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With Tadeo Haenke aboard the "Descubierta"

by Donald C. Cutter, Albuquerque/ USA

As a figure in the 18th century’s great expansion of scientific knowledge, Tadeo Haenke, with better fortune, might have become internationally famous. He was born at an auspicious time, had excellent training, and possessed an unquenchable appetite for scientific investigation. Unlike most naturalists of his day, a chance to travel to the ends of the earth became available. It was his good fortune to be selected as a member of what was intended to be a truly great expedition. This account of his cruise aboard the Spanish naval corvette Descubierta is unusual.

In early April 1790 youthful botanist Tadeo Haenke finally achieved his long delayed goal of joining the Spanish Naval Scientific Exploring Expedition. It had been intended that the young scientist would be part of the initial complement of the corvettes Descubierta and Atrevida, scheduled to sail from Cádiz in July 1789 for a prolonged cruise destined to carry out wide-ranging scientific exploration while simultaneously making a detailed inspection of Spain’s extensive overseas empire.

What had caused the nearly one-year delay from July 1789 to April 1790 in Haenke’s incorporation with the expedition headed by Alejandro Malaspina? Most decisive was the lateness of the final agreement of Haenke’s employment as a scientist with that expedition. He was not the Spanish government’s first choice, but rather his final selection resulted from the unavailability of other candidates. With warm endorsements from his former professors and other well-placed persons, and with obvious aptitude for the work that lay ahead, a final decision was made for Haenke to come from Vienna to Cádiz to join the waiting corvettes. Hastening to the port of embarkation, he arrived on the appointed day of departure, but he was several hours late. (1)

To remedy the problem resulting from Haenke’s early misfortune, a royal order provided the botanist transportation aboard a Catalan merchant ship sailing for Montevideo, the intended first stop of the scientific group. Departure of the misnamed vessel, Nuestra Señora del Buen Viaje, was delayed until 20 November, following which it took 97 days to get to its Río de la Plata destination, but not safely. Just off Punta de Carretas near Montevideo, the vessel carrying Haenke and his ample personal and professional gear sank owing to the incompetence of the ship’s captain or of its pilot. Haenke saved his owned life and a few possessions by swimming, only to find that he had again missed his connection, this time by eight days.

Early evidence of the indefatigable zeal of the twenty-eight year old scholar was that while awaiting developments in Montevideo, Haenke collected some 800 plants. These efforts represent the first of his many botanical field trips as part of the Malaspina expedition , some of which tours later were of considerable duration and distance.

Just prior to Christmas 1789 Haenke crossed the Río de la Plata estuary to make his headquarters in Buenos Aires, there awaiting arrangements for travel across the continent to Chile. The local viceroy had earlier received Malaspina’s request for aid for Haenke to join the corvettes in Valparaíso between 15 April and 15 May 1790. Pending that official’s favorable action, Haenke continued his labor for two months, concentrating on areas unvisited by the main scientific expedition when it had been there several months earlier. Places visited included the Río de Las Conchas and a much longer trip to the Paraná, one of the principal tributaries of the Río de la Plata. In addition to gathering some 600 botanical specimens, Haenke also compiled notes concerning animals and minerals of the area, fields of investigation in which he was soon to be more fully engaged.

Having received the necessary viceregal help, by 26 February 1790 Haenke again took up the chase. This time he started out over the Pampas highway, which was hardly more than a path overland across the almost uninhabited Argentinean plains. En route he again dedicated time to his botanical specialization by investigating the Sierras of Córdoba and San Luis, eventually arriving on 17 March at the westernmost Argentinean city of Mendoza. In transit he had obtained another 500 specimens and carried out both zoological and mineralogical observations as well. With only four days rest at Mendoza, Haenke renewed his crossing of the Andean cordillera via Uspallata Pass. Despite the sterility and relative scarcity of vegetation at such high elevations, he added another 600 plants to his increasing herbarium. (2)

Finally, on 2 April in the inland city of Santiago, Chile, Haenke made a most important discovery; in the provincial capital he found members of the Malaspina exploring expedition, including the two corvette commanders, Alejandro Malaspina, captain of the Descubierta, and José Bustamente, commanding the consort vessel, the Atrevida. All travelled together to Valparaíso where the corvettes lay waiting, but even on this trip Haenke added to his botanical collections. Later, in September, a first shipment containing some of the results of his early labor was sent to Spain, consisting of „an herbarium of the Pampas of Buenos Aires, Mendoza and of the Cordillera of Chile, [the Andes] created by Tadeo Haenke." Thus, even before coming aboard, he had contributed appreciably to expedition aims.

