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Document Number: AJ-089
Author: Portlock, Nathaniel, 1748?-1817
Title: A Voyage Round the World; But More Particularly to the North-West Coast of America: Performed in 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788, in the King George and Queen Charlotte, Captains Portlock and Dixon
Source: Portlock, Nathaniel. Voyage Round the World; But More Particularly to the Northwest Coast of America: Performed in 1785, 1786, 1787, and 1788, in the King George and Queen Charlotte, Captains Portlock and Dixon. Embellished with Twenty Copper-Plates. Dedicated, by Permission, to His Majesty. (London: John Stockdale and George Goulding, 1789).
Pages/Illustrations: 456 / 27 (6 of tables)
Citable URL: www.americanjourneys.org/aj-089/

Author Note

Nathaniel Portlock (1748?-1817) joined the British navy at the age of twenty-four, and was chosen as a junior officer on Captain Cook’s third voyage, the first to encounter Hawaii (see AJ-130). With him on that trip was another young British officer, George Dixon, and in 1785 the two of them traveled to the north Pacific again. Portlock commanded this 1785-1788 expedition from the ship King George while Dixon captained the Queen Charlotte. The purpose of the expedition was to investigate the potential of the Alaskan fur trade and to resume Cook’s search for a Northwest Passage through the continent.

Expedition of 1785-1788

The pair left England on August 29, 1785, and took nearly a year to reach Alaska, rounding Cape Horn and touching at Hawaii on the way. They charted the Alaskan coast until winter forced them back to Hawaii. In the spring of 1787 they headed north again, reaching the Kenai Peninsula from which Dixon explored southward while Portlock traded for furs. They wintered again in Hawaii before turning west to China to sell their furs, arriving home in England via the Cape of Good Hope on August 24, 1788.

Document Note

Portlock published his account of the voyage, from which we have excerpted the Hawaii and North American portions, in 1789. Dixon produced his own version of the trip, co-authored with William Beresford, under virtually the same title in the same year.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For more descriptions of the Pacific coast in these years, see AJ-087 (Choris), AJ-110 (Menzies), AJ-130 (Cook), AJ-131 (LaPerouse), AJ-132 (Lisiansky), AJ-134 (Vancouver), and AJ-137 (Suria).

Useful background on all these voyages is provided by the online exhibit, “Science Under Sail: Russia's Great Voyages to America 1728-1867” at http://www.calacademy.org/exhibits/science_under_sail/sailing.html

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