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Description

Extremely rare Spanish Hydrographical Chart of the "Isla de Babao", "Isla de Late" and neighboring Islands, Surveyed by the Spanish Hydrographical Survey in May and June of 1793, during the Malaspina expedition.

Don Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa, commanding Spanish frigate Princesa was the first European to come to Vavaʻu, on March 4, 1781. He charted Vava'u when Martín de Mayorga was the Viceroy of New Spain. Captain James Cook knew about the islands a decennium before, but the people in Haʻapai told him it would be no good for him to go there as there was no harbor. Apparently they did not want him to go there, and Cook heeded their advice anyway. Mourelle found excellent anchoring, of which he was in desperate need after having failed to find a good harbor on Fonualei (Bitterness island) and Late. Mourelle named the harbor Puerto de Refugio. But his original Port of Refuge was the bay on the west coast of the main island, near Longomapu. In 1793 Alessandro Malaspina visited for a month, following up on Mourelle and claiming the islands for Spain.

The survey includes a highly detailed charting of the Puerto de Refugio (Port of Refuge). Late is an uninhabited island to the west, which was discovered by Spanish naval officer Francisco Mourelle de la Rúa on February 27, 1781, on board of the frigate Princesa. Six years later it was explored by French explorer Jean-François de La Pérouse. It was again visited by British naval officer Edward Edwards in 1791, and named Bickerston.

The map shows what is now Neiafu in Tonga, the second largest city among the Tonga Islands.

We were unable to locate another example of this map.

Direccion Hidrografica de Madrid Biography

The Dirección de Hidrografía, or the Directorate of Hydrographic Works, was established in 1797. Its roots were in the Casa de Contratación, founded in 1503 in Sevilla, which housed all the charts of the Spanish Empire and oversaw the creation and maintenance of the padrón real, the official master chart. The Casa, now in Cadiz, was shuttered in 1790, but Spain still needed a hydrographic body. In response, the Dirección was created in 1797. One of its first projects was the publication of charts from the Malaspina Expedition (1789-1794). The Dirección oversaw not only publication, but also surveying. The Dirección was abolished in the early twentieth century, when their work was distributed to other organizations.