The Northern Limits of Drake in the Pacific in 1579

Sunday, January 5, 2020
3rd Floor West Promenade (New York Hilton)
Melissa Darby, Lower Columbia Research & Archaeology LLC
In the summer of 1579 Francis Drake and his crew in the Golden Hind of about eighty men and a pregnant Black woman named Maria were in peril because the ship was leaking. They were on an uncharted rocky coast in a desperate search for protected bay to lay the ship completely on her sides to get to the leak. By luck or providence they found a ‘Fair and Good Bay’ which is generally thought to be located in California. They stacked the treasure they had recently captured from the Spanish onto on this sandy shore, repaired the ship, explored the country, and after a number of weeks they set sail for home. When they returned to England, they became the second expedition to circumnavigate the earth, after Magellan’s voyage in 1522, and the first to return with its commander.

The two persistent questions regarding Drake's Famous Voyage are 1) how far north did they travel along the coast, and 2) where, i.e. what bay, did they make landfall. Presented here is the case that Drake was further north on the coast than generally believed.

The poster will also illustrate the story of the voyage and their time in this bay, including the ceremonious welcome of Drake and his crew by the Native people. Drake’s cultural observations of the Natives’ houses, dress, foods, language, and lifeways are compared with ethnographic material collected by early anthropologists, and a compelling case is made that Drake and his crew landed on the Oregon coast.

The California landing theory was not always universally accepted. In the early twentieth century new clues to Drake’s movements in the Pacific came to light when anthropologist Zelia Nuttall found a trove of contemporary documents about Drake’s voyage that plainly indicated he was further north. Her findings were eclipsed when the Plate of Brass was found in 1936 (and only declared a hoax in 1977). This plaque was the purported land claim marker left by Drake and touted as authentic by the famous California historian Herbert E. Bolton. Presented here is the finding that it was likely Bolton who created the Drake Plate hoax and that it was designed to subvert Nuttall’s findings that Drake was further north, and preserve the legend of Sir Francis Drake as California’s golden hero.

See more of: Poster Session #1
See more of: AHA Sessions