Colnett : Physeter, or Spermaceti Whale


Colnett, James, 1755?-1806.

A voyage to the South Atlantic and round Cape Horn into the Pacific Ocean: for the purpose of extending the spermaceti whale fisheries, and other objects of commerce, by ascertaining the ports, bays, harbours, and anchoring births, in certain islands and coasts in those seas, at which the ships of the British merchants might be refitted / undertaken and performed by Captain James Colnett, of the Royal Navy, in the ship Rattler.

London : Printed for the author by W. Bennett... ; sold by A. Arrowsmith... ; Stockdale... ; Edgerton... ; Elmsly... ; and White..., 1798.

An account of an important voyage to the Pacific and the Northwest Coast of America. Colnett who had been a midshipman on Cook's second voyage, had a long and important naval career, but is best remembered for his role at the centre of the Nootka Sound Controversy in 1789, which he discusses in this work. It was Colnett who informed the Spanish commander that he had come to take possession of Nootka and to found a British colony; his ships were impounded, and he was not only imprisoned but even placed in the stocks. The subsequent outcry on his return to England almost culminated in war with Spain.

The main part of his account details his voyage around South America on the Rattler, including visiting the Galapagos Islands, Chile and reaching as far as the Gulf of California. The lengthy preface describes his previous activities in the Pacific, during which he made two voyages to China with furs from the Northwest Coast, and figured largely in the dispute between England and Spain. At the very start of the voyage he had a friendly meeting with Governor Phillip at Rio de Janeiro, on his homeward passage from Botany Bay. Colnett later had a more substantial contact with New South Wales, commanding the 1802 voyage of the Glatton, bringing some four hundred convicts to Australia.

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