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Document Number: AJ-110
Author: Menzies, Archibald, 1754-1842
Title: Menzies' Journal of Vancouver's Voyage, April to October, 1792
Source: Menzies, Archibald. Menzies' Journal of Vancouver's Voyage, April to October, 1792. Edited, with Botanical and Ethnological Notes, by C.F. Newcombe, M.D., and a Biographical Note by J. Forsyth. (Victoria, B.C.: Printed by William H. Cullin, Printer to the King's Most Excellent Majesty, 1923). Pages i-xx, 1-155.
Pages/Illustrations: 192 / 18 (2 of tables)
Citable URL:

Author Note

Born in Scotland to a family keenly interested in botany and gardening, Archibald Menzies (1754-1842), trained as a doctor at the University of Edinburgh. In 1782, he joined the Royal Navy as a surgeon, but he continued to study medicinal plants, sending botanical specimens from his travels to the West Indies and Nova Scotia to the Royal Botanical Gardens. In 1790, he was appointed naturalist to George Vancouverís expedition to the Northwest coast of America. En route, the ships, the Discovery and the Chatham, stopped at the Cape of Good Hope, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii, finally reaching the Pacific Northwest in April 1792. Menzies records the British discovery of Mt. Baker, Puget Sound, Desolation Sound, and Vancouver Island, among other important landmarks. When the doctor on the Discovery became too ill to serve Menzies took over as surgeon.

After returning to Britain in 1795, Menzies continued to serve in the Royal Navy, mostly travelling to the West Indies. After retirement in 1802, he practiced medicine in London.

Expedition of 1792

Vancouver was under direction from the British government to reclaim land in the Nootka Sound ceded by the Spanish and to continue the surveys of the Northwest coastline started by Captain James Cook. The British hoped he would assert British influence over an area where both the Spanish and newly independent Americans were competing with British imperial aims. As naturalist, Menzies was tasked by the President of the Royal Society, Sir Joseph Banks, to make detailed observations of the plants he would see, to collect new and rare species, and to report on the areaís suitability for British colonization.

Document Note

Menzies was probably the first scientist to study and collect in the Pacific Northwest. As well as meticulously documenting his botanical discoveries, Menzies gives a vivid account of the explorersí life on board ship. He also describes encounters with Spanish explorers and meetings with native Americans, such as the Salish Indians and the Nootkans of Vancouver Island.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

The Center for the Study of the Pacific Northwest provides information on European rivalry for the Pacific Northwest coast, including timelines, biographies and maps. See:

For a brief biography of Menzies, see the Clan Menzies Magazine web site at

For more information on Vancouverís life see:

To learn more about Menziesí narrow escape from a court martial, see

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