Vincente Tofiño de San Miguel

While examining the coast of Vancouver Island during the summer of 1792, explorers Galiano and Valdes named Tofino Inlet in honour of their teacher, Spanish hydrographer Captain Vincente Tofiño de San Miguel.



Vincente Tofiño de San Miguel 1732-1795

Vincente Tofino was born on September 6, 1732 in Cadiz, Spain and died there in 1795. He was orphaned at the age of fourteen when his father, an army officer, was killed at the Battle of Plasencia on June 15, 1746. Hence, Vincente was brought up by his uncle, a priest of various parishes in the province of Extramadura.

Vincente Tofino entered the army in 1750. By 1755, he had reached the rank of Lieutenant, had taught himself the first fifteen books of Euclid, and had become a specialist in artillery. A subsequent appointment as Teacher of Mathematics at the Naval Academy, also in 1755, began a thirty year naval career in which he climbed to the rank of Rear Admiral.

Throughout his military career, Vincente Tofino acquired his reputation as an astronomer and mathematician. He travelled, extensively, and with much sea duty, in the Mediterranean area, especially Italy. His chief claim to fame as a cartographer and hydrographer was the careful and detailed survey (with officers he trained), between 1783 and 1788, of the ports and coast of Spain, and the North African shore. This fame led to his being frequently consulted by the Ministers of State, and to his election as correspondent of the Spanish Academy of History and of the French and Portuguese Academies of Science.

GoTofino thanks Ken Gibson for this information. Grateful thanks are extended to Captain De Navio Ricardo Cerezo (Madrid, Spain) and to Freeman M. Tovell (Victoria, BC) for their generosity and assistance in the acquisition of the picture of Captain Vincente Tofino and for the compilation of this data.

And in the you gotta love the internet department:
Here’s a conversation Jayun McDowell of GoTofino.Com had with Manuel Ariza who lives in the town of Vincente Tofino


I was born in the South of Spain, in San Fernando, where the Spanish hydrographer Vicente Tofino de San Miguel was died in 1795. San Fernando is a small town next to the ancient city of Cadiz, where Vicente Tofino was born in 1732, and not 1792 as you mention in your historical review. I know, and probably also you, that this great hydrographer never went to your beatiful country. However, other famous spanish navy explorers, like Alejandro Malaspina and Alcala Galiano, in 1791 and 1792, performed some explorations in Nootka Island and in the area around. For instance, near from Tofino it is placed the Malaspina Strait.

My question is: do you know who and when decided to put the name of Tofino to your beatiful place? I am very curious about it, because I can imagine that was one of the XVIII century spanish saylors, but I don’t know who of them and when.

Thank you very much in advance for your help,
M. Ariza, San Fernando, Spain


It is thought that our home of Tofino, BC was named after the Spanish hydrographer, Captain Vincente Tofiño de San Miguel. In 1792 two commanders of the Spanish navy, Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés, explored Canada’s west in their ships, Sutil and Mexicana. They named one of the inlets they sailed Tofino Inlet. The settlement that grew up in that inlet was also named Tofino and retains that name today. Of course the First Nations people, the Tla-o-qui-aht, had many names for the land and waters of the region and today we use the name Clayoquot Sound for the entire area.

An interesting sidebar is that before Galiano and Valdés arrived, another Spainard, Juan Pantoja, had named the inlet Gervete. Today the three men are remembered in the naming of Galiano Island and Valdés Island in the Strait of Georgia and Pantoja Island in Nootka Sound.

Another explanation for the name follows below:
Tofino Inlet, 1792 Galiano and Valdes – when completing their voyage in Sutil and Mexicana, possibly from the Spanish word “Togino” — a nautical term referring to the pieces of wood used on the sides of a ship as steps.


Thank you very much for your detailed explanation. First of all, I appreciate your comments very much; because the need I had to know about the topic, is now completely closed with your good answer. Second, let me apologize because, between the lines in your historical review, as “horrible” translation, I wrongly thought that you had noted the date 1792 in relation with the date of birth of Tofino. Excuse me for that wrong assumption, due to my lack of knowledge in the use of the English language.

On the other hand, maybe you can have some curiosity about why somebody like me would like to know the origin of the name of your beautiful land (the photos in your website are incredible). If so, let me try to explain it in a few words. Recently, I read a very good book about the exploration journeys that Captain Cook made in XVIII century. In the third trip, he tried to find a sailing route (to the Atlantic Ocean) through the North-West coast of America, so he explored the coast of Vancouver, Nootka and Alaska before having to leave the mission because of the great blocks of ice obstructing the movement of “The Resolution”. I was trying to follow the route of Captain Cook on a paper map, when suddenly, to my surprise, I saw a small point named “Tofino” on the chart. The book about Cook mentioned that, before this great explorer, the coast had also been explored by Spaniards. At that moment, I realized that a name like “Tofino”, in that part of the world, explored by Spaniards long time ago, could be named by one of the Spaniard explorers. And I begun to study about “Tofino”. By the time “Tofino” was born, I knew that it was impossible that the first Spaniard explorers, coming before Captain Cook, were responsible to name the place Tofino. So, I made some investigations pointing to Malaspina and Alcalá Galiano, that were exploring the place in 1791 and 1792. However, I couldn’t find any relationship between them and the name of Tofino Inlet, until I received your answer. So, now, I’m quiet happy to know the end of the story, because of your interest to answer my questions. It’s a great pleasure to confirm the origin of the name.

I also appreciate very much the web-link you provide to the origin of British Columbia names, where I have found several spanish names; like Apodaca, another great man from the history of “Cádiz” county. So, thanks to you, now I know new things about the history of Cádiz great explorers and their links with Vancouver Island and its around; that make me think that British Columbia and Cádiz are only far in the distance but not in spirit.

Once again, thank you very much for attending me so quickly and for your comments about my country. Your website is really very nice and it seems to me that your county is really wonderful to visit.

Manuel Ariza