The Farallon Islands in Time and Space

...a bizarre Theory of Relativity.

Southeast Farallon Island

On July 23, 1579, Francis Drake and the Golden Hind left the "conuenient and fit harborough" in Nova Albion and, almost everyone agrees, sailed to the Farallon Islands, which lie some twenty miles off the Golden Gate. Then, after topping off the larder, the Golden Hind sailed west into open waters, leaving America behind as she crossed the vast Pacific. The journey from Portus Novae Albionis to the Farallons, and the stop there, are described briefly, and exclusively, in the World Encompassed:

The 23. of Iuly they tooke a sorrowfull farewell of vs, but being loathe to leaue vs, they presently ranne to the tops of the hils to keepe vs in their sight as long as they could, making fires before and behind, and on each side of them, burning therein (as is to be supposed) sacrifices at our departure.

Not farre without this harborough did lye certaine Ilands (we called them the Ilands of Saint Iames) hauing on them plentifull and great store of Seales and birds, with one of which wee fell July 24. whereon we found such prouision as might competently serve our turne for a while. We departed againe the day next following, viz. July 25. And our Generall now considering, that the extremity of the cold not only continued but increased, the Sunne being gone farther from vs, and that the wind blowing still (as it did at first) from the Northwest, cut off all hope of finding a passage through these Northerne parts, thought it necessarie to loose no time; and therefore with generall consent of all, bent his course directly to runne with the Ilands of the Moluccas.

This account seems quite straightforward, yielding, without much effort, the conclusion that Drake set off on July 23 (a Thursday), and arrived at the Farallons on the next day, July 24 (a Friday). Amazingly, this perfectly clear sequence has inspired a spasm of obfuscation by the desperate advocates of Drakes Bay, the Drake Navigators Guild, speaking through Raymond Aker in the pages of the California Historical Society's quarterly journal:

It is the Guild's belief that these dates resulted from the usual seamen's practice in that era to change the log date at noon instead of midnight.... Drake could have left Drake's Estero the morning of August [sic] 23, commenced his sea day at noon with the new date of August [sic] 24, and reached the Farallon Islands before dark.

The problem (other than that Aker has the month wrong) addressed by this nonsense is that the Farallons are close enough to Drakes Bay to be visible from high ground there, making the stated time the Golden Hind took to cover the distance - again about twenty miles - inexplicable. The "Guild's belief" that on the Golden Hind the date was changed at noon avoids having to offer other unlikely explanations for the delay, such as lengthy maneuvering or becalming. The Golden Hind sailed off briskly in clear daylight - as is obvious from the World Encompassed, which relates that the Indians

...ranne to the tops of the hils to keepe vs in their sight as long as they could.
Moreover, there is no indication that she was suddenly becalmed after leaving port; to the contrary, the report of the day after arrival at the islands, July 26, speaks of

...the wind blowing still (as it did at first) from the Northwest.

It happens that the Farallons lie almost due south of Drakes Bay, so the northwest wind would not have forced the Golden Hind into lengthy tacking maneuvers; on a straight course to the Farallons, she would have had the wind nicely on her rear quarter. There is no reasonable mechanical explanation for the delay, and that leaves the patriots of Drakes Bay in a very awkward position. The "Guild's belief" in the solution to the dilemma - the noon-to-noon datekeeping - is vulnerable to several general objections. Aker's assertion that a noon change of date was "usual seamen's practice in that era" does not consider that Francis Fletcher, the probable source by nearly everyone's reckoning of the information under discussion, was a preacher, not a professional sailor. Noon date changes seem to be found only in ships' logs, not in the sort of on-board journals and notes kept during voyages by unofficial observers such as Fletcher. This has been pointed out, with supporting evidence, by the late Robert Power (always a thorn in the Guild's side) but heretofore no attempt seems to have been made to determine the validity of this counter- argument as it applies to the specific case of the World Encompassed.

In a reasoned discussion Power's logic might settle the matter of when the calendar pages were flipped, but reason is something not often found in debates about Drake, particularly when preposterous pet theories are threatened. Neither simple logic nor indirect evidence of what was done on other ships can prove beyond doubt that the dates as related in the World Encompassed were changed at midnight.

A complete analysis of dates and times in the World Encompassed, in a search for an instance in which the time of a date change is unequivocally indicated internally, has been a time-consuming and futile exercise. (The futility of this approach is likely something not unknown to the Guild.)For example, Drake raided the port of Lima on his way up the Pacific South American coast; the World Encompassed reports:

At Lima we arrived Febr. 15 ... we entred and anchored all night in the middest of them.... The very next day ... in the morning (viz. the 16. of the said moneth) wee set sayle.
Here the implication that the date was not changed at noon is strong. For a noon date change to fit here, the Golden Hind would have had to arrive before noon (on the fifteenth), unnoticed in or near this populated enemy harbor. But again, there is nothing in the text alone to corroborate the obvious - that the Golden Hind arrived after dark. However, when this investigation was expanded to include Spanish records of Drake's activities in the Pacific, and when these were compared to the reports from the World Encompassed, the picture changed dramatically and, for the Drake Navigators Guild, catastrophically.

One of Drake's Spanish pursuers, the famous mariner Pedro Sarmiento de Gamboa, wrote a lengthy report to his superiors on Drake's activities on the South American Pacific coast; regarding the raid at Lima, he states that

...between ten o'clock and midnight, the ship of some English Corsairs, with a pinnace and skiff arrived at the port of Callao de Lima.

Three days after the raid, the Viceroy of Peru, in his first official report to Spain of the attack, confirms this when he writes of Drake's

...entering the harbour about three hours after nightfall ....

Lest this not be enough, the Portugese pilot Nuno da Silva, who was still with the Golden Hind at Lima, relates in one of his depositions that Drake's raiders

so held on their course towards Calao de Lyma, where they entred, being about two or three hours within night.

Thus the post-noon arrival of the Golden Hind at Lima is firmly established. Since there is no ambiguity in the World Encompassed, or among the Spanish witnesses, about the relative time of departure from Lima - "The very next day ... in the morning" - it follows conclusively that the dates given by the World Encompassed in describing the raid at Lima changed at midnight, not noon.

This re-establishes a very large problem for anyone proposing that Drake's lost harbor was in the immediate San Francisco area, let alone in sight of the Farallons. It also raises another familiar matter. The above evidence is not from newly uncovered material. Finding it was not so difficult, even for a lone investigator such as this writer. The Drake Navigators Guild was formed in 1949; the claims of freakish date-keeping were made in 1974. Is it reasonable to suppose that this efficient clique remained ignorant of this evidence for the past 47, or at least 22, years? I think not. This investigation has unearthed too many such convenient oversights to be able to consider this one anything other than another intentional deception.

Author's Note: Much of this material is adapted from my forthcoming book Francis Drake in Nova Albion - The Mystery Restored, in which these and neighboring thickets are explored much more deeply than on these few web pages. Thus there may be references here not fully explained, or answers missing their questions. Also lacking here is documentation, provided in the book by 782 endnotes. - Oliver Seeler

Nova Albion Research
Copyright 1996 by Oliver Seeler
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