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, located two prospective entrances to the fabled Northwest Passage, made first contact with Aboriginal peoples, and found the site of what became western Canada's largest city - Vancouver, British Columbia. Narvaez also undertook diplomatic missions around the Pacific Ocean, charted the waters of the Philippines, and engaged in the political upheaval that transformed New Spain into México between 1796 and his death in 1840.
About the author
Jim McDowell is a veteran British Columbia historian. His first career was teaching, which took him into classrooms from northern California to Seattle, New York City, and Vancouver. He taught elementary school in California and Washington, worked as an inner-city education consultant in Harlem and Brooklyn, and educated teachers at Simon Fraser University. McDowell also worked for 20 years as a freelance writer and independent reporter; he wrote hundreds of newspaper and magazine articles for Canadian and U.S. publications. McDowell has three published books: Peace Conspiracy: The Story of Warrior-Businessman Yoshiro Fujimura (McBo, Irvine, CA 1993), a partial biography of a once obscure Japanese naval commander; Hamatsa: The Enigma of Cannibalism on the Pacific Northwest Coast (Ronsdale, Vancouver, BC 1997), an investigation of the existence of cannibalism among early Northwest Coast Native people; Josè Maria Narvaez: The Forgotten Explore (Arthur H. Clark, Spokane, WA 1998), the first full life story of the Spanish-Mexican navigator. This year, McDowell is looking forward to the publication of Father Augustin Brabant: Saviour or Scourge? by Ronsdale. It will present a thorough, unvarnished biography of the first Catholic missionary to work on Vancouver Island during the colonial period. McDowell is also working on two other books: one about birdsong, which uses folktales from around the world to probe the possible psychological significance of bird songs for human beings; another about walks for seniors and families.