Time Jockey – Exploring California
Sea Voyages … In 1492, when Columbus arrived in the New World, California was the most densely populated region in the future United Sates. There were more indigenous tribes and languages spoken than in any area of the same size. Fifty year later, the estimated indigenous population was 330,000. Spain claimed most of South and Central America and the southwestern area of the North American continent and named it New Spain. The Spanish government decided it was time to find out what New Spain had to offer and began a series of exploratory voyages to explore the coast of Alta California, perhaps finding a new route to China in the same voyage. Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo was commissioned to explore Alta California and began his journey at Navidad, Mexico on June 27, 1542. During his explorations, Cabrillo discovered a well-protected bay and named it San Miguel, which today it is known as San Diego. After leaving San Miguel, Cabrillo sailed north and four days later sighted two small islands which he named after the two smallest vessels in his party, San Salvador and La Victoria. These islands are known today as San Clemente and Santa Catalina Islands. It was on San Salvador Island that Cabrillo first met the native inhabitants and exchanged beads and other articles with them. Cabrillo had arrived during the hunting season, and from his view off the coast, he saw a large number of camp fires and their smoke. The coast of present day Long Beach was the heart of the Gabrieleno world with 20-30 villages of 500 persons each. Cabrillo would name this area ‘La Bahia de Los Fumos’ or Bay of Smokes The Spanish would eventually name the natives the Gabrielenos, and their way of life would forever be changed. It was nearly 60 years later that the next Spanish explorer would set his sights on the coast of Alta California. Sebastian Vizcaino set sail from Mexico on May 5, 1602 with only three ships. Vizcaino’s objective was to survey and explore the coast of Alta California and to map the location of any well-protected bays. Vizcaino dropped anchor off Santa Catalina Island and was met there by the local natives who had paddled out on their canoes to meet them. Vizcaino stayed anchored for seven days but eventually went ashore at San Pedro Bay. The expedition left and returned to Acapulco, Mexico on March 22, 1603. For the next 166 years no other foreigner would set foot in Southern California. In 1769, Gaspar de Portola led a land expedition north from Baja California. With him, was Father Junipero Serra, the Franciscan Order priest who would go on and establish the string of twenty-one California Missions. Cabrillo, Vizcaino, Portola and Serra would bring a new order to Alta California and the lives of the local indigenous would forever be changed….