Whale Cove (Oregon)

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Whale Cove, south of Depoe Bay, Oregon, colorized aerial photograph
The Jonucus Hondius map of 1589 of Drake's New Albion cove

Whale Cove is a small cove, approximately one-third of a mile (0.5 km) in diameter, located on the Pacific Coast of Oregon in the United States, approximately 1.4 mi (2.3 km) south of the city of Depoe Bay.[1] The cove is located at approximately 44 deg 44 min N latitude.

The ocean portion of the cove is protected as a marine reserve,[2] and land portions of the cove are protected as parts of Rocky Creek State Scenic Viewpoint and Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge.[3]

Drake theory[edit]

In 1978, British amateur historian Bob Ward proposed that Whale Cove was the location where Francis Drake spent the summer of 1579 during his circumnavigation of the globe by sea. The exact location of Drake's landing spot, at which he claimed a portion of the west coast of North America as "New Albion", has been claimed to be identified by proponents of more than twenty sites. The officially recognized Drake landing site is at the Drakes Bay Historic and Archaeological District National Landmark in northern California on the coast of Marin County.

Ward proposed Whale Cove as the actual spot of Drake's landing based on its similarity to a 16th-century map made by Jodocus Hondius. Ward theorized that Drake may have conspired with Queen Elizabeth I to mislead the Spanish about the true location of the cove to keep the Spanish from discovering Puget Sound, which Ward believes that Drake thought was the Northwest Passage.

One longstanding puzzling feature of the Hondius map is the small island on the peninsula protecting the cove. According to Ward, a narrow strip of the peninsula protecting Whale Cove "has a strip through which water flows at high tide" turning 80% of the peninsula into an island.[4]


Whale Cove remains an unnavigable bay in a dangerous part of the Oregon coast: mariners are advised to stay at least 600 yards (550 m) offshore for the distance one mile north of Whale Cove to one mile south of Whale Cove. Whale Cove is not considered a usable bay by any size of vessel.[5][6]


  1. ^ 1.8 mi (2.9 km) from Depoe Bay to Whale Cove Inn at the south end of Whale Cove by road
  2. ^ "Whale Cove Protected as part of Oregon Islands National Wildlife Refuge thanks to a diverse partnership". HMSC Currents, OSU Hatfield Marine Science Center Staff Newsletter. Oregon State University. 2015-01-26. Retrieved 2015-01-26.
  3. ^ Urness, Zach (2015-01-22). "Oregon's 'last virgin cove' protected in wildlife refuge". (Salem, Oregon) Statesman-Journal. Retrieved 2015-01-26.
  4. ^ Ward does not explain why the Hondius map shows a peninsula and an island while the theory has a peninsula cut off to form an island.Geographical Magazine. VIII. Royal Geographical Society. July 1981. p. 647. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ Cape Foulweather is 1 NM south of Whale Cove. "Dangers extend for nearly 2 miles N of the N point of Cape Foulweather and about 600 yards offshore." Whale Cove is not even mentioned as a place to be considered by mariners of any size of vessel.United States Coast Pilot 7: Pacific Coast: California, Oregon, Washington, and Hawaii (Twenty-fifth ed.). U.S. Department of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Ocean Service. 1989. p. 219.
  6. ^ While Depoe Bay, one NM north of Whale Cove, "has a well-deserved reputation for having one of the most intimidating entrances of any west coast harbor," the area of Whale Cove is a more-dangerous "stay clear" area for boaters and is marked "Foul." Wood, Charles; Wood, Margo (1995). Charlie's Charts of the U.S. Pacific Coast: Seattle, Washington to San Diego, California including the Channel Islands (second ed.). Charlie's Charts. p. 53.

Further reading[edit]

  • Samuel Bawlf, The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake, Penguin Books, ISBN 0-14-200459-6

Coordinates: 44°47′19″N 124°4′17″W / 44.78861°N 124.07139°W / 44.78861; -124.07139