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Document Number: AJ-003
Author: Ascensión, Antonio de la
Title: Brief Report of the Discovery in the South Sea
Source: Bolton, Herbert Eugene (editor). Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1916). Pages 104-134.
Pages/Illustrations: 33 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Antonio de la Ascensión was a priest from Seville, Spain, who in 1602 maintained a daily diary (unpublished) during the Vizcaíno expedition. He rewrote this account of the voyage from his diary notes, October 12, 1620. Trained as a cosmographer in Seville before becoming a priest, Ascensión mapped the California coast as Sebastián Vizcaíno pushed as far north as southern Oregon. Ascensión’s notes and maps advanced and replaced information provided by Juan Rodríquez Cabrillo sixty years earlier (see AJ-001) and Vizcaíno’s new names for physical landmarks became established navigation aids. Vizcaíno was a merchant involved in trade between China, the Philippines and Mexico. For more information about him see the background notes to AJ-002.

Vizcaino Expedition of 1602-1603

The expedition left Acapulco May 5, 1602, and returned ten months later on March 21, 1603. Two ships and a frigate set sail from Acapulco, Mexico. At Mazatlán, they crossed the Gulf to Cabo San Lucas and sailed north along the western Baja California coast. On November 10, Vizcaíno reached the bay that Cabrillo named San Miguel and renamed it San Diego. The expedition spent ten days charting the bay, then continued north. On December 14, Vizcaíno arrived at a bay he named Monterrey. Two of the three boats then sailed further north. Vizcaíno tried to turn around at Cape Mendocino, but a storm blew his ship to Cabo Blanco in southern Oregon. On January 21, Vizcaíno’s expedition fleet finally turned south, arriving in Acapulco on March 21, 1603.

Ascensión, who originally served on the expedition to minister to the crew, also sought to convert California’s native people to Christianity. His narrative describes in great detail the coast and waters he surveyed, including information about climate, fish, wild game, trees and plants, and the Native Americans living there. His detailed recommendations consider the benefits of settlement in California and the potential for religious conversion of Native Americans. A short memorial from Francisco de Arellano accompanies the report in which Ascensión offers to help as he can with the conquest and settlement of the lands that his report described.

Document Note

Father Ascensión wrote this account of the voyage October 12, 1620, drawing upon an unpublished diary he kept during the trip. This account was published in Spanish in Joaquín Francisco Pacheco and Francisco de Cárdenas, Colección de Documentos Inéditos, VIII (Madrid, 1864-1884). This English translation is published in: Herbert Eugene Bolton, ed., Spanish Exploration in the Southwest, 1542-1706 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1916).

Other Internet and Reference Sources

Douros, Basil S. “Early Uses of Resources.” Monterrey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Site Characterization.

Hughart, Kathy and Bill White. Early Exploration of San Diego, 1542 to 1769 (California History & Culture Conservancy, 1999).

San Diego Historical Society. “Sebastián Vizcaíno.” San Diego Biographies.

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