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cabrillo : coast of california, 1542 

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo  : The Coast of California, 1542-1543.

Extracts from
 Taylor, Alex, S.:
Discovery of California and Northwest America.
The First Voyage to the Coast of California; made in the years 1542 and 1543,
by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his pilot Bartolome Ferrelo.
 Le Count and Strong, San Francisco, 1853.

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First book edition of "the first true work of California history to be printed in California" (Greenwood 426); reprinted from the San Francisco Herald, in which it originally appeared in May 1853.

To the Hon. William M. Gwin, Senator from California.
My Dear Doctor:
Some three years ago you encouraged me, by holding out a friendly hand, to devote myself to the investigation of the curious old history of California.
I have done so as much as possible.
I dedicate to you therefore as the man who first tapped me on the back this little effort to establish the fame of the Columbus of California, the first hero in the annals of our Commonwealth.

If you are ever shipwrecked in the sea of our politics, I hope you may save from the storm, a good philosophy, and an abundant store of hearty smiles at the  fickleness of fortune; and end your days on the shores of the Pacific, in the country where a man lives most contented and dies happiest.

Your Friend,
Alex S. Taylor,
SanFrancisco , May 23, 1853.


In a residence of nearly five years in California, circumstances and a taste for reading, induced me to inquire more particularly than some others, into the earlier history of our country,

In this investigation, I have consulted the works of Humboldt, Venegas, Palou, and all the English, French, and American authors I could lay hold of.
Without exception, they are glaringly deficient in a proper history, or appreciation of the first voyage to explore the anciently fabulous coasts of California and the Northwest.
It appeared to me as necessary to have an accurate history of this expedition on which was to be built the first chapter of the Annals of the American States on the Pacific Ocean as it was to have a faithful account of the first voyage of Christopher Columbus, to the Eastern shores of the. Western Hemisphere.

Well, I at last met with the celebrated historical digest of Navarette, of the Voyages made to the Coast of California and the North the same author who, in searching the Spanish archives for the original Voyages of Spaniards on this coast, discovered the manuscript accounts of Columbus ; and to whom our countryman Irving confesses himself so much indebted in the book which forms the cornerstone in the
monument of his fame.

In this digest, Navarette gives from the original manuscripts, an abstract of the voyage of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, the Columbus of our shores.
The indefiniteness and meagerness of this account, induced me to investigate the subject more fully, with such aids as I had at hand.
In this investigation having before me the reconnoisance of our Pacific Coasts and Islands of 1851 and 1852, made by our lamented
countryman McArthur, and his able successors, Alden, Davidson, and their companions I think I have  been enabled to follow closely in the tract of Cabrillo and his pilot Ferrelo; and identify points described by them (in Navarette's version,) which have until recently puzzled not only Navarette in Madrid, but every author who has dipped his pen in the ink of California history.
This expedition was not ready for sailing until the 27th day of June, in the year of our Lord Jesus Christ 1542, and only fifty years after the Discovery of America by Columbus.
It consisted of
two small vessels named the San Salvador and La Victoria, and was put under the command of him who proved himself a man of practical knowledge and sagacity, and of great courage and daring adventure.
This man was Juan Rodriguez
Cabrillo the first discoverer of our shores and the Columbus of the northwest Pacific coasts of the American continent.
pilot and lieutenant was Bartolome Ferrelo, whom we shall presently see, proved himself a worthy disciple of our first great
man; for under the most pressing difficulties he afterwards carried the dying injunctions of the brave old mariner into consummation and effect.


Well, our brave old mariner with his two crazy caravals, sailed from the port of Navidad, or Natividad, in Xilisco, situated to the south of San Bias, under the latitude of 19 degrees.
Examining with great care the points on the western coasts of Lower California, which had been visited previously by Ulloa, he arrived about the 12th of August at the island of Cedros, which forms the south-western boundary of the Bay of Virgins or San Quentin, or called by others the Bay of Sebastian Vizcaino.
Cabrillo carefully examined this fine bay and its series ot bays up to the present time most inaccurately delineated by our hydrographers
and geographers and discovered a fine harbor which he called Port Possession, in honor of taking possession for the king of Spain.
The natives received him with great kindness, and informed him of having seen white men five days journey from their tribe to the east, probably Indian rumors of the expeditions under Coronado or Alarcon.
Refitting and watering his ships here, he steered for the \


north, close hugging the coast, and discovered on the 27th of August the Port of San Mateo, now called Todos Santos.
Here he saw flocks of animals like the llamas of Peru ; most likely the mountain sheep or goat, or the antelope, which are still found in those mountains in great numbers, and often described by the old California writers, and missionary priests.
This was the dry season, and the long line of the coast could be distinctly seen for leagues in that clear amosphere, stretching nearly due north and south.
He was now entering the unknown and mysterious seas never before plowed by the prow of a ship, and every object was filled with mystery and delighted wonder.

