing the job on a visit in 1786). The right map for 1782 seems to be an unpublished manuscript in the Newberry Library, apparently drawn in the same hand as the Santa Barbara maps, employing the same inverted-triangle cartouche, and having a place-name arrangement that matches the logbook exactly. This map omits the seaward side of Pt. Loma, and shows nothing beyond the Presidio to the north.

The Voyage of the Princesa is a needed and welcome book that inaugurates a new program at the Santa Barbara institution- the publication of important manuscripts relating to California history, through financial support from the Thomas More Storke Memorial Publication Fund.