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Sir Francis Drake
Michael Ellis looks at the English privateer's arrival, nearly 440 years ago, on the shores of Marin.
By Michael Ellis
Francis Drake left Plymouth, England late in 1577 with 164 men and five vessels. By the time he returned three years later he had traveled 36,000 miles, he had one ship left and only 59 men. Drake had been very busy plundering the Spanish ships and settlements in the New World. The Spanish, in turn, had been robbing and plundering the natives of the Americas. Drake trebled the value of the Royal Treasury and was promptly knighted by Queen Elizabeth I.
Drake had been operating as a privateer, undercover if you will, for England. Because blatant attacks on the Spanish would have been construed as acts of war had he been representing England officially. Drake moved north along the west coast raiding colonial outposts. He was searching for a right hand turn to head back to Great Britain. We now know you can't sail east through Canada in the so-called Northwest Passage. In July, 1579 he encountered severe weather and ice storms in Oregon and his ship badly damaged.
Drake then turned south and hauled into a protected bay to repair his ship. The local inhabitants came out to greet these white strangers. Admittedly there was a communication problem, but Drake was pretty sure those Miwok Indians wanted to be governed by his Queen. So he christened the area Nova Albion or New England by affixing a brass plaque to a tree on the Pt. Reyes peninsula and continued his westward journey.
The first stop was the Farallons to gather sea bird eggs and salt some sea lion meat. These sailors were probably the first humans to visit those islands. The locals referred to those isolated, distant rocks as the Islands of the Dead and never ventured out there. Drake continued his voyage back to England, becoming the first sea captain to completely circumnavigate the world. Magellan gets the credit but he was killed in the Philippines -- only his ship and crew made it back to Portugal.
Today Sir Francis Drake's name remains all over the place in Marin County; er, ah make that Nova Albion.
This is Michael Ellis with a Perspective.