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Spanish Place Names on the Face of Alaska

Prince of Wales Island

by Dr. Arsenio Rey-Tejerina


To Introduction

To Names - Part 1

37. Boca de Bodega (Mouth of Bodega) --not listed in the Dictionary of Alaska Names-- is the entrance around Wadleigh Island, just north of the present village of Klawock. It was named as such by Mourelle's team on May 24, 1779, during a torrential rainstorm that temporarily stopped them in the midst of their exploration.

38. Bocas de Almirante (Mouths of the Admiral) was the name chosen by Mourelle in 1779 for the northern and southern entrances into the water passage laying behind Wadleigh Island.

39. Ballena Islands (Whale). This name was given because its contours gave the explorers the impression of a huge whale. The name is now assigned to two islands, but before, it was the name for others in the bay, including today's Fish Egg Island, just in front of Craig. Mourelle gave them the name Mondragones in 1779 after a family name from his region. Isla de Paba or Pava (Turkey's Island) figures in the map of Jacinto Caamaño in 1792.

40. Ballena Island Shoal is near the island.

41. Cape Suspiro (Sigh) is a point on the coast south of today's Craig village and a name given by Mourelle's charting expedition in 1779. It was a sigh of relief produced when the continuous rains stopped and they were able to proceed with their charting. In the map of 1792 by J. Caamaño it is called Punta Delgada (Thin Point).

42. Punta de los Islotillos (Point of the Islets) was also called Punta de los Islotes and del Islote in singular by Mourelle's exploration of Port Bagial in 1779. These rocky islets are at the entrance to the port opposite Cape Suspiro.

43. Port Bagial (Shoals). "Bajio" means sand bank in Spanish and "Bagial" is a shoaly place or area. The port is a cove extending one mile inland on the west coast of the island just around Cape Suspiro, south of Craig. It was named Puerto Bagial by Mourelle's exploring team when they had to wait here two days for the torrential rains to subside (to no avail). South of there they stopped at an island where they found an Indian village, which comprised a considerable number of houses built on a hill. The explorers saw that new houses had been added and others rebuilt since the wood was recently cut and painted black and red. They spent the afternoon and night with the Indians.

44. Port Saint Nicholas is an estuary extending 5 miles inland, just south of Cape Suspiro. It was given the name of Puerto de San Nicolás by Mourelle's exploring expedition on June 2, 1779. The Russians kept it as Mys de San Nikolay and at some times it was called Puerto de San Nicolao. Nicolao Pellegrino was, as Butler's Lives of the Saints states, "a pious and simple-minded Greek who landed in Italy as a perfect stranger". He was going around clad in a single garment reaching only to his knees, with a cross in his hands and yelling Kyrie eleison! In a small bag he carried apples and other fruits for the children who gathered around and chorused his chant. He died at the age of 19, and four years after his death, with many miracles occuring around his tomb, he was canonized by Urban II.

45. Saint Nicholas Lake is found southeast of the estuary, about nine miles from Craig. It was named in 1935 by the USGS for its vicinity to Port Saint Nicholas.

46. Ensenada de Torres (Bay of Torres) was a second name for Puerto de San Nicolás, given to this area in 1792 by Caamaño's map. This common Spanish surname, Torres, was probably given to this bay to honor Carlos de Torres, a well known officer of the Spanish Navy at the time. Contemporary of Caamaño, they were perhaps classmates at the Marine Academy in Cadiz or served together in some mission. Torres was Count of Arellano and went up through the ranks to be Captain General and Commander of the Naval Headquarters at Cadiz. After a long career begun in 1741, he died in Cadiz in 1831.

47. Coronados Islands (Crowned Islands) is a group of small islands at the mouth of Port St. Nicholas. This name was given by Mourel1e in 1779 but Caamaño named them Islas Gallegas (Galician Islands) thirteen years later in memory of his home area. The Russian maps listed them as Los Koronados.

48. Ranchería Island (Village) was an Indian village built on top of a small steep island close to the coast of Prince of Wales Island at 55° 25' 40" north and 133° 05' 20" west. They found it uninhabited but with a number of good log houses under construction. It was named La Ranchería by Francisco Mourelle on May 31, 1779 and this is how he described it:

The houses were built on the crown of the hill and, since this was not perfectly flat, they had made some walkways which they raised in the lower section with appropriate lengths of logs. On top of these (which were similar to a card table) they had put three thick logs at each end, with the middle ones more elevated so that the ridge on top of them slanted down to the sides. These logs and ridges were six yards long and a span in diameter, and all the houses had a corridor on all four sides. Seen from the bottom, the structure looked like an inaccessible fortress with respect to its location, which we reconnoitered in detail. On June 1st we climbed to the top of the islet and found a considerable number of houses built in the manner previously described, it being understood that the ascent was extremely tiring. They were, seemingly, in the process of rebuilding, because the logs forming the roofs were recently cut and painted in black and red.

