The Explorers, 1492-1774

TRANSLATION: Relation of the Voyage of Cabrillo

Having departed from Cabo de la Cruz, because of head-winds they found themselves on the following Saturday two leagues from the same cape on a coast running from north-northwest to south-southeast. At the shore they saw Indians in some very small canoes. The land is very high, bare, and dry. All the land from California to here is sandy near the shore, but here begins land of another sort, the soil being reddish and of better appearance.

On Sunday, the 17th of the said month, they sailed on in continuation of their voyage, and about six leagues from Cabo de Cruz they found a good and closed port. To reach it they passed a small island which is near the mainland. In this port they took on water from a small lake of rain-water. There are groves of trees like silk cotton trees, excepting that they are of hard wood. They found thick and tall trees which the sea brings. This port is called San Mateo. The land appears to be good; there are large savannahs, and the grass is like that of Spain. The land is high and broken. They saw some herds of animals like cattle, which went in droves of a hundred or more, and which, from their appearance, from their gait, and the long wool, looked like Peruvian sheep. They have small horns, a span in length and as thick as the thumb. The tail is broad and round and a palm long. This place is in thirty three and one-third degrees. They took possession here. They remained in this port until the following Saturday.

On Saturday, the 23rd of said month, they left said port of San Mateo and sailed along the coast until the Monday following, when they must have gone about eighteen leagues. They saw very beautiful valleys and groves, and country both level and rough, but no Indians were seen.

On the following Tuesday and Wednesday they sailed along the coast about eight leagues, passing by some three islands completely denuded of soil. One of them is larger than the others. It is about two leagues in circumference and affords shelter from the west winds. They are three leagues from the mainland, and are in thirty-four degrees. They called them Islas Desiertas. This day great smokes were seen on the land. The country appears to be good and has large valleys, and in the interior there are high mountains.

On the following Thursday they went about six leagues along a coast running north-northwest and discovered a port, closed and very good, which they named San Miguel. It is in thirty-four and one-third degrees. Having cast anchor in it, they went ashore where there were people. Three of them waited, but all the rest fled. To these three they gave some presents and they said by signs that in the interior men like the Spaniards had passed. They gave signs of great fear. On the night of this day they went ashore from the ships to fish with a net, and it appears that here there were some Indians, and that they began to shoot at them with arrows and wounded three men.

Next day in the morning they went with the boat farther into the port, which is large, and brought two boys, who understood nothing by signs. They gave them both shirts and sent them away immediately.

Next day in the morning three adult Indians came to the ships and said by signs that in the interior men like us were travelling about, bearded, clothed, and armed like those of the ships. They made signs that they carried crossbows and swords; and they made gestures with the right arm as if they were throwing lances, and ran around as if they were on horse-back. They made signs that they were killing many native Indians, and that for this reason they were afraid.

Above text translated by Herbert Eugene Bolton in “Spanish Exploration in the Southwest 1542-1706,” 21-23 (New York, Barnes & Noble, 1959).

They examined the coast at a point which projects into the sea and forms a cape. The point is covered with timber, and is in forty degrees.

On Wednesday, the 15th of said month, they sighted the consort, whereupon they heartily thanked God, for they had thought her lost. They made toward her, and in the afternoon they joined company. Those on the other ship had experienced greater labor and risk than those of the captain’s ship, since it was a small vessel and had no deck. This country where they were sailing is apparently very good, but they saw no Indians or smokes. There are large mountains covered with snow, and there is heavy timber. At night they lowered sails and lay-to. On the following Thursday, the 16th of the said month of November, they found themselves at daybreak in a great bay, which came at a turn, and which appeared to have a port and a river. They held on, beating about that day and night and on the following Friday, until they saw that there was neither river nor shelter. In order to take possession they cast anchor in forty-five fathoms, but they did not dare go ashore because of the high sea. This bay is in thirty-nine degrees, full, and its entire shore is covered with pines clear to the sea. They named it Bay of Los Pinos. That night they lay-to until the following day.

The following Saturday they ran along the coast, and at night found themselves off Cape San Martin. All the coast run this day is very bold; the sea has a heavy swell, and the coast is very high. There are mountains which reach the sky, and the sea beats upon them. When sailing along near the land, it seems as if the mountains would fall upon the ships. They are covered with snow to the summit, and they named them the Sierras Nevadas. At the beginning of them a cape is formed which projects into the sea, and which they named Cape Nieve. The coast runs from north-northwest to south-southwest. It does not appear that Indians live on this coast. This Cape Nieve is in thirty-eight and two-thirds degrees. Whenever the wind blew from the northwest the weather was clear and fair.

On Thursday, the 23rd of the month, they arrived, on the return, in the islands of San Lucas, at one of them called La Posesion. They had run the entire coast, point by point, from Cape Pinos to the islands, and had found no shelter whatever, wherefore they were forced to return to said island because during these past days there was a strong wind from the west-northwest, and the swell of the sea was heavy. From Cape Martin to Cape Pinos we did not see a single Indian, the reason being that the coast is bold, rugged, and without shelter. But southeast of Cape Martin for fifteen leagues they found the land inhabited, and with many smokes, because the country is good. But from Cape Martin up to forty degrees we saw no sign of Indians. Cape Martin is in thirty-seven and one-half degrees.

Passing the winter on the island of La Posesion, on the 3rd of the month of January, 1543, Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, captain of the said ships, departed from this life, as the result of a fall which he suffered on said island when they were there before, from which he broke an arm near the shoulder. He left as captain the chief pilot, who was one Bartolome Ferrelo, a native of the Levant. At the time of his death he emphatically charged them not to leave off exploring as much as possible of all that coast. They named the island [the Island of Juan Rodriguez].

Above text translated by Herbert Eugene Bolton in “Spanish Exploration in the Southwest 1542-1706,” 31-33 (New York, Barnes & Noble, 1959).