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the continent, as the Spaniards were then engaged in the settlement of New Mexico, or the country traversed by the River Bravo del Norte, in which their colonies extended nearly to the 40th degree of latitude; and they had no clear idea of the distance between that region and the Pacific.
The count de Monterey, viceroy of Mexico, in consequence, despatched three vessels from Acapulco, in the spring of 1596, under the command of Sebastian Vizcaino, a distinguished officer, who had been in the ship Santa Anna, when she was taken and burnt by Cavendish, off Cape San Lucas. Nothing, however, was gained by this expedition. For reasons of which we are not informed by the Spanish historians, Vizcaino did not proceed beyond the Californian Gulf, on the shores of which he endeavored to plant colonies, first at a place called St. Sebastian, and afterwards at La Paz, or Santa Cruz, where Cortes had made a similar attempt sixty years before: but both these places were soon abandoned, on account of the sterility of the surrounding country, and the ferocity of the natives; and Vizcaino returned to Mexico before the end of the year.*
The viceroy had most probably hoped, by means of this voyage, to escape the infliction of the heavy expenses of an expedition such as that which he was enjoined to make by the royal decree ; but King Philip II. died in 1598, and one of the first acts of the reign of his successor, Philip III., was a peremptory order for the immediate despatch of a squadron from Mexico, to complete the survey of the west coasts of the continent, agreeably to the previous instructions. The viceroy thereupon commenced preparations for the purpose on an extended scale of equipment. Two large ships and a fragata, or small vessel, were provided at Acapulco, and furnished with all the requisites for a long voyage of discovery; and, in addition to their regular crews, a number of pilots, draughtsmen, and educated priests, were engaged, forming together, says the
This expedition is thus noticed by Hakluyt, vol. iii. p.
522:“We have seen a letter written the 8th of October, 1597, at a town called Puebla de los Angeles, eighteen leagues from Mexico, making mention of the islands of California, situated two or three hundred leagues from the main land of New Spain, in the South Sea, as that thither have been sent, before that time, some people to conquer them, which, with loss of some twenty men, were forced back, after that they had well visited, and found those islands or countries to be very rich of gold and silver mines, and of very fair Oriental pearls, which were caught, in good quantity, upon one fathom and a half, passing, in beauty, the pearls of Margarita. The report thereof caused the viceroy of Mexico to send a citizen of Mexico, with two hundred nen, w conquer the same."
historian Torquemada, “the most enlightened corps ever raised in New Spain.” The direction of the whole expedition was intrusted to Sebastian Vizcaino, as captain-general, who sailed in the largest ship; the other being commanded by Toribio Gomez de Corvan, as admiral — an office equivalent in rank to that of vice-admiral in the British service: the fragata was under ensign Martin de Aguilar.*
All things being prepared, the vessels took their departure from Acapulco on the 5th of May, 1602, and, after many troubles and delays at various places on the Mexican coast, they were assembled in the small Bay of San Bernabé, now called Port San José, immediately east of Cape San Lucas, the southern extremity of the Californian peninsula. There they remained until the 5th of July, when they rounded the cape, and the survey of the west coast was commenced from that point. The prosecution of the enterprise was thenceforward attended by constant difficulties: the scurvy, as usual, soon broke out among the crews; and the Spaniards had their courage and perseverance severely tried by their “chief enemy, the north-west wind,” which was raised up, says Torquemada, “by the foe of the human race, in order to prevent the advance of the ships, and to delay the discovery of those countries, and the conversion of their inhabitants to the Catholic faith.”
Vizcaino and his followers, however, bore up nobly against all these obstacles, and executed the duty confided to them most faithfully. Proceeding slowly northward, they reached the extensive Bay of La Magdalena, between the 24th and 25th parallels of latitude, of which Vizcaino's survey was, until recently, the only one upon record; and before the end of August, the vessels which had been separated almost ever since quitting Cape San Lucas, were again united in a harbor in the island called Isla de Cedros, or Isle of Cedars, by Cabrillo, but now generally known as Isla de Cerros, or Isle of Mountains. Continuing their examination, they found a bay near the 31st degree of latitude, which they named the Port of the Eleven Thousand Virgins, now called Port San Quintin, and said to be an excellent harbor; and farther north they entered the Port San Miguel of Cabrillo, to which they assigned the appella
Torquemada, vol. i. p. 694.- Introduction to the Journal of Galiano and Valdes, p. 60.- Torquemada's accounts are derived chiefly from the Journal of Fray Antonio de la Asencion, the chaplain of one of the ships. The author of the Introduction, &c., had recourse to the original notes of the expedition, from which he con structed a chart of the coast surveyed.
tion of Port San Diego. There Vizcaino received accounts, from the natives, of people residing in the interior, who had beards, wore clothes, and dwelt in cities; but he could learn no further particulars, and was, upon the whole, inclined to believe that, unless the Indians were deceiving him, these people must be the Spaniards recently settled in New Mexico, on the River Bravo del Norte.
