Drake Navigators Guild

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The Drake Navigators Guild is the historical research group which has used multi-disciplinary methods to research Francis Drake’s visit to the west coast of North America in 1579 and related maritime explorations. Founded in 1949, the Guild’s research supports the long-standing conclusion that Drake’s “Nova Albion” is at Drakes Bay, California. The Guild's efforts build on the research of Professor George Davidson (geographer) and others who have studied Drake's voyage.[1] The Guild’s research has identified the specific careening site at Drake’s Cove within the Bay.


The Drake Navigators Guild began as an informal group of historians and mariners in 1949. It was incorporated as a not-profit organization in 1954.[2]


Chester W. Nimitz, Honorary Chairman

Robert D. Marshall, President

Adolph S. Oko, Jr., President[3]

Raymond Aker, President

Edward P. Von der Porten, President

Multi-disciplinary research[edit]

The Guild supports involving experts in all applicable disciplines who can help understand Drake's travels and landing sites. These include archaeology, botany, cartography, Chinese porcelains, ethnography, geology, hydrography, marine biology, marine expeditions, museology, Native American studies, nautical history, navigation, seamanship, ship construction, and zoology.


From 1951 to 1961, the Guild conducted independent archaeological investigations of the Drakes Bay region. Under the auspices of Santa Rosa Junior College, the Guild conducted archaeological excavations from 1961 into the 1980s without finding any uncontested evidence of Drake having set foot in the area.[4][5]


Biological references are included in the historical record. The Guild has investigated the mammals reported. These include the strange kind of Conies with the tail of a Rat, being of great length leading to its identification as the Botta Pocket Gopher (Thomoys bottae bottae)[6] and the elk.


The records of Drake's California landing include botanical references. These have been evaluated by the Guild, including the identification of the "Herbe Much Like Our Letcuce."[7][8]


The cartographic evidence related to Drake's landing have been evaluated in depth by the Guild.[9] These include the Jodocus Hondius map and the many more maps showing Drakes Bay.

Chinese ceramics[edit]

The Guild’s extensive work on the porcelains of Drake and Cermeño along with those of other cargos from across the globe have firmly established that two different cargoes have been found at Drakes Bay native American sites.[10][11][12]


The geology of the Pacific coast has been investigated by the Guild and its collaborators. The north-Pacific coast is dominated by the volcanic basalts and hardened sedimentary rock [3] that produce sea mounts and other dangerous rocks. Moving south, a mariner finds a very different geology in Marin County, CA where the San Andreas fault has moved the white cliffs north 300 miles over one hundred million years.[13]


The sands at Drake’s Cove and the general hydrographic nature of the Pacific coast have been investigated by the Guild and its collaborators. The levels of the sea have not changed significantly since Drake’s visit. The sand spit shown on the Hondius Broadside map have been evaluated and found to have a cyclical nature – which has been shown by the reappearance of the sand spit in 1952 and 2001.[14]

Identification of the location of Drake's Cove[edit]

The Guild recognizes Matthew Dillingham's photographic work on November 22, 1952 as the key break which allowed the identification of the specific Drake landing site.[15]

Marine expeditions[edit]

The Guild has sponsored or co-sponsored several ocean studies of the Drakes Bay site. Since the discovery of Drake's landing site was by sea, it is critical to evaluate the landing site the way Drake and his crew saw it. One 1970s visit was aboard the USS Wiltsie (DD-716). The most recent expedition was co-sponsored by the Point Reyes National Seashore Association (PRNSA), Mother Lode Musical Theatre[16] and the Guild on September 11, 2009.[17]


Drake traveled 1,500 miles north from Guatulco, Mexico seeking the Strait of Anian. Encountering bad weather, Drake headed east, finding land at Coos Bay, Oregon on June 5, 1579. The Guild has investigated the site. It took Drake 15 days to travel the 400 miles south to Nova Albion. The Guild has evaluated the navigation of this leg of his voyage.[18]

Other investigations[edit]

The Guild has led or participated in the research on several other Drake-related matters including Drake's First Landfall, the Plate of Brass, "Drake's Cup," and Cermeño's 1595 wreck at Drake's Bay.

Drake's first landfall[edit]

The Guild has researched and identified Drake's North American landfall at Coos Bay, Oregon.[19]

Drake's Plate of Brass[edit]

Drake's Plate of Brass is described in contemporary accounts of Drake’s California visit. The plate found in 1936 was accepted as authentic until 1977 when studies showed that it is a modern forgery. Research by the Guild identified the likely source of the forged plate.[20]

“Drake’s Cup”[edit]

The so-called “Drake’s Cup” is a bronze mortar with the date 1570 inscribed in it. The mortar hung in a Marin County, California church for many years and was called “Drake’s Cup” for decades. In the early 1970s, the mortar was researched extensively by the Guild. While the mortar is an authentic sixteenth century item from Europe, no provenance associating it with Drake’s California visit can be established.[21]

Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño[edit]

The Guild has also researched Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño's anchorage and subsequent wreck in Drakes Bay in 1595.[22][23] The Guild has been a cooperating group with the San Agustin Institute of Marine Archaeology.[24]


F. Richard Brace

Sir Alex A. Cumming

Matthew P. Dillingham

Captain Daniel Dillon, USN

William T. Hall

Admiral of the Fleet Lord Louis Mountbatten

Captain Adolph S. Oko, Jr.

