History Basic Data
NPS Logo



Sebastian Vizca&icaute;&no, in the spring of 1603, sailed from Acapulco with two ships, the frigate Tres Reyes and San Diego, to explore the coast of Alta California. After leaving Monterey bay, the vessels separated. When on June 12 San Diego reached Cape Mendocino, most of her crew were sick and the weather foul. A decision to turn back was made, but a storm drove her northward as far as latitude 42°. The weather, however, prevented a detailed reconnaissance of the coast. Meanwhile, Tres Reyes had been driven even farther north to the vicinity of Cape Blanco. Here the weather, in conjunction with the death of Ensign Martin de Aguilar, the master, and his chief pilot, Antonio Flores, made impossible a close examination of the coast. The boatswain, who survived, reported that on the run northward from Drake's Bay

near Cape Mendocino, they found a large bay, into which entered a full flowing river which came in from the north with such force that they were not able to enter it more than two leagues, although they endeavored for a whole day with full sails and wind astern to force their way in. The river was then rising and carried many trees with it. The country is timbered with very large pine and oak forests. The coast runs from this place north and south to Cape Mendocino and thence it runs northeast and southwest as far as Cape Blanco in latitude 43°.

A number of Indians came out to the ship in canoes, made of pine and cedar, and invited the explorers to send a small boat expedition upstream. Taking cognizance of their numbers, the sailors declined to do so, although the redmen offered as inducements fish, game, hazelnuts, chestnuts, and acorns. [10]

Dr. Owen C. Coy feels that the river described by the boatswain may have been Eel River, which discharges into the Pacific in latitude 40° 39', about 14 miles north of Cape Mendocino. Following a cloudburst, the Eel overflows its banks, causing the lower valley to resemble a large bay, with sufficient depth to afford navigation for a considerable distance. The references to trees swept along by the powerful current, and the thick forests are in keeping with local conditions. [11]

<<< Previous <<< Contents >>> Next >>>

Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004