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The first Europeans to reconnoiter the Humboldt Coast belonged to the expedition commanded by Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, which cruised the coast of Alta California in 1542. Cabrillo in June 1542, sailed from the port of Navidad, and in September his two ships anchored in San Diego Bay. Continuing up the coast, the explorers sighted or stopped at a number of points, including Catalina and San Clemente Islands, Santa Monica Bay, San Buenaventura, and the Channel Islands. After cruising Santa Barbara Channel, past Point Conception and northward beyond Point Reyes, the expedition turned back. A stop was made at one of the Channel Islands, where Cabrillo died on January 3, 1543.

Cabrillo's chief pilot, Bartolomé Ferrelo, succeeded to the command. Under his leadership, the exploration of the coast of Alta California was continued. A storm was encountered, and at dawn on February 25, the Spanish sailors sighted Cape Pinos. The ships then bore to the northwest. The coast was rugged and without shelter. A point which "looked like a cape where the land turned north-northwest" was observed. At midnight the wind shifted, and for the next two days the ships continued to run to the northwest, and Ferrelo changed course, and the ships sailed toward the south with few sails.

On the 28th the winds died, and a reading indicated that they were at 43° north latitude. By nightfall a wind out of the south-southwest had freshened, and the ships beat a course to the west-northwest. The wind now veered into the southwest, and became a gale. The sea broke over the decks. Fears were voiced by all that the ships would founder, and the sailors "commended themselves to Our Lady of Guadalupe." While the storm was at its height, numerous signs that land was near were seen. As if in answer to the men's prayers a Norther bore in, and the ships were driven southward. On Monday, March 5, the Spaniards found themselves off the island where Cabrillo had died and been buried. The two ships now became separated, and San Salvador put into San Diego Bay. After waiting six days for Victoria, she sailed down the coast. The two ships rendezvoused at Cedros Island on March 26. [1]

Hubert H. Bancroft, upon studying the Log of Cabrillo's Voyage, expressed the opinion that the Spaniards "did not pass far, if at all, beyond Cape Mendocino in 40° 21'." Herbert Bolton and Henry R. Wagner are of the opinion that the northernmost point reached by Ferrelo on February 28, 1543, was in the general area of the Rogue River in southern Oregon. My colleague, F. Ross Holland, who has made exhaustive studies of the Cabrillo voyage, agrees with Bolton and Wagner. [2] If Bolton, Wagner, and Holland are correct, the first Europeans to cruise the Humboldt Coast were the crews of San Salvador and Victoria, in the last week of February 1543. It is unlikely, however, that they made any landfalls north of Cape Mendocino.

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004