49. Point Miraballes is a misreading of Miravalles (Valleys Lookout Point). Located on the south side of Port Saint Nicholas, it was named Punta de Miravalles by Mourelle in 1779 because from its 1780-foot summit they could see the surrounding valleys.

50. Totí Island (Isla Totí) is a half-mile-long island located south of Coronados. The strange name was given by Mourelle's expedition in 1779 when someone spotted a grackle which he thought to be a totí. The great-tailed grackle, Quiscalus mexicanus, is called Totí in the Caribbean. These birds are known robbers, not infrequently eating the eggs and even the young of other birds.

51. Culebrina Island (Little Snake). As the name indicates, the size and shape of this island gave the explorers the impression of a little snake lying still on the water. It could also mean a portable gun or hand cannon used in the early days of powder fire. In the 16th century a culebrina was an elaborate cannon capable of throwing 25-80 pound fire balls at great distances.

52. Madre de Dios Island (Mother of God) is the largest of 8 small islands at the entrance of Trocadero Bay. They were named Islas de la Madre de Dios by Mourelle on June 1, 1779. This is the Virgin Mary for whom Mourelle had a great devotion, especially under the avocation of Virgin of the Star, patroness of his exploration.

53. Punta San Cosme (Point Saint Cosmas) was the name given to the point at the south entrance to Trocadero Bay on Prince of Wales Island by the Arteaga expedition of 1779. Cosme and San Cosme are popular Spanish toponyms, especially in Galicia, where Mourelle came from. He was a twin brother of Damian and both were doctors practicing medicine as "anarguroi" the moneyless ones, who did not charge their patients who came to them for corporal and spirituals relief. Born in Arabia, they studied medicine in Syria and became famous for their skills. Physicians honor them as patrons.

54. Trocadero Bay (Trading Bay) is named after the port in the bay of Cadiz, Spain. It is an eleven mile deep estuary named Caños del Trocadero (Trocadero Spouts) by the Mourelle's expedition. Due to its length, they did not explore to the end, instead turning south to Madre de Dios Island. Francisco de la Bodega y Quadra comments in his diary that in the Caños area the land is flat but so thickly wooded in pine trees that it is impassable.

55. Canoa Point (Canoe Point) was named by Bodega/Mourelle in 1775/79. It is a point of land on the northeastern shore of Prince of Wales Island jutting into Trocadero Bay at 133° 0l' 25" W.

56. Unlucky Island. Translation of La Desgraciada, a name given by Bodega/ Mourelle in 1775/79 to a 900-foot-long island located in Trocadero Bay at 133° 03' 15" W.

57. Ladrones Islands (Thieves) were named Islas de Ladrones by Bodega/Mourelle in 1779. Mourelle writes in his Journal of the frequent robberies which his sailors suffered around these areas. These five islands are located at 55° 23' N and 133° 05' W.

58. Tranquil Point is a translation of Punta del Sosiego, a point of land on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island. Named by Mourelle in 1779 for the tranquility of the waters they experienced in that area, the name was kept by the Russians as Mys del Sosiyego.

59. Isla del Viejo (Old Man's Island). This was the furthest island in Trocadero Bay which was visited by Bodega/Mourelle, and it was named to honor an impressive old man they met there.

60. Cañas Island (Reeds) is a 0.4-mile-long island in Trocadero Bay. Bodega/Mourelle named it Ysla de Cañas in 1775/79, for the reeds they saw growing along its marshy shores.

61. Point Saint Sebastian, located on the southern side of Trocadero Bay at 132° 59' 15" W., was named by Bodega/Mourelle in 1779. Saint Sebastian, one of the most renowned of the Roman martyrs, died around 288 A D, and his feast is celebrated on January 20th. Sebastian was an officer in the Imperial Army and a favorite of Diocletian, but the emperor showed him no mercy when he was discovered to be a Christian. He was tied to a tree and used as a target for Roman archers, who finally killed him with clubs. Ignacio de Arteaga, commander of the 1779 expedition refers to this point as been so massive and sheer to the sea that it resembles the tower of San Sebastián in Cadiz.

62. Perlas Point (Pearls) is the spot where some sailors from Bodega/Mourelle's 1779 expedition found a few pearls. Originally named Punta de Perlas, the Russians kept the name as Mys Perlas. It is located in Trocadero Bay at 133° 04' 30".

63. Bahía de Quevedo (Quevedo's Bay). Caamaño's map of 1792 gives this name to the southern part of the Caños (Spouts). They were probably honoring José de Quevedo, a contemporary navy officer. In 1778 Quevedo had distinguished himself in combat against the English Fleet of Admiral Rodney, and by 1792 he was, like Caamaño, a Teniente de Fragata. He had a brilliant career, eventually receiving the Grand Cross of Isabel la Católica and becoming Secretary of the Navy and Defense.

