Explorers of the Pacific: European and American Discoveries in Polynesia
1740 to 1744
A period of forty years elapsed after Roggeveen's voyage before any exploring expedition to the south Pacific took place, but in the interval a voyage was made by Commodore George Anson with a fleet of British war vessels. Though no discoveries were made, the expedition aroused so much interest in England that it may have had some influence on later developments. It was brought about by Spain's arbitrary searching of English ships in the West Indies with the excuse that she must prevent the smuggling which was depriving the Spanish authorities of a good deal of revenue.
Friction between England and Spain led to war in 1739. The British Government equipped a fleet of six ships with two victualers (pinks) to cruise off the Pacific coast of Peru and New Spain for the purpose of cutting off the Spanish supphes of wealth from South America. The fleet was placed under page 21the command of Commodore George Anson, whose flagship was the Centurion, with sixty guns and 400 men. The total force numbered about 1,510 men. Anson sailed from St. Helens Road on September 18, 1740, and passed through the Strait of Le Maire in March 1741.
The Spanish, who had learned of the British expedition, equipped a large fleet of war vessels and sent it out under Admiral Pizarro to oppose the British. The Spanish fleet, however, ran into storms, the provisions gave out, and many of the ships were wrecked. Thus the Spanish attempt ended in failure. The Viceroy of Peru also sent out some ships to intercept Anson, but they failed to make contact.
Anson continued taking prizes along the Pacific coast during 1741 and part of 1742. He lost some of his ships but replaced them with prizes manned by crews from his own ships. On May 6, 1742, he sailed from the Mexican coast and reached Tinian in the Marianas, whence he sailed to Macao. Here he refitted before sailing to a position near the Philippines to await a galleon. In June 1743 he sighted a galleon and, by means of superior skill and seamanship, captured her treasure valued at about 400,000 pounds sterling. After repairing at Macao, Anson sailed in the Centurion for England via the Cape of Good Hope and anchored at Spithead on June 15, 1744, after a voyage of three years and nine months.