Notes on a Manuscript...

The Purpose of this Work

Before discussing what this work is, it is necessary to say what it is not. It is neither yet another proposal for yet another location of the lost harbor, nor does it seek to prove that any prior landing theory is out of the question. It is neither another attempt to identify the Indians met by Drake, nor to rule out any native groups. It is not an attempt to prove or disprove any effects Elizabethan conspiracies, secrecy, censorship or other machinations have had on the search.

The primary purpose here is to clear away the rubble left around Drake's lost harbor by both professional and amateur historians. Obfuscation, accidental and otherwise, began with the early chronicles, intensified during the last hundred years or so, and continues to this day. (See a commentary - located on its own page on this site - on an article about Drake in the January 1997 Smithsonian magazine for a fresh example of the ongoing muddle.) It has become impossible to see the foundation - what little there is of it - beneath the creaking, leaning, partially collapsed fairy-tale castle constructed over it. The deconstruction is extensive, and in its course the effects of carelessness and prejudicial assumption, not only on the search for the lost harbor but on any historical question, are well illustrated.

Secondly, a new look is taken at that foundation, beginning with a concise overview of the material - the early and later literature and the maps. There exists no straightforward catalogue of these items, a lack that has not only impeded analysis but has caused considerable hair-pulling among both scholars and more casually interested persons (librarians have been especially victimized). While not a comprehensive reference work - that would fill volumes - the annotated lists provide a chart by which it becomes possible to navigate the formerly unapproachable waters around the Golden Hind in Nova Albion.

Third, in addition to analyzing how and where the evidence has been mishandled some of the evidence itself is reexamined. One result of so much confusion has been that a mythology has built up around the rickety castle, and on close examination some things that have been offered and accepted as fact are revealed to be based on nothing at all. Perhaps most significant in this regard is a new analysis of all of the latitudes given in the principal narratives.

Finally, speculations on various issues are offered, based on a dispassionate and fresh view of the evidence. The purpose of such conjectures is not to support any particular theories but rather to illustrate a style of analysis that stays within the bounds of the evidence and of reason. The value of such an approach is demonstrated when one such speculation leads down an unexpected path, to scientifically corroborated indications that the unbelievable and much-maligned weather reports of the narratives, which describe snow and ice in California in the early summer of 1579, are accurate. Another takes a shot at identifying the perpetrators of the Plate of Brass hoax. In the epilogue, a case for and against a specific anchorage site is presented, as a final example of the proper use of legitimate evidence and logic. At first glance it may seem that some or all of these discussions could be called off the subject, but the factors outlined above run through all of them, providing tangible examples - in the first instance with important and solid results - of honest and thorough analysis.

Some may be disappointed that this work does not claim to solve any of the primary mysteries of Drake's visit to the Northwest Coast. But before a mystery can be solved, it must be recognized and acknowledged. For too long, we have heard only from those who hold out their answers, but who in the process obscure the questions - leaving everyone further from the truth about the events on the edge of America in 1579. This work restores the mystery, and establishes a point from which the search can resume.

Author's Note: Some of this material is adapted from or relates to my yet-unpublished 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 1996-97 by Oliver Seeler
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