The Journal of San Diego History
Fall 1974, Volume 20, Number 4

By W. Michael Mathes

Puerto de Don GasparFor many years Sebastian Viscaino was criticized by such historians as Herbert E. Bolton, Charles E. Chapman and Henry R. Wagner for having changed, and thereby confused, known California place-names during his voyage of 1602-1603.1 Much of this criticism has centered around Viscaino’s changing of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo’s “San Miguel” to San Diego, of minor import since the bay had not been revisited following its discovery in 1542, and the use of the name “Puerto de Don Gaspar” to denote Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno’s “Bahia de San Francisco,” today Drakes Bay. This latter criticism has, however, been based upon an incomplete reading and study of the documents relating, to Vizcaino’s voyage. These documents clearly indicate that the name “Puerto de Don Gaspar” was applied to Cermeno’s Bahia de San Francisco not as a permanent place name, but in error, and that this error was immediately corrected within the same document in which it was recorded, as well as in all other contemporary documents relating to the voyage.

Map by Viscaino's cosmographer identifies Drake's Bay as Puerto de los Reyes. The name “Don Gaspar” is derived from the name of the then Viceroy of New Spain, Gaspar de Zuniga y Acevedo, Conde de Monterrey. Inasmuch as Vizcaino had honored his patron on 16 December 1602 by naming Monterey Bay for him, and since Vizcaino’s principal purpose for his voyage was to chart and name all bays, coves, harbors, etc. of the California coast to clarify navigation of that area, it is most unlikely that he would have employed a second place-name which was subject to confusion in honor of the Viceroy. Furthermore, as the name “Don Gaspar” was employed prior to reaching the place in question (it appears under date of 29 December 1602 which corresponded to the date upon which Vizcaino sailed from Monterey) its usage is totally out of context with the previous and subsequent naming of places along the coast, a procedure which took place upon or after arrival at those places named.

The use of “Don Gaspar” is, then, at best a temporary place-name to describe the next rendezvous point on the voyage; a place well known to Vizcaino’s pilot, Francisco de Bolanos, who had been wrecked there in November, 1595, while serving as pilot aboard Cermeno’s ill-fated San Agustin (Vizcaino’s instructions called for salvage operations, if possible, at the wreckage site).2 This temporary or casual, rather than permanent, use of “Don Gaspar” is clearly reflected by the following documents:

1.-Derrotero de Geronimo Martin Palacios con disenos de la costa por Enrico Martinez, 8 November 1603.3 In the sailing instructions from Monterey to Cape Mendocino the name ‘Puerto de Don Gaspar’ appears on two occasions, however, in the same paragraph the term ‘Morro de los Reyes’ [Point Reyes] is used to describe the same place. In the subsequent paragraph the term ‘Puerto de los Reyes’ is used with the phrase ‘referred to above as ‘Don Gaspar.’ These are the sole mentions of ‘Puerto de Don Gaspar’ in the documentation relative to Viscaino’s voyage.

Within the same document, with no further mention of “Don Gaspar,” the name Puerto de los Reyes (Port Reyes) appears on six occasions. This nomenclature is fully in keeping with Vizcaino’s consistent use of religious feasts as a means of establishing place names; he arrived at Point Reyes on the eve of Epiphany (Dia de los Santos Reyes), 5 January 1603.

2.-Derrotero…por Fray Antonio de la Ascension y Francisco de Bolanos, 21 March 1603.4 These sailing instructions employ only the name San Francisco as applied by Cermeno.

3.-Relacion…por Fray Antonio de la Ascension, 12 October 1620 and a subsequent undated Relacion.5 Only the name San Francisco is employed to denote Drakes Bay.

It is obvious from the above that Vizcaino himself, as well as his second cosmographer and his pilot, negated the use of “Don Gaspar” and, by so doing eliminated its use from Spanish charts and sailing instructions of the California coast. This nullification did not, apparently, reach many foreign cartographers who, with vague information usually acquired through rumor, garbled reports and faulty translations, erroneously perpetuated the place-name. The first use of “Puerto de Don Gaspar” was by the Portuguese cartographer Joao de Texeira in 1630, and seven years later it was used by the Englishman, John Daniell, whose maps are located in Florence. Following these cartographers was the Englishman Robert Dudley, who lived in Florence and, considering the relatively late dates of his maps, made no improvement nor contribution to the cartography of California. Dudley’s reliance upon hearsay is evident, for had he full access to Vizcaino’s maps his delineation of the California coast would have been far more accurate than the arbitrary shapes and garbled place names which appear on his maps. His use of the term “Puerto de Don Gaspar” (P° di Don Gasper) is but one of many inaccurate and fanciful aspects of his “Carta prima Generale. . . .America Maistrale” of 1647; many of his place names are simply inventions, i.e. “C. S. Barbera,” “C. S. Agostiho,” “Enseada de Roques,” etc. Dudley’s showing the “Puerto de Don Gaspar” and “Puerto Dell Nuovo Albion,” Francis Drake’s supposed landing-site, is hardly an attention to fine detail in light of his consistent inaccuracies; rather, it is another instance of his poor knowledge of California cartography.6 It is clear that accurate cartography was not Dudley’s aim; he merely wished to provide a popular atlas to help provide for his maintenance in Florence.

In light of contemporary documentation it is evident that Sebastian Vizcaino made no attempt to attach the name of “Puerto de Don Gaspar” to Drakes Bay or to any other site in California. Rather, this name was perpetuated by mediocre cartographers who based their work on hearsay and incorrect information which may well have been intentionally disseminated by Spain as a means of preserving the secrecy of her discoveries.



1. Henry R. Wagner, The Cartography of the Northwest Coast of America to the Year 1800. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1937), 112-13.

2. Archivo General de Indias, Sevilla. Mexico, 23. Autos hechos por Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno. Mexico, 26. Relacion de Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeno. Mexico, 372. Actas hechas durante la navegacion…1602. See, W. Michael Mathes, ed. Californiana I: Documentos para la historia de la demarcacion comercial de California, 1583-1632. (Madrid: Ediciones Jose Porrua Turanzas, 1965), documentos 20, 26, 50.

3. AGI, Mexico 372. Californiana I…, documento 50.

4. Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid. MS 3203. Californiana I…, documento 52.

5. Biblioteca Nacional, Madrid. MS 3042. Californiana I…, documento 177. AGI, Patronato 30; Guadalajara 133. Californiana I…, documento 183.

6. Wagner, Cartography. . ., 121-22, 306, 308, 310, 448. Wagner considers the shifting of “Puerto de Don Gaspar” to the position of Bodega Bay and the addition of “P° dell Nuovo Albion” in the location of Drakes Bay as an “invention of Dudley’s.”

W. Michael Mathes, Associate Professor of History, University of San Francisco and an editorial consultant for the Journal of San Diego History, specializes in the field of Colonial Mexico and Spanish California history. He is the author of a documentary series (8 projected volumes) on Spanish California, Vizcaino and Spanish Expansion in the Pacific Ocean, 1580-1630 and volumes in the Baja California Travels Series published by Dawson Book Shop, Los Angeles. His articles, “Sebastian Vizcaino and San Diego Bay” and “The Discoverer of Alta California: Joao Rodrigues Cabrilho or Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo?” have appeared in previous issues of this Journal. Dr. Mathes has just published A Brief History Of The Land Of Calafia: The Californias, 1533-1795 now available at the Serra Museum Bookstore, San Diego.