By the meager and indefinite accounts handed down to us by the Spanish writers, we learn that it was not before about the 1st of October, or 31 days sail from Cedros only 300 miles distance that he discovered the small islands now called the Coronados, and entered the famous port of San Miguel, known by us at present as San Diego.
The old story was repeated here by the hospitable Indians of Spaniards whom they had seen in the interior to the east.
He puts down San Diego as being in latitude 34, 20", which is about 100 miles north of its true position, and will at once show the great imperfection of his instruments and the navigating difficulties under which he labored.
On the 7th of October he discovered the two large islands to the north of San Diego, which he called San Salvador and La Victoria after his ships, now known as San Clemente and Santa Catalina, names given them by Vizcaino in 1602.
These islands were well populated by Indians who were greatly alarmed at the appearance of the Spanish ships, but from the prudent treatment of Latrillo, as far as we can now gather, they received him afterwards with amity and friendship.
They repeated the stories related by the Indians of the coast, of white men seen in the interior of the main land.
This was afterwards affirmed by the Indians at the Bay of Fumos, or Smoke, undoubtedly the same as the present San Pedro, which is immediately in front and in sight of Santa Catalina.


As it was the dry season, the country was likely experiencing one of its annual con flagrations.
On the 9th following, he entered a spacious cove or roadstead, which was no doubt that of Santa Barbara or near by.
Here the navigators saw close to the shore an Indian town with " casas grandes," or houses built after the manner of the Spaniards.
The Indians were equally as hospitable as those of the south, and came off to visit the strange ships in large canoes.
They re-affirmed the story of having seen white men seven days journey in the interior. Cabrillo, feeling convinced here of the truth of these continued reports, wrote a letter to his wandering countrymen, which two of the Indians engaged to deliver for him.
In this vicinity Cabrillo anchored in

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front of a beautiful valley, no doubt that of San Buenaventura, which to this day remains one of the lovliest and most fertile within the boundaries of our magnificent domain.
Here the natives were found very numerous, as they were also along the whole southern coasts from the Bay of San Simeon to that of San Deigo.
They came off in great numbers in canoes to barter fish for trinkets, and other curious things in possession of the strangers.
These regions are described as delicious in climate and beautiful in scenery, which description remains faithful to this day of that romantic and picturesque region of our territory, it is indeed more than the Italy of the Western Ocean.

About the middle of October he discovered the promontory of Cape Galera, which we now call Point Concepcion, and also those picturesque islands which lay off the coast of California, and form the Channel of Santa Barbara.
These islands were said to be uninhabited, though one of them, called afterwards Juan Rodriguez by Ferrelo, was stated to contain some miserable Indians who lived by fishing and went entirely naked
These islands Cabriilo called San Lucas, which may apply to any of those points at this late day, as the names were so often changed by later Spanish and English navigators, as to perplex and confound the reader and geographer in the highest degree.
Up to the present year of 1853, they remain as for the last 311 years, uncertain and most inexact in position, in name, and even in numbers.
About the first of November, being beset by the old fashioned north-west winds and fogs which obscured the coast and prevented his landing, from the dangerous surf and huge mountain waves, (as terrific then as they are now in their season) he discovered a port called by
him Todos Santos, undoubtedly that known to us under the title of San Luis Obispo.
A short distance further north he anchored in the beautiful roadstead of San Simeon, which well answers his description and time, and which he named the Sardines, from the quantity of that fish found there.
At this cove he took in wood and water.
This is the same place where a short time ago occurred the disaster of the steamship Pioneer.
Here he found the Indians similar in character to those of Santa Barbara, and who soon became very familiar.
To such a degree did this friendship extend that an Indian chief, the cazique of these rancherias, accompanied by a numerous deputation of
his tribe, slept on board of Cabrillo's ship for two nights
 A merry old time must have had these first discoverers of our California with such pleasant confrees no doubt bringing to mind the descriptions left by Columbus of his first visit to Hayti, when was opened to his generous and imaginative soul the primeval aspect of the Indian Paradise of the Western Hesperides.
 Ah, it is worth snatching 311 years from the musty and dusty and mystical scrolls of old time, to steal into the camp and

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anchorage of these merrymakers of excited and exuberant spirits, on a softened evening of a California November day.
Imagine the glowing picture sun sinking down into the blue, calm, solemn, profound Pacific Ocean, fabulous in those days the huge rolling billows laving the white sandy beach the little knots of wondering, guileless, awe-stricken, friendly Indians the high and rugged hills clothed with pines and set in sharp outlines against the back-ground of a deep, blue sky our old Columbus the Second and his pilot Bartolome, with their rough Spanish sailors, bright with hope and overflowing with curious expectation all mixed in happy crowds on the mellow, grassy shores of this enchanting cove ; for to this day San Simeon retains the fame of these Virgin days of the Elysium fields of our beautiful California.