Once united with the expedition proper, Haenke was assigned to the command vessel, the Descubierta, which was to be his home for three years. Viewing his ship for the first time, Haenke could easily see that the stout, especially-constructed vessel was far more seaworthy than the ship that had brought him from Spain. However, he must also have realized from the outset that his own shipboard accommodations were quite limited, especially if compared with the considerably more spacious area dedicated to scientific material, including that utilized for his specimens and their well being. Aboard ship, Haenke was directly under Lieutenant Colonel Antonio Pineda, Head of Natural History, while at the same time being not far from the watchful eyes of expedition commander Malaspina. From this close association with two of the most prominent leaders of a very select group, high command evaluations of his participation reflected fully the wide range of Haenke’s activities. (3)

Don Tadeo was not the only civilian with the expedition. There were also two artists and another botanist involved. The latter was Luis Née, nearly thirty years older than Haenke, but considerably less proficient than the young Bohemian-born scholar. Née was competent, but hardly in the same category as Haenke, who at one time referred to his older colleague as a „mere gardener". Née hardly performed any other role than that of botanist, whereas Haenke was often called a natural scientist or natural historian and was involved in mineralogy, geology, anthropology, chemistry, physics, linguistics, and even musicology, non of which were within Née’s capacity. Even beyond those assets were Haenke’s medical skills, which were at times utilized by the expedition’s surgeons. In short, Haenke did almost everything.

As Haenke became adjusted to the daily life as well as the scientific activity aboard the Descubierta, he assumed a consistently increasing role. At the first stop after Haenke’s arrival, the Chilean port of Coquimbo, the young savant joined with Pineda, Lieutenant Fernando Quintano and others to visit the well-known gold mines of Andacollo and the mercury mines of Punitaqui. These were of special interest for the economic benefits that improved management might give to the Royal Treasury, so much so that the visiting party was accompanied by a regional superintendent-administrator, a man who had been with the scientific party since its very arrival in port.

On the way back from its principal objectives, the party had instructions to visit some existing copper mines. There were also some nearby quarries of petrified shells similar to those found at the Isla de León [Cádiz] which needed inspection. Upon return of the party, Malaspina lauded its work in botany, mineralogy, and geographical knowledge of the interior of the province, considering these some of finest fruits of the expedition of which Haenke was a prominent part. The commander was also impressed by the incomparable hospitality shown to his detached party. Based on this and other early experiences, it was not long before Haenke personally would be the leader of the expeditions. On some of these future trips he went accompanied by artists to add visual dimensions to things investigated. On other occasions he was accompanied by a small military escort, while at times he went virtually alone.

The unusually extensive stay of the corvettes at Callao de Lima and the nearby viceregal capital of Lima gave Haenke increased opportunity for investigation. The Malaspina’s report of from Callao, the commander said that Haenke and Née since the middle of June [1790] had carried out lengthy excursions of the greatest importance, Née toward the Quebrada de Canta and Haenke by way of Tarma to the other side of the Andes as far as Guanuco [Huánuco], whose river [the Huallaga] flowing northward joins with the Marañón and begins to become navigable as a major tributary of the Amazon system. A nearly incredible fifty-day period was given to Haenke for this extensive projected trip. Accompanying Haenke were two local residents, the botanist Juan Tafalla, a government employee from Lima, and a militia dragoon who was somewhat conversant with the native languages. This exploration took Haenke to the northern part of Peru, near what is today Ecuador and Brazil, and although he was probably never more than 500 miles from the Pacific ocean, he was over the continental divide of South America. From this exploration resulted a series of 13 small drawings depicting the regional Indians. These are important not only for the visual images probably based on Haenke’s descriptions, but also for the subjoined explanations concerning the origin, principal characters, dietary habits, and way of life of the subjects drawn, all written in the hand of Pineda. There also exist several dozen small zoological drawings, probably done by artist José Guío, and possibly also based on Haenke’s descriptions. (4)

Following arrival at the port city of Ecuador, Guayaquil, Haenke was assigned to make a physical and botanical examination of the surrounding area and an excursion to the Taura forests, well-known for rich stands of the best timber. A second forest area were visited at the Monte de Bulubulu in the Yaguachi district where the botanist observed and studied the timber available for naval construction. Haenke also had time to make important shipments to Spain of specimens previously gathered.