Rear Admiral Samuel Eliot Morrison

Anna L. Wilson

Other publications[edit]

  • Von der Porten, Edward P., Our First New England, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings, December, 1960.
  • Von der Porten, Edward, The First New England, The Compass, January–February 1962

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Hawgood, John A., M.A., M.Com., Ph.D., D.Lit.,THE TRUE AND FABULOUS HISTORY OF NOVA ALBION, An Inaugural Lecture Delivered in the University of Birmingham on 6th May 1965, The Kynoch Press, 1965.
  2. ^ Aker, Raymond, Report of Findings Relating to the Identification of Sir Francis Drake’s Encampment at Point Reyes National Seashore, 1970
  3. ^ Oko, Captain Adolph Sigmund Jr. (June 1964). "Francis Drake and Nova Albion". California Historical Society Quarterly. California Historical Society. 43 (2): 135 et. seq. doi:10.2307/25155641. 
  4. ^ Shangraw, Clarence, and Edward Von der Porten, The Drake and Cermeño Expeditions’ Chinese Porcelains at Drakes Bay, California 1579 and 1595, Santa Rosa Junior College and Drake Navigators Guild, 1981
  5. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P., Drake's Bay Shell Mound Archaeology 1951-1962, Drake Navigators Guild, 1963
  6. ^ Allen, Robert W., and Robert W. Parkinson, Identification of the Nova Albion Coney, Drake Navigators Guild, 1971
  7. ^ Allen, Robert W., Identification of “an Herbe Much Like Our Letcuce” 1971
  8. ^ Allen, Robert W., An Examination of the Botanical References in the Accounts Relating to Drake’s Encampment at Nova Albion in 1579, Drake Navigators Guild ,1971
  9. ^ Aker, Raymond, and Edward Von der Porten, Discovering Francis Drake’s California Harbor, Drake Navigators Guild, 2000
  10. ^ Shangraw, Clarence, and Edward Von der Porten, The Drake and Cermeño Expeditions’ Chinese Porcelains at Drakes Bay, California 1579 and 1595, Santa Rosa Junior College and Drake Navigators Guild, 1981
  11. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P., The Drake Puzzle Solved, Pacific Discovery, California Academy of Sciences, Vol. 7, No. 3, 1984, pp. 22-26.
  12. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P. (1972). "Drake and Cermeno in California: Sixteenth Century Chinese Ceramics". Historical Archaeology. Society for Historical Archaeology. 6: 1–22. 
  13. ^ Point Reyes Superintendent Named: Seasoned Professional to Lead National Seashore, Point Reyes National Seashore, April 23, 2010 [1]
  14. ^ Again a safe harbor: Tiny cove many believe Sir Francis Drake repaired to 422 years ago suddenly reappears, San Francisco Chronicle, July 18, 2001.
  15. ^ Aker, Raymond (May 1980). "A Safe Harbour at Point Reyes". The Geographical Magazine. The Royal Geographic Society. 
  16. ^ Mother Lode Musical Theatre
  17. ^ Discovering Drake: an Ocean Adventure, 2009
  18. ^ Nimitz, Fleet Admiral Chester W., USN (March–April 1958). "Drake's Cove – A Navigational Approach to Identification". Pacific Discovery. 
  19. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P. (January–February 1975). "Drake's First Landfall". Pacific Discovery. California Academy of Sciences. XXVIII (Number I): 28–30. 
  20. ^ ”Von der Porten, Edward, Raymond Aker, Robert W. Allen, and James M. Spitze, "Who made Drake's plate of brass? Hint: it wasn't Francis Drake", California Monthly, March 22, 2002
  21. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P. (1973). ""Drake's Cup"? - 1570". Historical Archaeology. Society for Historical Archaeology. 7: 46–53. 
  22. ^ Aker, Raymond, The Cermeño Expedition at Drakes Bay – 1595, Drake Navigators Guild, 1965
  23. ^ Von der Porten, Edward P., DRAKE - CERMEÑO: An Analysis of Artifacts, Drake Navigators Guild, 1965
  24. ^ Meniketti, Marco 1997 Searching For a Safe Harbor on A Treacherous Coast: The Wreck of the Manila Galleon San Agustin[2]

External links[edit]

  • Drake Navigators Guild [4]
  • Copies of publications [5]