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1. Captain William Shaler

The first American ship to land on the Humboldt Coast was Lelia Byrd, Capt. William Shaler master. She had sailed from Canton in February 1804 and arrived off the mouth of Columbia River on May 1. Unable to cross the bar, Shaler took his ship down the coast in search of a bay which could be entered. Lelia Byrd accordingly anchored in Trinidad Bay on the 11th. Steps were taken to secure water and fuel, while the ship's carpenter was sent ashore in search of spars. These were found in great numbers, and a large spruce was cut for a foremast. A trade with the Indians was commenced, but they soon became more numerous and trouble threatened. The distribution of gifts eased the situation. The arrival of additional Indians alarmed the Americans, and armed guards were posted to protect those detailed to shore duty. By May 18 the water casks had been filled, the spars positioned, and the ship weighed anchor. [20]

2. Captain Jonathan Winship

In 1805 another American ship, O'Cain, visited the Humboldt Coast. Capt. Jonathan Winship in that year left Boston, took his vessel around Cape Horn, and on to the Sandwich Islands. From there he plotted a course to New Archangel, where he contacted Alexander Baranof of the Russian-American Company. Baranof agreed to furnish Winship a number of his Aleut Indians with their bidarkas to go to Alta California to hunt sea otter. The profits would be divided between Winship and the Russian American Company.

O'Cain reached the Humboldt Coast in June, and on the 10th she anchored north of Trinidad Bay. A party led by Winship went ashore and found a sound which they named "Washington Inlet," today's Big Lagoon. A large number of Indians were camped upon its shores, while sea otter and seal were numerous. The next day O'Cain hoisted her anchor and beat her way down the coast and entered Trinidad Bay. A vigorous trade with the Indians was inaugurated, the natives having a large surplus of fur. After about a week, the Indians, their number having increased to about 200, began to grow hostile. Trading was then conducted on the beach, under cover of O'Cain's guns. On June 22, rather than chance a fight, Captain Winship determined to abandon the area. O'Cain accordingly put to sea, after first filling her water casks and laying in a good supply of fish. [21]

Winship returned to the Humboldt Coast in 1806, where he entered and charted Humboldt Bay. The Indians, having learned of the troubles of the previous year, were hostile to the Americans and their confederates—the Aleut hunters. [22]

During the next several years, the Humboldt Coast was visited by other vessels engaged in the sea otter trade. O'Cain, herself, was on the coast again in 1809, 1810, and 1811, and other ships are known to have operated in the area. The crew of O'Cain in 1809 secured 2,782 sea otter pelts. No conclusive evidence has been found that any vessel anchored in Humboldt Bay from Winship's visit in 1806 until its rediscovery by the Americans in 1850. [23]

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Last Updated: 15-Jan-2004