On 8 October 1790, Cayetano Valdés, Haenke and Purser Rafael de Arias de Arias departed taking advantage of the tide to make an excursion directly north into the Río Daule. They returned by midday pleased not only with the pleasant area but also with the birds and plants gathered for the natural history collections. A live crocodile, or caiman, had also been obtained which Haenke described with his customary great attention.

Panama, the next stop, did not result in many comments in the ship’s logs, save for several references to the multitude and variety of fish available for study by Haenke and Pineda, of zoological drawings by artist José Cardero, and of the addition of fish to the diet aboard the corvettes. Time permitted some botanical and geological investigations by Haenke and the other naturalists.

Separating from the consort vessel which had been given a parallel assignment, the Descubierta made a two-week visit to the isolated port of Realejo in northwestern Nicaragua. Of special interest there was the Volcán de El Viejo (5), a notable nearby landmark used by navigators. A two-day expedition made by Pineda and Haenke proceeded to scale the active volcano, a tiring, dangerous but instructive feat. The rewards were the examination of the double crater at the top of the volcano, investigation of some sulphur deposits and of other lithographic phenomena, and especially „an exceedingly grandiose view from the very peak" which compensated the inconveniences of excessive heat and weariness and also the great risk to Haenke’s life from a rattlesnake bite. Notwithstanding discomfort, Haenke and Pineda spent several days in the field returning aboard „rich with a thousand bits of information and with many specific objects in the three branches of natural history", having made collections of timber, such as had been done at previous places and would continue to be a regular active effort by the group.

A long subsequent stay at Acapulco resulted in an early excursion, in which Haenke, Bauzá and Lieutenant Valdés took part, to Puerto Marqués, adjacent to the southeast of the principal port. As usual, while others were busy with their own specialties, Haenke was credited with having greatly increased the natural history collections of botany in all directions around the port. In general the expedition was marking time awaiting a favorable departure date for the Pacific Northwest Coast of North America.

As far as the extant report indicates, Tadeo Haenke also possessed musical abilities. During an especially calm day at sea while en route to the Pacific Northwest Coast phase of the expedition, an opportunity arose to break the normal monotony by having a splendid breakfast aboard the Descubierta. Using one of the ship’s boats, all but one of the Atrevida’s officers came aboard the command vessel. A high point of this change in daily routine was when „Mr. Haenke played on the harpsichord with his accustomed skill." This event is recorded circumstantially, and there is no other mention of such activity. (6) One can only wonder concerning the rationale for having aboard a crowded vessel an instrument as large as a harpsichord and to speculate as to its acquisition. It could not have been part of Haenke’s original baggage, nor had he brought it over the Pampas and across the Andes. It is illogical that one could have been obtained other than in Lima or in Mexico City when the Corvettes had access to those area.

Haenke’s musical ability surfaced again when shortly thereafter at the Port of Mulgrave on the Alaska Panhandle, the versatile naturalist wrote down the song sung by three Tlingit Indian women, as well as other native music. Shortly after, when the Spaniards were being honored by some Tlingit dances and festivities that were accompanied by very harmonious and merry songs, Haenke copied them immediately as a contribution to ethnomusicology. There is no mention of any other expedition member attempting such an added dimension to the field work.

While exploring in the Pacific Northwest, it was noted that there was much sargasso and also „a marine plant like an orange with a long trunk the leaves of which are like a vine." The plant was observed to keep all of its foliage when underneath the water but immediately withered when out of it. It was collected and experiments were made. following which Haenke described it scientifically and added it to his herbarium. (7) It was hardly a discovery, being what regular visitors to the entire Pacific Coast called „porras", now called kelp, one of the most frequently encountered seaweeds. From the earliest times of Spanish navigation in the Pacific, its appearance was a sure sign announcing the nearness of the long-awaited landfall on the Pacific Coast after the tedious crossing from Manila.

