The Coveted Pacific Coast

The Evacuation of Nootka

Private, Compañía Fija de San Blas, 1794-1795

Caption: Private, Compañía Fija de San Blas, 1794-1795

In Europe, meanwhile, interest in Nootka diminished considerably. In February 1793 Great Britain and Spain had become allies in a war against France! The problems of the northwest coast already seemed far away, and the two allies signed an agreement on January 11, 1794, in which they agreed to abandon the region. That same year the Catalan volunteers in garrison at Nootka were relieved by some 20 soldiers of the Compania fija de San Blas, which mounted the guard until March 23, 1795. On that day, following an official farewell ceremony attended by marine lieutenant Thomas Pierce, representing England, the Nootka presidio was dismantled. The artillery and the garrison were loaded onto the Activa, which sailed southward. Thus ended the reign of Spain on the northwest coast.

Throughout this first episode of exploration along the Canadian Pacific coast by European nations - exploration that came about because of the Spanish fears of a Russian invasion - the armed forces played an overriding role. These events are also indicative of the extent to which the soldiers of the maritime nations of the eighteenth century were interested in the progress being made in science and geography, as well as in the art of war. These men spearheaded the explorations and they were found everywhere within the known world, compiling geographical, hydrographic, astronomic, meteorological and ethnographic data.