Spanish non-exploration of the Pacific

From the time of Magellen to the end of the Napoleonic Wars, the Pacific was virtually a Spanish lake. Yet in all that time they seem to have done very little exploration, conquest, or settlement of the Pacific islands. Certainly nothing like the systematic exploration and cartography that the British Navy did later. The Spanish seem to have regarded the Pacific as merely a route to the Phillipines; between there and the west coast of the Americas, zilch. You’d think that by accident if nothing else a few Spanish ships would have been blown off course and maybe found Hawaii or Tahiti. But apparently not. Is the Pacific that vast and that comparitively empty that if you’re concentrating just on getting from point A to point B, you’ll miss all those islands?

What issue, exactly, are you proposing for debate?

This might be a bit overly simplicistic, but it seems the Brits and Spaniards had different objectives. The Spanish were more interested in bringing wealth (eg, gold) back to Spain whereas the Brits were also interested in setting up a trading empire. Isolated islands w/o natural resources were not of much interest to the Spanish.

I recall that at least a dozen European ships are known to have been lost in the Pacific before Cook’s expeditions, and that there’s some evidence that castaways from some of these ships survived on certain Pacific islands, influencing the native cultures to various degrees. I’ve got a few books that go on about this sort of thing, so if anyone wants more details, I’ll root through them a bit.

But yeah, crossing rather than exploring the Pacific was the Spaniards’ priority. The Dutch had a fleeting interest in exploring the region in the pre-Cook era, but didn’t get very far. Most of Polynesia would indeed be missed if you were travelling from New Spain to The Philippines, or even if you kept a good direct course coming out of the Magellin Strait. Various Micronesian and Melanesian islands were no doubt encountered, but were pretty much ignored by Europeans until after Cook. Heck, even after Cook they’ve been pretty much ignored by everyone but a few missionaries.

It was a tossup between GQ and GD, since my question might not have a straightforward factual answer.

What exactly do you mean by “New Spain”?

Mexico under Spanish rule was called the Viceroyalty of New Spain. (Further south were the viceroyalties of New Granada and Peru.)

Brianglutton you are forgetting the Viceroyalty of River Plate (Bolivia, Uruguay, Chile, Paraguay and Argentina).
Carry on.-

Actually, John, I think you understate things: The Spainish defined wealth as one of two things: slaves or precious metals and jewels. The Brits and the Dutch were looking for resources, including cultural ones. And, both the Brits and the Dutch wanted seaports where shipping could reprovision with ease and safety. You could say that the Brits and Dutch were pushing for a global economy, and looking to position themselves to exploit it, the Spainiard goal was far more immediate: Exploration and control of new resources was for the purpose of improving their ability to control Europe. The Spainiards were far more interested in just finding native treasures and getting home again. They may have seeded the Caribbean with pigs and chickens for some reprovisioning purposes - but I don’t think they continued that practice in the Pacific.

They wouldn’t have had to. The polynesians brought pigs and chickens with them.

That could have something to do with the change in policy. :smiley:

Aside from the fact that Magellan sailed for Spain. The west coast of both North and South America was controlled by Spain as was the Phillipines. The Spanish had their hands full with Central America and were in search of ElDorado. There wasn’t much in the way of riches for them to be interested in the islands.