Although the record is quite ample of Malaspina’s visit to Santa Cruz de Nootka, the short-lived Spanish settlement on Vancouver Island in western Canada, the role of Haenke there is much less fulsome. After arrival, Haenke began to botanize. „He made a collection of plants but very meager because he could not find in port other plants from those found in Europe. He did, however, find many anti-scorbutic plants classifying these as well as the pines of which there were many different species." Artist Tomás Suria reported that he and Haenke every afternoon for a respite from their labors went for a walk on the beaches of Nootka’s Friendly Cove where the corvettes were anchored. The beaches were composed of small stones of various kinds of marble and jasper, the greater part black like all the coast. „They were in spherical and elliptical form, very pleasing and for curiosity’s sake all of them were collected." (8)

Several unrelated factors combined to make the succeeding fifteen-day stop at California’s provincial capital of Monterey the most interesting of all in Haenke’s naval life. First was the fact that when there he was the expedition’s only natural scientist, colleague Luis Née having been assigned along with Pineda to detached duty within the Viceroyalty of New Spain. Second, was the extensive cooperation accorded by California residents. Third, was that the province was a recent addition to the occupied area of Spanish North America and information about it was important. Fourth and final, was expressed by Haenke when he said: „It can be imagined what an agreeable surprise it must have been for all of us to see in the month of September for some leagues around Monterey the blossoming of such a luxuriant and copious general vegetation that the number of plants restored to life by this singular fertility was not less than one hundred." (9)

Haenke was delighted to find mid-September California in the midst of a second springtime, with plants in flower. Contrary to expectations, not only a second springtime with its new fructification almost as complete as the first, but also a great variety of plants found on the luxuriant banks of the not far distant Carmel River whetted Haenke’s interest. It was an unusual year and the new blossoming was explained by expedition member Felipe Bauzá as resulting because „many seeds, having been brought by the freshets of winter, had given the seashore such a great variety of plants that they appeared to have represented an extended distance of more that a hundred leagues, rather than the very short distance that our trips could embrace." (10)

An example of California’s surprising vitality was that Haenke found on a laurel tree both the ripe seed and the flower beginning the bloom. The surrounding countryside contained both open woodland and dense forests of pine, alder, and oak, and on the summits, the majestic Coast Redwood stood out as if a symbol of California’s great fertility. Years later leading California botanist Willis L. Jepson said: „The Redwood was first collected near Monterey by Thaddeus Haenke of the Malaspina Expedition in 1791, who may be said to be its botanical discoverer." (11) From Haenke’s visit Jepson credited the stand of redwood trees overlooking the Alhambra in Granada. Unfortunately, in recent years these giants have died, but a somewhat similar group of Coast Redwoods, probably of the same provenance, exists in the gardens of the Casita del Príncipe adjacent to El Escorial in the mountains northwest of Madrid.

In California Haenke found a great variety of medicinal plants, some of which were poisonous, while others were either useful or pleasant, with the total number reaching approximately 250. In a footnote to his proposed volumes on the round-the-world naval scientific expedition, Malaspina named some thirty of these plants. A two-volume work edited by Karel B. Presl and published in Prague in 1825 and 1827, Thaddaeus Haenke, Reliquiae Haenkeanae has a substantial list of items ascribed to California as found by Haenke. (12)

Obviously Haenke was delighted with the results of his botanical finds, but he also had time to turn his talents to other interests. Doubtless he participated in the ornithological, ichthyological and zoological efforts. His observations in the field of mineralogy were recorded by Malaspina in which Haenke asserted that the earth around Monterey was fertilized to double strength and was rich and black, having a layer one to two feet deep consisting of myriads of decayed matter superimposed on a sandy, ashy clay, which is generally found in the entire Monterey area except adjacent to the ocean. Near the Pacific the soils were composed of movable banks of sand very apt for the filtration of salt which is here produced in quantity, or of granite rock in association with either white quartz, blackish mica or yellowish feldspar. These informations usually existed at an angle of 80° or 90° with the horizon, having their general direction to the southwest, and crossed from top to bottom by a layer, usually so thin that it did not exceed one or two inches, composed of pure granulated and whitish quartz. Malaspina asserted that „the composition of the rock that forms the inner core, so to speak, of the vicinity of Monterey, the same Sr. Haenke found in his analysis, is a whitish or yellowish stone, extremely light in weight and fragile when touched, brittle and apt to discoloration, composed principally of argillaceous marl, very suitable for buildings, and which gradually becomes calcareous in proportion to its nearness to the summit of the mountains." It was determined to be universally suitable for making lime, although not of the best quality, by „mixing it with a great amount of clay, in combination with which it boils, albeit slowly in the nitric acid." According to the local Indians, „there can still be easily found even on the highest hills leading from the presidio [of Monterey] to the mission [of Carmel], various petrifications and testaceans, and even some dendrites. It was noted that the beaches produced in abundance a shell known commonly as the sea shell of Monterey [the abalone], called by the naturalists Alyotis Myde. (13)