64. Port Caldera (Caldron Port). Puerto de Caldera was the name given to this 1 mile deep estuary by Mourelle probably for its shape, which makes it look like a caldron. It is located south of Madre de Dios Island.

65. Point Lomas ( Hills) is a promontory on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island. Called Cabo de las Lomas by Mourelle, it was then named Mys de las Lomas by the Russians. Following the American puchase, it held the translation of Cape Lomas for a time, but in 1922 the USC&GS changed it to the current name because it is "not bold or prominent enough to be styled a Cape."

66. Port Estrella (Star) is located north of Ulloa Channel, and is about two miles deep. Named Puerto de la Estrella by Mourelle, probably to honor the Virgin of the Star, to whom he dedicated his expedition in a fervid prayer before departing from San Blas.

67. Ulloa Channel (Canal Ulloa) was named by Jacinto Caamaño in 1792 after Antonio de Ulloa, who had become the first Spanish Governor of Louisiana in 1765, and was later governor of Florida. He was a renowned seaman and naturalist, born in Seville in 1716. At 13 he applied for a position as midshipman, then reserved for noblemen, but there being no openings he enlisted on an expedition to Colombia in the galleon San Luis. In 1732 he returned to the peninsula and after taking the examination for midshipman became an officer and went to Naples to help the future Carlos III of Spain in his successful campaign against the Austrians. The French Sciences Academy was sending a scientific voyage to South America under Charles Marie de La Condamine, and the young Ulloa was commissioned by the King to accompany the expedition, which became the first attempt to measure the circumference of the earth around the equator. Ulloa wrote a book on his participation. By 1779 he had reached the highest navy rank at that time, Teniente General and was placed in charge of the Atlantic Fleet. He was supposed to capture 8 British ships-of-the line in the Azores, but he let them escape. For this he was court marshaled; although he was absolved of blame, he was removed from his position. His various works on metallurgy, geography and astronomy were acclaimed throughout Europe, and he was made a member of several scientific academies, including those in Berlin, Bologna and Copenhagen. He died in Cadiz on July 5, 1795.

68. Cape Flores is on a small island near the entrance to Ulloa Channel. The name given by the 1779 Arteaga expedition refers to D. Manuel Antonio Florez, who at the time was Viceroy of New Granada. He was born in Seville around 1730 and died in Madrid in 1799. A brilliant career, initiated in the Coast Guard, made him a general at 26. On August 26, 1775, he was appointed Viceroy of New Granada and, eleven and a half years later, he was appointed to the same position in Mexico. From there he returned to Spain as Captain General of the Navy. He wrote several books about his experiences in South America, especially on the question of borders between Portuguese and Spanish possessions.

69. Point Providence is a translation of Punta de la Providencia, the name given by Mourelle to a point on the west coast of Prince of Wales Island at the entrance to Ulloa Channel. The Russians called it Ostrov Providens.

70. San Antonio Point ( Saint Anthony) is located on the west coast of Prince pf Wales Island at the south end of Ulloa Channel. Mourelle named it in 1779 to honor the much venerated St. Anthony of Padua (1195-1231), who although born in Lisbon spent most of his life in that Italian city as a preacher. He is celebrated as the saint to call on for finding lost objects and the expedition found this point of Alaska on June 13, his feast day.

71. Ulloa Island. A 0.7 mile long island south of San Antonio Point named in 1907 by Edmund F. Dickins of the USC&GS after the channel.

72. Cordova Bay is between Long Island and the southern part of Prince of Wales. The area was named Puerto de Cordova y Cordova (Port of Cordova and Cordova) by Jacinto Caamaño. He said, "Nothing inferior to Bucareli, and worth a 15-20 day exploration tour." Caamaño does not determine the exact boundaries of the bay; he simply notes the numerous Indian people in the area.

73. Nuestra Señora de los Dolores (Our Lady of Sorrows) is the name given by Caamaño to a port explored by his pilot, Juan Pantoja. The port is actually the Kaigani Strait. Caamaño compares it to Bucareli Bay: "a good mooring place, uninhabited but frequently visited by the Indian population of the Cordova Bay area, which is a large one. The terrain is very similar to the one around Bucareli."

74. Mexico Point is on a small island off the southwest coast of Prince of Wales Island in Cordova Bay.

75. Núñez Point completes the round tour of Prince of Wales Island, and honors Dr. Núñez, whose name initiated this list. The southeastern tip of Bean Island, which is nestled in a cove off the southern corner of Prince of Wales, was named Punta de Núñez by Jacinto Caamaño on July 23, 1792.


Arsenio Rey-Tejerina
Chairman, Division of Romance Languages
University of Alaska Anchorage
January 1998



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