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San Francisco Bay Discovered

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Joined: 27 Nov 2007
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Location: Monterey County, California

PostPosted: Mon Apr 14, 2008 2:27 pm    Post subject: San Francisco Bay Discovered Reply with quote

NOW THEIR latitudes almost check—thirty seven and one-half degrees.

But it is not Monterey Bay. That is clear. It dawns upon them that it is old San Francisco Bay—now known as Drake's Bay, under Point Reyes, Monterey Bay must have been missed. Where? How?

There were the "white cliffs" ahead, gleaming in the October sun, that prompted Drake to name the new land New Albion, in memory of the white cliffs of Old England.

They were looking now from the brown hills upon the little bay yonder, named by Cermeno in 1595, for Francis of Assisi (landing either September 17th or October 4th), whose ship San Agastin lay rotting on its bottom. The original Bay of San Francisco.

Again the doubters, "We do not believe that to be the old Bay of St, Francis. Nor do we believe we have passed Monterey Bay," Portola, perplexed, called his council together.

Sergeant Ortega had ridden out at sunrise with a group of soldiers to survey the land in the neighborhood of Point Reyes. And hunters went forth under orders to return with food.

Marching north and east, they discovered an "inlet" and an "inland sea." The first white men to set eyes upon what is now known as San Francisco Bay. The date was November 1, 1769. The honor is Ortega’s, Portola's only by right of command.

Returning to camp on November 3rd, they report the impossibility of examining the port of St. Francis, as they would have to use boats; and boats they had not. And "They had seen a great estuary to the east, said by Indians to run far into the land."

Thus, searching for Monterey Bay, they had fallen upon a hitherto unknown bay that soon took over the name of the little bay below Point Reyes—San Francisco. And the little bay below Point Reyes took over the name—not of its discoverer, who was Cabrillo (1542), but of Drake, who had careened his ship, The Golden Hind, on its shores, in 1579.

There were those among the weary band with sufficient mental vigor, in spite of their infirmities, to know they had made a great discovery—the hunters who had made report of a "great inland sea" among them. "Very well," said the kill-joys, "we grant you a new body of water has been found that the navies of the world may ride upon. But it is not the Port of Monterey. And it was Monterey we were sent out to find, and to plant a Presidio and a Mission there. So let us turn back, since we cannot go forward without ships, and head for Point Pinos, and take new bearings."

They reached the Salinas plain again; they camped again by the fresh water lagoon near Del Monte. And finally made camp on the south bank of the Carmelo (November 28th)—the same spot from which they reconnoitered on the march north. They set up their camp on the highest point of the rise, up from the water—back of "masses of large smooth rocks on the shore"—just across the bar (Oliver's Ranch). Here they set up a large cross of pine, one that could readily be seen by a passing ship, hoping still that the San Jose might yet be blown back on her course. Tighter belts, more scurvy. Someone brought into camp some wild blackberries (probably from San Jose canyon) and some wild geese. A feast. Hunger drove them into the un-accustomed role of hunters, even to the stalking of bear later on the march. And they had come to like the "tamales" the Indians brought, made of seeds and acorn meal. The Indian, thusly, not the Spaniard, is the author of the toothsome tamale. Cabrillo and Viscaino both were entertained by the Indians all along the coast with tamales—their native foods wrapped in leaves.

Crespi, like Serra, a cheerful and an energetic soul, was a source of unfailing inspiration. From his hours of prayer, his faith and love, he fed his own courage, and from it fed the others. But he did not know that the San Jose would never appear, with its precious store of provisions. He prayed for its safety.

They reconnoitered from the banks of the Carmel, noting the beauty of the Santa Lucias, of Point Lobos, just beyond, with its tragic cypresses and purple caverns. They noted carefully every landmark along the shore, as well as those inland, and prepared to break camp. Back to San Diego. Perhaps to Mexico.

Early on December 10th, the Indians shouldered their litters; the signal was given to pull out. "Surely," they said, "Monterey Bay must have filled up with sand. Else how has it eluded us?"

But before they departed, they wrote a sign on the cross. "Dig at the foot, and ye shall find writing." In a receptacle they deposited a plea that the discoverers follow down the coast and keep a sharp lookout for them "ere they perish." From November 28th until December 10th, they had camped here, hungry and wistful, their task unfulfilled. Of course, they had the San Jose in mind. Perhaps she was awaiting them in the elusive bay. One of the early mysteries of the Pacific sea. No trace of her was ever discovered.

The return march covered practically the same terrain as in the trek north. And, strangely enough, Don Gaspar brought his command into San Diego without losing a man, January 24, 1770. True, only the hardiest were left. They were learning to fend for themselves. The commander, a realist, accepted the distasteful truth, and rode into camp at San Diego, chin up. Six months lost, and a heavy toll of men and money.

Fray Junipero, eagerly awaiting word from Monterey, was ecstatic at their return. How long they were gone! How lonely it was in the wilderness!

All were embraced as they entered the stockade surrounding the Mission. But it was a sorry lot that staggered out to meet them. They, too, had been subsisting on short rations, while scanning the horizon daily for the San Jose.

How good that all were together again! What if they had not achieved their end, were they not led to re-discover the old Bay of St. Francis and to discover a new "inland sea?" And, besides, to fail is the oldest experience of man. Serra lived his Franciscanism.

"Come—you must go back," said Serra, "and this time I will go with you.” And they thanked God they were together once more, and that, united, they would find the bay of Monterey. But in their silent moments, every member of the Portola party wondered and doubted. Hunger, scurvy, and weariness still haunted them. Would supplies come from Mexico?
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