Among the non-scientific but extremely useful documents prepared by the expedition, and doubtless one in which Haenke was the principal source, was a report on useful timber of the area. Utility was determined by value for both naval and building construction purposes. The document deals with the outstanding characteristics of a mixture of fifteen conifers and hardwoods, but does not attempt a scientific classification. (14)

Following the visits of the corvettes to Port Mulgrave, Nootka, and Monterey in California, the vessels returned to Acapulco where they were scheduled to wait for almost two months before undertaking a long trans-Pacific crossing. Under those circumstances some of the officers who had not been to Mexico City seized the opportunity. These included Captain Bustamente, Haenke, and Lieutenants Fernando Quintano and Francisco Viana who went on a „scientific excursion", although nothing survives of their finds. The excursion involved a long uphill trip of about 110 leagues via Peregrino, Chilpancingo, Zumpango, Amates, and Cuernavaca, but is was over a well-travelled road. The trip extended Haenke’s geographical knowledge, and he probably made some unreported discoveries.

The long and normally boring trip westward following the outbound route of the Acapulco-Manila galleon across the Pacific gave the scientists aboard the Descubierta time to catch up on more formalized statements of their activity, as well as allowing recovery of an abnormally high percentage of the crew that was ill to the point of uselessness as a result of the poor health conditions common in Acapulco. Otherwise, being out of sight of land of fifty days at least gave time to plan for future stops, the first of which was at Guam, principal of the Marianas Islands. A possible stop in the Sandwich [Hawaiian] Islands en route was cancelled in view of the fact that a warship under Manuel Quimper of the Spanish Naval Department of San Blas had recently spent a month on the Big Island of Hawaii.

The stop at Guam was accomplished by making port at Umatac. While on the island, long held by Spain, Haenke directed his activities toward the town of Agaña and from there to the extreme northern part of the island. The stay was truncated by notices of tropical weather disturbances and by a need to get to their next area of exploration in due season. Fortunately, Guam was a small island and the continuous activity of the naturalists, well apportioned for efficiency, permitted satisfactory results.

Unforseen circumstances required a longer stop in the Philippine Islands than originally anticipated by Malaspina. Although Spain had held those islands since Legazpi’s conquest in the 16th century, little was known about a area, superficially or scientifically. In addition to the capital of Manila, the nearby port area of Cavite, and a few other towns on the main island of Luzon, European culture had made little headway. Following landfall near Cape Espíritu Santo on the northeastern shore of Samar Island, the expedition proceeded to the nearby pleasant harbor of Palapa [now Palapap]. Pineda and Haenke’s investigations of the inviting area were enhanced by the helpful attitude of the natives, for within three days every „stone had been moved and every sea shell had been found". As a result, collections for the royal bureau of natural history had been advanced greatly, in part through favorable trade. It was an auspicious beginning of what turned out to be a stay almost ten months in the islands.

After following the galleon route through San Bernardino Strait, a second stop was made at Sorsogón deep inside the large bay of the same name in the southern part of Luzon Island. Again a favorable reception, especially by the local parish priest, cleared the way for the naturalists’ work. The willing clergyman quickly agreed to accompany Haenke and Pineda, using his own boat to participate in a planned excursion to the provincial capital of Albay (15) and even to guide them on an ascent of the nearby volcano, (16) the almost continuous eruptions of which had been visible since nightfall. After a day’s travel, the objective was reached, but not without some concern occasioned by possible pirate attack. From Sorsogón as their base, the two industrious naturalists covered a considerable part of the province and had „examined not without some risk the Albay Volcano [Mount Mayon] and its burning stones that made up the majority of the material that it ejected." Botany and zoology had been the focus of their investigations, and even though the rain, the roughness of the roads, and the limited time available were added obstacles, the investigation was considered complete.

