Francisco Antonio Mourelle
was born in 1754 at San Adrian de Corne in Galicia, northwestern
Spain. He began as an apprentice pilot in 1768 and transferred to
Mexico in the 1770s where he sailed as a pilot out of the port of San
Blas. Mourelle accompanied Bodega on the two Spanish voyages toward
Alaska in the 1775 and 1779. When Spain declared war in 1780, Mourelle
sailed the Princesca to Manila. On the return journey he made
discoveries in Tonga and Tuvalu before reaching San Blas in late 1781.
Mourelle returned to Europe and fought in the Napoleonic Wars. He was
promoted to the rank of Admiral in 1818 but died in Cadiz in 1820.
The first Western explorers to see Tonga were
Jacob Lemaire and Willem Schouten in 1616. Abel Tasman (1643)
and James Cook (1773) also visited Tonga. In 1781 Mourelle was
the first Western explorer to sight the Vava'u island of Tonga. He
named it "Port of Refuge."