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LONGCAMP.COM'S NOVA ALBION ANNEX

Introduction
to
DETERMINATION OF LATITUDE BY FRANCIS DRAKE ON THE COAST OF CALIFORNIA IN 1579

In 38. deg. 30. min. we fell with a conuenient and fit harborough, and Iune 17. came to anchor therein: where we continued till the 23. day of Iuly following. The World Encompassed

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About 1595, Jodicus Hondius drew the Portus Novea Albionis -- a plan of Drakes "convenient and fit harborough" during a stay in London. A year later he published it as a corner inset to his famous Broadside Map. No place like this exists at Drake's reported anchorage at 38.deg 30.min.

About 1635, Robert Dudley drew The Map Particolara, and included Porto di Nueva Albion at about 38° 19'

In 1790, Captain James Colnett sailed into, and charted, what he called the Port Sir Francis Drake...38° 21' 123° 00'

Sonoma County Press Democrat, October 17, 2012. The Interior Department announced a 5,965-acre Drakes Bay landmark area as the site of the "earliest documented" contact between Europeans and California Indians and the earliest recorded shipwreck on the West Coast, referring to the San Agustin, a Spanish galleon that sank in 1595.

A Park Service report calls it "the most likely site" of Drake's California landing during his circumnavigation of the globe. The landmark designation is "an important aspect of the ongoing debate" over Drake's landing point, Park Service spokesman Mike Litterst said.

But the landmark nomination form "does not address the controversy regarding [Drake's] landing site" and the designation "should not be interpreted as providing a definitive resolution of the discussion," he said in an email.

go See Colnett's plan of the port.
go See it at Google Maps
go The Portus: a WARNING!
go 1797, Bodega y Quadra clarifies the confusion of "three distinct harbors."

go See Drake's Pacific "Spanish course" from Guatulco.

Brian Kelleher wrote a book Drake's Bay, Unravelling California's Great Maritime Mystery. Brian studied every detail of Drake's voyage of circumnavigation. He did statistical analysis of all of Drake's determinations of latitude recorded in The World Encompassed. He found that, when taken on land, and from positions that can be identified today on modern maps, that Drake's results were +/- 11 minutes of latitude--quite a feat for the day. The only site that lies within this +/- 11 minutes of latitude of Drake's reported "38.deg 30.min" on the Pacific Coast is Campbell Cove (N38° 19'-- W 123° 03') on Bodega Head (large map above).

But Brian had never determined the source of Drake's errors in his determinations. Was it error in sightings? Or, were the instruments of the time incapable of doing better? One day Brian asked me, "Bob, why don't you look at the latitude problem." I did, and we were astonished at what we found.

There is a passage in the oeuvre of William F. Buckley, Jr. in which he remarks that no writer in the history of the world has ever successfully made clear to the layman the principles of celestial navigation. Then Buckley announces that celestial navigation is dead simple, and that he will pause in the development of his present narrative to redress forever the failure of the literary class to elucidate this abecedarian technology. John Mc Phee, Annuls of a Former World

I am not a Drake Scholar.
As you can probably guess from the topbar and other contents of this web site, my main interests lie elsewhere. But I have followed the landing site debates for more than twenty years with interest. So, when Brian suggested it, I decided to look at just where a 16th century determination of North "38. deg. 30. min." at about longitude West 123° would have been.

What if we were to roll back the calendar to 1579, leave England and sail eight hours in longitude into the next day, and go to these very locations armed with period instrumentation, period astronomical and geographical knowledge, period published tables of solar declination, and remake these observations ourselves from a calculated virtual sun at meridian transit? Here is what I found.

goDETERMINATION OF LATITUDE BY FRANCIS DRAKE ON THE COAST OF CALIFORNIA IN 1579
Copyright © January 1999 by Bob Graham
The Library of Congress TX 5-606-271

To the best of my knowledge, in the previous analysis of 16th Century navigation regarding reported historic positions, this has never been attempted. It should have been.
Many thanks to Dr. Andrew T. Young, Professor Emeritus at the Astronomy Department of San Diego State University who visited this website and straightened out some of my terminology and provided me with the rule for the obliquity of the ecliptic.
And to Brian Kelleher for leading me to the source material and for his invaluable editorial assistance.

go Another disputed 16C California landing site location.
Did Pedro de Unamuno Really Land in Morro Bay in 1587?  Probably not, according to Michael Baird. Here his examimation of the evidence.

go The Hakluyt Society. Founded in 1846, the Hakluyt Society seeks to advance knowledge and education by the publication of scholarly editions of primary records of voyages, travels and other geographical material. The 1961 Hakluyt Society publication of A Regiment For the Sea, by William Bourne, (1574) has been indispensable in this project.

See also my news page on my Frémont site for developements at Campbell Cove!


©1999, 2007
Bob Graham