After arriving at Manila which was to be general headquarters for the corvettes, a plan for division of natural history labor specified that Haenke go northward on Luzon Island in the Descubierta as far as Ilocos or Cagayán. From there he was to begin botanizing, working his way south via the forests of the Ygorrotes and Pampanga, but it is not certain that his plan was ever put into effect. However, in Malaspina’s intended final report he included the Narrative of Don Tadeo Heenekeé’s [sic] trip from Manila as far as Banqui in the vicinity of Cape Bojeador, a 1400-word summary of an excursion that lasted over two months from mid-April to late June 1792. (17) Beginning 15 April Haenke headed for Bulacán town and province, the town of Mallocos [Maloco], and the town of Arayat with its nearby solitary mountain peak where several days were spent. Concerned about possible loss abundant and increasing collections, Haenke expressed fear of attacks from some of the natives, particularly the fierce Ygorrotes and the Negritos of the Zambales Mountains. This danger made Haenke hasten his activities, travelling via the Pueblo de „Faslac" [probably a misspelling of Tarlac], he proceeded northward to Pangsinang [Pangasinang] Province, which extends from Cape Bolinao to the Ilocos coast. Near the head of Lingayen Gulf, not far from what is today the city of Dagupan, Haenke established his local headquarters at the village of San Jacinto. From there he ranged into the nearby mountains as far as safety from the hostile Ygorrotes permitted, possibly getting as far as some mining districts of Cagayán Province. Helping in his work a local priest of great erudition and love of science which made him „a true philosopher" in that isolated region. Haenke appreciated the priest’s assistance that extended as far as accompanying the botanist on his exhausting excursions.

Haenke left San Jacinto on 23 April following the west coast of Luzon northward the entire length of Ilocos, a province that extended as far as the northern tip of Luzon Island. It was inhabited by the aforementioned savage Ygorrotes in the south whereas in the north the pagan Finguianes were less fierce and more civilized. The other inhabitants of the province were industrious, made suitable cloth, and raised good crops on their fertile land. En route the naturalist’s collections were greatly enriched.

Passing by Santa [María] and Narvacan, on 27 April Haenke arrived at the city of Bigan [today Vigan] where he became well acquainted with the local bishop and the alcalde mayor, both of whom took an effective interest in Haenke’s work. Leaving Bigan on 30 April, a few days later Haenke arrived at Bangui [today Panguy], twelve miles east of Cape Bojeador, where he spent several weeks in his work. The excessive heat of the area as well as the wealth of 2000 specimens added to his collection extended the time spent there. Next, with the threat of the oncoming monsoon season, on 20 May Haenke headed back south, mostly on foot. Aided by many secular and regular clerical friends that he and made en route, particularly Augustinians and Dominicans, his trip was uneventful but not easy. Haenke went via Pasucan [Pasuquin], Bacana [Bacarra] and Badoc, all south along the South China Sea coast from Cape Bojeador. After a stop at Bigan, Haenke passed rapidly through Ilocos South and arrived back at San Jacinto, where he spent a few days to recover his health. His homeward-bound route included a repeat visit to Arayat where he spent the night of 23 June, the same night during which his superior, Colonel Pineda, died of overexertion and apoplexy at Badoc where had been just a month earlier. On 28 June Haenke’s highly successful excursion ended at Manila.

Among Haenke’s useful skills was linguistics, one evident in some minor attempts at field work with native people. That he was multilingual is evident to researchers, for is was prone to switch literary codes several times in the same paragraph and often changed languages within sentences. There were very few aboard ship who knew more than their own language. with some of the seamen not even having a command of Spanish. Of the officers, Jacobo Murphy [of Irish background] knew English, several knew Italian, and there were a few, of course including Luis Née, who knew French. It is supposed that the two chaplains knew many religious phrases in Latin. But Haenke knew many languages notwithstanding that in his early days with the Malaspina expedition he wrote his descriptions in Latin, the universal scientific language of that day. His handwriting is more of a problem for modern researchers trying to decipher what he said than was his annoying habit of changing languages. His ability in Latin was very useful when after the sudden death of his companion, Antonio Pineda, at Badoc, it was necessary to create a proper inscription for a mausoleum built for the deceased military scientist’s burial in the Huerta de Malate of the Royal Philippine Company in Manila. Tadeo Haenke’s written tribute which voice the collective sentiments of his shipboard companions read:

