How Sir Francis Drake Made History in California

May 24, 2017

Sir Francis Drake

Sir Francis Drake, a critical figure in British naval history, left his mark on this region’s history as well. He visited the Pacific coast of North America during his circumnavigation of the globe in the late 1570s, several decades before the Mayflower sailed.

Although England and Spain clashed frequently in the Atlantic and the Caribbean, Drake was the first English seaman to pursue the treasure-seeking Spaniards into the Pacific. But  nautical historian Edward von der Porten that says that even with the element of surprise on his side, Drake went about his privateering in a somewhat gentlemanly way.

This map traces Drake's three year circumnavigation of the globe. He was the second European, and the first Englishman, to complete that journey.

Upon his return to England in September, 1590--13 months after leaving California and nearly three years after he first set out--Drake saw his fortunes increase even further.

The great explorer ultimately died during yet another voyage to Panama in 1595, where he fell ill with dysentery. He was buried at sea in a lead-lined coffin that has never been found.

Edward von der Porten
Credit Sonoma County Library

Nautical historian Edward von der Porten is president and a founding member of the Drake Navigators Guild, which won formal acknowledgement of the historical significance of Drakes Bay last year. He will  will discuss that process and Drake’s role in the history of “New Albion” in a talk for the Marin History Museum  Thursday night.