Except for scattered place names, there is little evidence that remains of Alejandro Malaspina’s expedition to the Northwest in 1791. One curiosity, however, is the name of Gabriola’s first regular ferry, the Atrevida. Apparently, it means
the Daring in Spanish. Captain William York Higgs named his new ferry, built in 1928, after a Spanish corvette. You can get an idea of what the original Atrevida looked like from this commemorative stamp issued in 1964.
The corvette Atrevida was built in 1789 at the Spanish naval base of Cadiz specifically to explore the shores and islands of the Pacific Ocean. At first the goal was Hawaii, but when Malaspina reached the west coast of North America his orders were changed to include visiting the Pacific Northwest.
Interestingly, this famous ship never reached Gabriola Island or even the Straight of Georgia. After visiting what now is Alaska and Nootka on the west coast of Vancouver Island, it set sail for California and Mexico. Malaspina and the Atrevida left Acapulco soon after to continue their around-the-world explorations. It was up to another part of Malaspina’s expeditionary force, headed by Alcala Galiano, to discover Descanso Bay and Nanaimo harbour the following year.
The Atrevida returned from its circumnavigation to Spain in 1794. Later the ship became attached to the Spanish Pacific Fleet. It accidentally caught fire and burned at Montevideo in 1807.
Of course, the Gabriola ferry never came close to matching the exploits of its namesake. Neither did it meet such a gruesome end.
You can find out more about the first Atrevida at ABC Bookworld’s page on Alejandro Malaspina ). As is too often the case, the best source is still the printed word. You can read all about the Atrevida’s stay in the Northwest and Galiano’s later visit to these parts in Malaspina & Galiano: Spanish Voyages to the Northwest Coast by Donald C. Cutter.
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