Antonio Pineda
Tribuno Militum
Virtute in Patriam Bello Armisque Insigni
Naturae demum indefesso scrutatori
Trienni arduo itinere Orbis Extrema adiit
Telluris viscera pelagi abyssos andiumque cacumina lustrans.
Vitae simul et laborum gravium.
Diem supremum orbit in luconia philippicarum
VI calendas julii MDCCXCII
Praematuram optimi mortem
Luget patria luget fauna lugent amici
Qui hocce posuere momumentum (18)

With the death of Antonio Pineda, the duties of Haenke on the Descubierta increased. The principal responsibility for all field work in natural history became his, while the placing in order of the notes of the deceased leader became the function of Antonio’s brother, Lieutenant Arcadio Pineda. But as a man of considerably lesser capacity than his brother, most of the important work fell to Haenke, who after 26 months of nearly constant contact and field work together with the head of natural history was well prepared for such duty.

Although Malaspina remained a long time in the Spanish-held Philippine Islands and it was even possible for the commander to have a gained sufficient political and economic information to meet his existing need, the comprehensiveness of scientific activity was certainly superficial. Also the loss of Antonio Pineda near the end of the Philippine stay proved to be a great setback.

One last stop was on the southern Island of Mindanao at the port of Zamboanga at the extreme western tip of that large island. While there, in an armed boat of the Descubierta, accompanied by a local pilot in a smaller boat, Haenke, Bauzá and Manuel Novales made a combined cartographic and botanical reconnaissance to Puerto de la Caldera, located at the eastern end of the Basilan Strait about ten miles east of the port of Zamboanga. Although the tasks assigned were carried out promptly and well, continual watchfulness against the many local pirates and an adverse tide delayed return until nearly dawn of the following day. Danger of attack from pirates was so great that only the most essential operations were carried out during the last short stay in the Philippines before heading southeastward to new challenges.

New Zealand’s Dusky Bay was a disappointment for both Haenke and the rest of the scientists. ‘There were no conifers, with the only vegetation being a shrub of medium height. Adverse weather cut short any true exploration because the corvettes were driven away by what Haenke described as an extraordinary storm.

At Port Jackson Sydney in New South Wales, Australia, the expedition was well received by the British colonists, most of whom were exiles at the penal colony there. The colony’s English name of Botany Bay promised much, but in reality the area had been studied previously. Nevertheless, Haenke and Née added significantly to their own copious herbarium while there. Near the end of the Malaspina expedition stay, a letter written from Sydney Cove by Haenke, "Botanist to the King of Spain", to the British patron of scientific exploration, Sir Joseph Banks, summarizes the visitor’s impressions and activities: "When, gradually, we penetrated further and further into the harbour, the appearance of a land new and strange to me, with a wealth of trees and bushes, caused me, just as it should, very great joy, and also aroused great hopes of a rich harvest. Approaching the land, my soul was struck by the beautiful genus of one-bearing Bushes and Trees, which by the favour of Flora and the Muses will bequeath to posterity the name of Banks: its beauty, great number and variety of species so worthy of bearing the name of the Maecenas of the Age. The space of almost a month was presently spent in the pleasure of many Botanical and Zoological excursions, which we undertook daily from Sydney Cove, the capital of Southern Wales, into the adjoining countryside and neighboring places: of which the more memorable were the one to Botany Bay, and in the opposite direction the one we took to the new towns of Parramatta, Toongabbie and Prospect Hill, from the heights of which place we beheld in the distance the wilder country of the mountain range called the Blue Mountains, [directly west]. The number of Plants, which everywhere in the places mentioned we gathered very freely by hand, surpassed all our expectations." (19) Also collected by Haenke in Australia were "three kangaroo foetuses, a dried kangaroo, four dried possums, three ‘squirrels’, one lizard, one ‘vampire’, one black swan, two ‘weasels’, two crows, 23 parrots of various kinds (including two white cockatoos), two herons of two kinds, four swallows of two kinds, two ducks, two ‘flycatchers’ of two different kinds, two rails, one thrush, three finches, and a shark." (20)

Next, in the Tonga Islands, referred to as Vavao, friendship was immediately established with a local chief, called Eixe [Chief] Tubou. Haenke and Née went off with him in a small boat to seek a good watering place about a league from the anchorage. This early visit ashore a major reception was instituted. The great sovereign of the extended, Eixe Vuna, was soon the center of attention. Despite participation by everyone in the following days and nights of revelry, the collections for the Royal Bureau were being expanded, with Haenke assuming as his principal responsibility a knowledge of the birds and fishes "which were found there in great number and variety, and as yet not well-known in the natural descriptions published up to that date."