Cabrillo describes the coasts in this neighborhood as high and steep, and attended with great difficulty in landing from the tremendous surf the mornings ; and evenings at times very cold, the lands often obscured with heavy clouds and the north-west wind blowing at intervals with great force, and suddenly chopping round to the south.
This account is proved correct from our more extended experience of the climate and coast-features of California.

He had now mounted the great promontory of Concepcion, and steering to the northwest, began to experience a more decided change of temperature.
A  short time afterwards, he says, (or the meager transcribers of his voyage say,) he discovered "Sierras Altas," or high hills, in the latitude of 37 degrees 30 minutes, which was most likely Point Ano Nuevo, or Point San Pedro, well known headlands between the Bay of San Francisco and Monterey, and named by him San Martin ; a name retained in charts and maps till within a very few years

Here the ships experienced a great tempest, lasting two days, in which Cabrillo's companion was separated from him.
The Captain giving up in despair for the fate ot the Victoria, and hugging the shore as close as possible, ascended as high as 40 degrees and where he discovered a high promontory, which from the error of his instruments, must have been the Punta de los Reyes, that remarkable headland forming the bay of Sir Fr. Drake, visible fifty miles at sea in clear weather ; or possibly some of the highlands about the entrance of the bay of San Francisco.
The coast in this vicinity, under the influence of the storm, must have here presented to the eye of Cabrillo with his miserable barks a terrific aspect, and no doubt prevented him from examining it more closely and winning the honor of discovering the bay of San Francisco ; a discovery sufficient to immortalize the name of the most ambitious navigator.
The name of the discoverer of the Golden Gate is not known to- this- day.

On the 15th of November, after long and anxious searching, his companion rejoined him, and both now turned their prows toward the south determining at a more favorable time to prosecute, with greater perseverance, the exploration of these beautiful and unknown coasts.
On Friday, the 17th of the same month, he dis-


covered a wide and extensive Bay, penetrating the land to a considerable distance, where he came to anchor, in 45 fathoms water, and called it the Bay of Pines ; now known as the Bay of Monterey, from the Viceroy of Mexico in Vizcaino's time, and which has been the witness of the most important transactions in the history of California from the 17th of November 1542, to the 7th day of July 1846; when that flag, the harbinger of holy freedom, was raised on these shores, which we may hope to see floating in time on every islet in this Great Ocean, and on every snow clad or volcanic peak on this continent ; a continent, the fit and bountiful mother to receive within its embraces the tired and panting souls, Lorn indeed under the dead systems of Europe and the petrified puerillities of Asia ; and to purify by its invigorating influence the human race from its gross ignorance, and barbarous, accursed religions and childish nationalities and to perfect in the future the basis of a catholic, cosmopolitan faith.

The position where Cabrillo anchored was most likely, under Point Santa Cruz, the north western extremity of the Bay of Monterey, as he described the shores as steep and scarped, and impossible to effect a landing from the terrible surf breaking on the beach no doubt from a heavy southerly swell common at this day in the wet season, and which has given the Roadstead of Santa Cruz, at East of this, an unenviable reputation as a safe anchorage in winter.
At no time within history has the harbor of Monterey been unsafe to effect a landing.

Under Point Santa Cruz, in McArthur's Reconnoissance charts of 1851, about two miles seaward, there is an anchorage of 40
fathoms, no doubt about the spot where Cabrillo's fleet was anchored, as he de scribes the Coast Range of this vicinity as


high, and the tops covered with snow, which is the case nearly every winter.
The land he also says, 15 leagues to the southeast from this point of view, falls down into a more level country, better and thicker populated.
This answers exactly the present physical aspect of the lands at the mouths of the rivers Pajaro and Salinas, the rolling hills of the town of Monterey, and the thick settlements of Indians, found there by the old priests in 1770.
At the date of Cabrillo's visit, the shores of the Santa Cruz country must have been covered to the sea with red-wood forests ; then no doubt taken for pines, whence the name of the bay, though the true pine is found in abundance on its southern boundaries.

 Taylor, Alex, S.:
Discovery of California and Northwest America.
The First Voyage to the Coast of California; made in the years 1542 and 1543,
by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and his pilot Bartolome Ferrelo.
 Le Count and Strong, San Francisco, 1853.

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Geoff Cater (2016) : Cabrillo : Coast of California, 1542-1543.