Dead Mariner Discovers Vancouver Island!

...and other marvelous feats

The face of the fool is a world map: Dutch, anon., circa 1590

What can we learn on the World Wide Web about Francis Drake's journey around the globe? Quite a lot, quite a lot ... for example:

The east coast [of Canada] was first sighted by Norsemen from Greenland in 986... the discovery of Vancouver Island may have been made by Francis Drake as long ago as 1597...
From a Canadian Bank's Web Page

Drake's death in 1596 gives these bankers no pause - neither does the fact that no account of the circumnavigation places him as far north as Vancouver Island. At the other end of the Americas we find Chilean weather researchers jumping right into the middle of a current controversy:

The SR-01 region covers the Drake Passage, known since the its [sic] first exploration by Sir Francis Drake as a region of severe storms.
From a paper titled Chilean Meteorological Contributions to WOCE

Drake, contrary to the statement in the next item, sailed from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Strait of Magellan, not by rounding Cape Horn via the Drake Passage, which he certainly did not explore. He may, however, have been close enough to the Horn to realize that the two oceans are linked and not, as was thought at the time, separated by continuous land extending from South America to Antarctica.

In 1579, Sir Francis Drake sailed his ship, the Golden Hinde, from England in search of treasure for Queen Elizabeth. The Sleek ship sailed around the tip of South America .... The Golden Hinde was not only one of the first ships to sail around the world, it was truly a Treasure Ship. 399 years later, a fabulous 200 foot long replica of the Golden Hinde was built here on Grand Lagoon. Recreated in amazing detail, this three-story restaurant has become a family tradition on Panama City ...
From a Floridian Chamber of Commerce sub-page

The "sailed around the tip" aside, the "amazing detail" of this "replica" does not extend to basic dimensions. The Golden Hind was a small ship, even for her day. One of the few things known about her is that she was less than 100 feet long; we know this because a special dock which was built for her after the "Famous Voyage" survived long enough to be measured, many years after the Golden Hind herself had rotted away. Next, still in the far south, we learn that

On September 6th 1577, Drake cleared the Straight of Magellan, but the following day a severe storm came up. It drove Drake's ship, the Golden Hind, south to 57 degrees. Here he reached the convergence of the Antarctic and the Pacific Oceans. Drake's nephew, Francis Fletcher, describes their "falling in with the uttermost part of land towards the South Pole without which there is no main nor island to be seen to the Southwards but the Atlantic Ocean and the South Sea meet in a passage."
From a web page devoted to a voyage of the vessel World Discoverer

The claim that Drake "reached the convergence" is not so much the problem here as is the startling revelation that Francis Fletcher, the preacher of the Golden Hind, was Drake's nephew. If true, this would solve a major mystery since virtually nothing is known about Fletcher. There was a cousin, John Drake, along on the voyage as well as a younger brother, Thomas, but other than these two there were no known relatives of Francis on board. (To further confuse things a nephew, named Sir Francis Drake, was the eventual publisher of a narrative account, The World Encompassed, in which preacher Fletcher's words appear.) Leaping briskly back, as only the web allows, from Antarctic waters to North America we encounter this bizarre sentence:

When we visit the public lands in the Badlands of South Dakota, we walk among 60 million year old dinosaur tracks; while in the Point Reyes National Seashore of California, we walk in the footsteps of Sir Francis Drake, the sixteenth century conquistador.
From the NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) Web: Cultural and Historical Resources on Public Lands

The speculation that Drake was at Point Reyes (which forms the northern arm of Drakes Bay) is just that - speculation, as is becoming more and more apparent. Many authors are more wary than these in placing Drake here or there. But the low point here is calling Drake a "conquistador." That's like calling Jesse Jackson a Republican. Moving north a bit more, we learn that

Recorded history first mentions the river we know as the Umpqua in the year 1578 when Sir Francis Drake sailed north in the Pacific Ocean searching for the mythical Strait of Anian.
From the Winchester Bay [Oregon]web page

Drake may or may not have been looking for the Northwest Passage when he sailed along the Oregon coast in 1579 (not 1578) but not one word was "recorded" in any of the three narratives of the journey about this river. Next the California State College system enlightens us about some of Drake's activities:

Sir Francis Drake had spent half of 1579 plundering Spanish ports in South America. He was beginning his trip across the Pacific when his ship The Golden Hind needed repairs. He dropped anchor in what is now Bodega Bay, near San Francisco. He was greeted by Miwok Indians, who took Drake and his men for sea gods.
From Global Campus, Calif. State College Web

This innocuous-sounding paragraph contains half a dozen assumptions and errors presented as fact. Drake left Central, not South American, waters in April - hardly half a year. He was probably not yet beginning a Pacific crossing, among other reasons because it was the wrong time of year to make such an attempt. Bodega Bay is indeed a possible landing site, and while it is a refreshing proposal it is not one with much support. The Indians who met Drake may have been Miwok, but they may have been Pomo; the question is very much open. Whoever they were, there is no indication that they considered the English "sea gods," whatever those might be. From Marin County we hear:

As the first Europeans to visit Northern California, Sir Francis Drake and his crew landed near Point Reyes on July 17, 1579. Drake called the country Nova Albion, and commented upon the beauty of the land and the nobility of the people who lived here, "free from guile or treachery." He stayed for less than a week, then left.
From the Albion Monitor (Marin County)

This begins rather nicely, notwithstanding the flat placement of the landing at Drakes Bay - common enough, coming from a Marin County publication - but then disintegrates with the final sentence. Drake stayed for over five weeks (then left). Finally, for now, a visit to the East Coast reveals massive confusion: the early 1500s the Atlantic was thick with English vessels. A few came to prey on Spanish treasure ships, made sluggish and vulnerable by the weight of gold and silver they were carrying back to the Old World. Remarkably good money could be made from this.- On a single voyage Sir Francis Drake returned to England with booty worth $60 million in today's money. On the same voyage, Drake briefly put ashore in what is now Virginia, claimed it for the crown and called it New Albion.
From a web advertisement for a book, Made In America, by Bill Bryson

Drake did visit Virginia - in the late, not early, 1500's, but neither claimed nor named it; rather, he evacuated the already established colony, there, which had failed. He called the region of the Pacific North American coast he visited in 1579 Nova, not New, Albion (though Nova does mean New).

And so it goes on the web, and that's one reason for this page. If you find any of this sort of history, pass it along and we'll paste it up here.

Nova Albion Research
Copyright 1996 by Oliver Seeler
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