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Spaniard first European explorer to set eyes on Del Norte

Triplicate staff

Native Americans and their ancestors lived for thousands of years in

what is now known as Del Norte County. But the end of their

domination began in when Spanish explorer Juan Rodriguez

Cabrillo sailed north toward the future Del Norte shoreline.

Leaving from the port of Navidad in June 1542, Cabrillo's two ships –

the San Salvador and Victoria – reached Point Reyes by year's end.

With the winter waters turning rough, Cabrillo ordered his ships to

turn around.

But Cabrillo died in January 1543 on the Channel Islands.

His chief pilot, Bartolom Ferrelo, took command and turned the ships

back north up the coast of what was then called "Alta California."

But in February a storm struck. The following morning, the sailors

sighted Cape Pinos and bore to the northwest with the winds. Two days

later when the winds died, the navigator determined they were at 43

north latitude.

Several ensuing days of storm, however, threatened to the sink the

ships. Gales swept sea water onto their decks, and the ships became

separated. The two vessels worked their way south, though, finally

meeting at Cedros Island on March 26.

Historians originally believed the Cabrillo expedition never sailed

farther north than Cape Mendocino, more than 150 miles from Del Norte

County.

But a re-examination of the ships' logs said the ships probably got

as far north as the mouth of the Rogue River in southern Oregon. If

so, the two craft and their sailors saw the Del Norte County

shoreline in late February and early March 1543.

It is unlikely they ever made landfall, however, let alone saw much

more than rugged coast and hillsides. Another 30-plus years would

pass before that would occur among European expeditions.

•••••

About This Series

Del Norte County turns 150 this year. To celebrate our county's

storied history, The Daily Triplicate will carry an article, about

the past 150 years, in each edition for the rest of the year. We

continue this week with a look at the first European expeditions to

the area.

 


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