The Age of Discovery: Visions of the Pacific
Featured Speaker: Ray Ashley, PhD
This lecture series will examine the historical and cultural context of the Pacific as the west transitioned from an emerging early-modern world to the age of rationalism and the enlightenment. The lectures generally follow the course of the Maritime Museum’s National Endowment of the Humanities program “Empires of the Wind: The Role of the Pacific in American History During the Age of Sail.”
October 13: Magellan’s Voyage
The year 2022 will mark the 500-year anniversary of the first circumnavigation of the earth by a single expedition. Magellan’s circumnavigation was a record as a first and as a story of the dramatic events experienced by the participants. Individuals and nations were exposed to great risk in order to project empire far beyond the technological capabilities of the period. This lecture will discuss the level of strife between the Europeans and the peoples they encountered, and, significantly, among the expedition members themselves in a voyage characterized by conflict over leadership, mutiny, revenge, abandonment, shipwreck, disease, and military defeat. The statistic most telling about the nature of the voyage is that, of the 270 men and five ships that set out in 1519, only one ship and 18 survivors returned to Spain in 1522 after circling the globe.
October 27: Cabrillo’s Voyage and the Discovery of California
For more than a century, the voyage of Juan Rodrigues Cabrillo has been publicly celebrated as California’s origin story. The name Cabrillo is one of the most-used place names in the U.S. In his own time, however, Cabrillo was virtually unknown; his voyage was considered a failure, the records were lost, and the sole artistic representation of the ships of his expedition is a mysterious composition produced by an unnamed Native American artist who recorded what he or she saw from a remote and nearly inaccessible location in California’s desert wilderness. This lecture will also describe what it was like to research and build a replica of Cabrillo’s flagship San Salvador from its fragmentary historic DNA, and what it has been like to sail her more than 4000 miles along the California Coast and Channel Islands — the first galleon to sail the Pacific coast in more than four centuries.
November 10: Anson’s Voyage
The circumnavigation of Commodore George Anson during the War of Jenkin’s Ear 1740-44 between Britain and Spain represents yet another epic seafaring adventure across the far reaches of the Pacific. Anson’s attempt at a vast raid across the expanse of Spain’s Pacific empire contained elements of an emerging concept for naval power, though short of the technological capacity to reliably project it. The result was a horrific tale of suffering and death with but one ship and few survivors returning from the proud fleet that set out to conquer the Pacific. Nevertheless, the voyage was deemed a success due to Anson’s capture of the fabled Acapulco galleon, and the consequences of limitations revealed in current navigational practice and medical understanding contributed momentum directly to the rise of institutional science and the birth of clinical medicine.
November 24: Three Voyages to Paradise: Cook, Melville, and Gauguin
“What does paradise look like to you?” Today, the closest answer might be: someplace that looks in our imagination like Tahiti: warm green islands surrounded by blue lagoons spilled into by waterfalls and cooled by gentle trade winds, inhabited by friendly, attractive, and artistic people who welcome visitors with warm hospitality and few inhibitions. How is it that as humanity has become more divisive, its aspirations of perfection have become so similar? This lecture will propose that three individuals appropriated the imagination of humanity, each coming at a crucial moment in the evolution of art, philosophy, literature, science, and mass communication and each the culmination of a Pacific story. It is based on the Maritime Museum’s Three Voyages to Paradise exhibition, which subsequently toured at many art museums around the country and exhibited works by the artists who accompanied Cook, artifacts from Herman Melville’s voyages, and the largest number of original works by Paul Gauguin to appear anywhere outside of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC.
Ray Ashley is President/CEO of the San Diego Maritime Museum. He holds a PhD in History from Duke University and has taught courses in history and archeology at UCSD and USD. Ashley has been sailing for most of his life, is a licensed captain for sail, steam, and auxiliary vessels of 200 tons registry, is the Star of India’s navigator, and sails as relief captain for the other vessels of the Museum’s active fleet, including the galleon San Salvador, which he helped to construct. He is a member of many civic and professional boards, including the Tall Ships America, the California Missions Foundation, the Maritime Alliance Foundation, and the San Diego Port Tenants Association.
Coordinator: Steve Clarey
10/13/2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 AM
10/27/2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
11/10/2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
11/24/2021 10:00 AM - 12:00 PM
Included with membership, no registration required.