Uncharted Waters: The Explorations of José Narváez (1768–1840)

Uncharted Waters

The Explorations of José Narváez (1768–1840)

By Jim McDowell


  • October 2015
  • ISBN 978-1-55380-334-5
  • ebook ISBN: 978-1-55380-435-2
  • PDF ISBN: 978-1-55380-436-9
  • 6″ x 9″, Trade Paperback, 322 pages
  • 40 b&w photos and maps
  • Biography, History


Jim McDowell’s new biography of the little-known Spanish explorer José María Narváez, reveals his significant discoveries during the European exploration of what is now Canada’s Pacific Northwest Coast. Narváez was the first European to investigate a Russian fur-trading outpost in the Gulf of Alaska in 1788. The following year he became the first Spaniard to reconnoitre Juan de Fuca Strait. In 1791, he charted the interiors of three large inlets on Vancouver Island’s West Coast, discovered a vast inland sea to the east (today’s Salish Sea), mapped the entire gulf, made first contact with Aboriginal peoples in the area, and found the site of what became western Canada’s largest city — Vancouver, British Columbia. Narváez also undertook diplomatic missions around the Pacific Ocean, charted the waters of the Philippines, and engaged extensively in the political upheaval that transformed New Spain into Mexico between 1796 and his death in 1840.

“A wonderful legacy of a time passed, and a critical one on the eve of war between Spain and Britain.”
—Barry Gough, author of Pax Britannica

“McDowell’s account is well illustrated, accessible and sensitive to the role of First Nations.”
—Robert Galois, author of A Voyage to the Northwest Side of America

“A fine contribution to our knowledge of the Age of Spanish Exploration. The definitive biography of this capable officer.”

—Capt. Steve Mayo, Pacific Northwest maritime historian

“Uncharted Waters is a comprehensive examination of one of the most important and overlooked explorers of the Pacific coast during the late eighteenth century …An important addition to the bookshelf of early British Columbia history.”
—BC Studies


Awards & Reviews

  • 2016 IPPY Silver Medal, Best Regional Non-fiction, Canada-West

McDowell offers a seemingly effortless synthesis of facts, political context and biographical particulars to present the first fully realized biography of the achievements of José Narvaez.” — BC BookWorld

“The author should be congratulated for a well-written narrative, excellent choice of maps and illustrations and exhaustive research. . . . McDowell has not only done Narváez, but also BC’s historical narrative, an important service.” — Robin Inglis, The British Columbia Historical Federation Magazine 

Other books by Jim McDowell

  1. Hamatsa
  2. Father August Brabant