Having minutely surveyed Port San Diego, the Spaniards quitted it on the 1st of December, and sailed through the Archipelago of Santa Barbara, in one of the islands of which Cabrillo died sixty years previous; then doubling the Cape de Galera of that navigator, to which they gave the name of Cape Conception, now borne by it, they anchored, in the middle of the month, in a spacious and secure harbor, near the 37th parallel, where they remained some time, engaged in refitting their vessels and obtaining a supply of water. This harbor — the Port of Pines of Cabrillo was named Port Monterey by Vizcaino, in honor of the viceroy of Mexico; and as, before reaching it, sixteen of the crews of the vessels had died, and many of the others were incapable of duty from disease, it was determined that Corvan, the admiral, should return to Mexico in his ship, carrying the invalids, with letters to the viceroy, urging the immediate establishment of colonies and garrisons at San Diego and Monterey. Corvan, accordingly, on the 29th, sailed for Acapulco, where he arrived after a long and perilous voyage, with but few of his men alive; whilst Vizcaino, with his ship and the fragata, prosecuted their exploration along the coast towards the north.
On the 3d of January, 1603, after the departure of Corvan, Vizcaino, accompanied by the small vessel under Aguilar, quitted Monterey; but, ere proceeding much farther north, they were driven back by a severe gale, in the course of which the two vessels were separated. The ship took refuge in the Bay of San Francisco, which seems to have been then well known; and search was made for the wreck of the San Augustin, which had been there lost, as already mentioned, in 1595, during her voyage from the Philippine Islands to Acapulco. Finding no traces of that vessel, Vizcaino again put to sea; and, passing a promontory, which he supposed to be Cape Mendocino, he, on the 20th of January, reached a high, white bluff, in latitude, as ascertained by solar observation, of 42 degrees, which, in honor of the saint of that day, was named Cape San Sebastian. By this time, few of his men were fit for service; the weather was stormy, the cold was severe, the provisions were nearly exhausted ; and, as the small vessel did not appear, the commander, with the assent of his officers, resolved to direct his course towards Mexico. He did so, and arrived at Acapulco on the 21st of March.
The fragata, or small vessel, also reached Mexico about the same time, having, however, lost, by sickness, her commander, Martin de Aguilar, her pilot, Flores, and the greater part of her crew. Torquemada's account of her voyage, after parting with Vizcaino's ship, is short, and by no means clear; but the circumstances therein related have attracted so much attention, that a translation of it should be here presented. The historian says,
“The fragata parted from the capitana, [Vizcaino's ship,) and, supposing that she had gone onward, sailed in pursuit of her. Being in the latitude of 41 degrees, the wind began to blow from the south-west; and the fragata, being unable to withstand the waves on her beam, ran before the wind, until she found shelter under the land, and anchored near Cape Mendocino, behind a great rock, where she remained until the gale had passed over. When the wind had become less violent, they continued their voyage close along the shore; and, on the 19th of January, the pilot, Antonio Flores, found that they were in the latitude of 43 degrees, where the land formed a cape or point, which was named Cape Blanco. From that point, the coast begins to turn to the north-west; and near it was discovered a rapid and abundant river, with ash-trees, willows, brambles, and other trees of Castile, on its banks, which they endeavored to enter, but could not, from the force of the current. Ensign Martin de Aguilar, the commander, and Antonio Flores, the pilot, seeing that they had already reached a higher latitude than had been ordered by the viceroy, in his instructions, that the capitana did not appear, and that the number of the sick was great, agreed to return to Acapulco; and they did so, as I shall hereafter show. It is supposed that this river is the one leading to a great city, which was discovered by the Dutch when they were driven thither by storms, and that it is the Strait of Anian, through which the ship passed, in sailing from the North Sea to the South Sea; and that the city called Quivira is in those parts; and that this is the region referred to in the account which his majesty read, and which induced him to order this expedition."
This account of the discovery of a great river, near the 43d degree of latitude, was, for a long time, credited, and excited many speculations. The supposed river was first generally believed to be the Strait of Anian. It was then, upon the statement of the captain of a Manilla ship, in 1620, universally considered as the western mouth of a passage, or channel, connecting the ocean with the northern extremity of the Californian Gulf; and, accordingly, for more than a century after, California was represented on maps as an island, of which Cape Blanco was the northern end. When this error had been corrected, the existence of a great river, flowing from the centre of America into the Pacific, under the 43d parallel, was again affirmed by some geographers; while others placed at this point the western entrance of a passage to the Atlantic.
It is now certain that no such stream as that which Aguilar is reported to have seen falls into the Pacific within three degrees of the 43d parallel; although the mouths of two small rivers are situated near the point where that line crosses the western coast of America. Several headlands project into the ocean, not far from the positions assigned to Capes Blanco and San Sebastian: the former may have been the promontory, in latitude of 42 degrees 52 minutes, on which Vancouver, in 1792, bestowed the name of Cape Orford.
On comparing the accounts of Vizcaino's voyage with those of Cabrillo's, it appears that very nearly the same portions of the American coast were seen by both commanders. The expedition of Vizcaino was, however, conducted in a much more efficient manner than the other; and a mass of valuable information, respecting the geography of the western side of California, was collected, in the shape of notes, plans, and sketches, upon which were founded the first maps of that coast approaching to correct
Vizcaino, after his return to Mexico, endeavored to prevail upon the viceroy to establish colonies on the western side of California, at places which he recommended, in order to facilitate the trade with India, and to prevent the occupation of the American coasts by other nations. His efforts, with this view, however, produced no effect, as the viceroys never encouraged such enterprises, being generally obliged to pay the costs themselves; and Vizcaino, in consequence, went to Spain, where, after many years of solicitation, he at length procured the royal mandate, and a promise of means for its execution. With these he hastened back to Mexico, but was there seized with a sickness, of which he died in 1608, and the enterprise was then abandoned.