Sir Francis Drake

I just finished reading an interesting book, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake. It left me with a couple of questions…

  1. How accepted is the notion that Sir Francis Drake did was, in fact, the first European to explore the coast of the Pacific Northwest (perhaps as far as Alaska)?

  2. One of the events mentioned in the book that is part of the historical record is Drake’s capture of a Spanish treasure ship nicknamed “Cacafuego”. Does this this mean what I think it means… Shit Fire? What’s up with that?

Drake certainly made it as far as San Francisco Bay in 1578. He may have made it as far north as the Juan de Fuca Strait (named for de Fuca, aka Apostolos Valerianos, after de Fuca claimed to have explored that area in 1591-92). I have never heard a claim that Drake made it to Alaska, not even the Inside Passage, although I suppose it is possible since he, like all mariners of the time, would have loved to have found the Northwest Passage.

Cacafuego does, indeed, mean fireshit or shitfire. It was a nickname for the Señora de la Concepcion. One story on the internet claims that a crewman on the Cacafuego remarked after their capture that that nickname should now be applied to Drake’s Golden Hind while their own ship should be renamed Cacaplata (silvershit). If that is true, it might indicate that the “fire” in the original nickname was a reference to the gold it typically carried, but I have found no support for that guess.

On this slow loading and oddly linked web site the author makes no mention of Drake proceeding North after scraping his hull and mending his rigging on the Northern California coast, but states that Drake headed directly for China, making landfall first in the Carolines. (end of Page 3 and beginning of Page 4)

I couldn’t get the site in the OP to open, but found this site which advocates that the place Drake repaired his ship was Whale Cove in Oregon rather than a bay in California. The search for the Northwest Passage would have been before that.

As for acceptance by the general historical community, I think they have a ways to go to gain acceptance of this theory.

There was a review of the book in The Beaver, a magazine specialising in Canadian history, a year ago when it first came out - reviewer was highly sceptical of the claim.

The back issues don’t seem to be available on-line, so I can’t link to the review.

Great timing for this thread! Last night I was at a BBQ where some friends were sitting around, asking Trivial Pursuit questions (I believe Genus II edition? Pale yellow box…)

They asked what British explorer was first to go up the West Coast of North America (I forget how the Q was phrased), IIRC they gave the hint that he named the area something we’d never heard before, and we were all surprised by the answer. Of course TP has been known to get things wrong or ask them in a somewhat inaccurate fashion.

I feel it’s my trivia nerd duty to have to email some folks this thread now, interesting stuff …

Really? Drake and New Albion used to be a staple in a lot of American history textbooks as the authors demonstrated that those mere Catholics from Spain had not done all the early exploring on the West Coast. Maybe we’re finally getting away from that sort of history telling.

Not really. Now the story gets told in European History class. :smiley:

Which begs the question… why did they nickname their ships “shit”?

Could be. I can’t speak for the others but I had a quick review of some of this sort of thing in high school in … hmmm… must’ve been 1986 or so. The others were a couple to several years younger than me. We’re all from the East Coast too, and honestly most of the exploration and settlement history I recall doing was East Coast-heavy. Pretty liberal school districts/teachers, in a Catholic-heavy area of the country, so so maybe that all contributed too (no need to downplay Spanish exploration?) Still, I’m very interested in history and so are my friends and we all learned something.

And yes, New Albion was the place name used in the question.