Upon return to Peru by crossing the South Pacific from the Tonga Islands, and influenced by the suggestion of Haenke, Malaspina determined a course of action calculated to make better use of his natural scientists. After arriving at Callao for the second visit, Malaspina, with the approval of the Viceroy of Peru, decided to send Haenke and Née on separate excursions, the former to go accompanied by a Filipino assistant across the continent from Lima to Huancavelica, Cuzco and Potosí, dedicating himself not only to botany but also to zoology and lithology, Née, was commissioned to go south on the Atrevida to Concepción de Chile and from there to Santiago and eventually across the great cordillera to Buenos Aires where all would rendezvous.

On 16 October 1793, Haenke waived farewell to his companions as they left Callao for the much dreaded passage of Cape Horn, a voyage that would have had no scientific value for botanists. It was the last Haenke saw of his floating home, the Descubierta, and of his associates with whom he shared such a long eventful cruise. He was poised for his last, greatest, and longest excursion.



1  Accounts of Haenke’s near miss vary from two hours, to five hours, to an entire day.

2  A summary of Haenke’s effort to join the Malaspina Expedition is found in Perú, Chile y Buenos Aires, tomo III, MS 121 in Museo Naval, Madrid.

3  Except when otherwise noted, the account of Haenke’s participation follows the diary of the exploring expedition as Malaspina intended it for publication. It has been recently published as Alejandro Malaspina, Diario General del Viaje: La Expedición Malaspina, 1789-1794 (Madrid, 2 vols., Ministerio de Defensa, undated). Another summary, taken from Malaspina’s diary and various other sources, is found in Laurio H. Destefani and Donald Cutter, Tadeo Haenke y el final de una vieja polémica (Buenos Aires, Secretaría de Estado de Marina, 1966), passim.

4  These and almost all other drawings from the Malaspina Expedition are reproduced and discussed in Carmen Sotos Serrano, Los Pintores de la Expedición de Alejandro Malaspina, 2 vols. (Madrid, 1982). The drawings mentioned here are in vol. 2, figures 213-233. Further study may verify these suggested identifications.

5  The volcano referred to here almost certainly what is today called el Volcán San Cristóbal, elevation 1745 meters, lying inland east of the village of El Viejo.

6  Journal of Tomás de Suría and his voyage with Malaspina to the Northwest Coast of America in 1791, ed. by Donald C. Cutter (Fairfield WN, 1980) p. 30.

7  Journal of Tomás de Suría, pp. 67-68.

8  Journal of Tomás de Suría, p. 76.

9  Haenke’s activities in California are reported in considerable detail in Donald C. Cutter, Malaspina in California (San Francisco 1960), passim.

10  Felipe Bauzá, Viaje alrededor del Mundo, 1789-96, MS 749, in Museo Naval.

11  Jepson, The Silva of California (Berkeley 1910), p. 138.

12  Some botanists are in doubt that all of the many items mentioned are from that area.

13  Cutter, Malaspina in California, p. 56.

14  Cutter, Malaspina in California, pp. 57-58, 78-80.

15  The province is still called Albay, but the town has disappeared, swallowed up by its nearby rival of Legazpi, which is today the provincial capital and has the modernized spelling of Legaspi. The two cities were combined in 1905 and in 1925 the resulting city was called simply Legaspi.

16  Mount Mayon, still an active volcano with an eruption as late as 1947, is 7926’ in elevation and is known for its perfect conical shape.

17  Malaspina, Diario General del Viage, vol. 2, pp. 111-112.

18  A drawing of the mausoleum and a copy of Haenke’s inscription are reproduced in Malaspina, Diario General del Viaje, vol. 2, pp. 119-120.

19  Haenke’s letter, originally written in Latin, is translated in Archives of Natural History (1996), 23 (2): 255-260 in an article by Victoria Ibañez and Robert J. King, A letter from Thaddeus Haenke to Sir Joseph Banks.

20  Ibañez and King, Letter from Thaddeus Haenke, in op.cit., p. 257.

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