California, an island, then not island, then back to being an island again, and now not an island. “A very good enclosed port” said Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo to describe the bay he sailed into and named San Miguel (later to be re-named San Diego). He was the first European to reach the West Coast in 1542 when he sailed into San Diego, CA. Prior to the subsequent European explorers who arrived after Cabrillo, adventurer Hernan Cortes (as in the Sea of Cortes) reached the tip of Baja California in 1519. He thought he discovered the fictional pearl rich island of California ruled by the equally fictional Amazon Queen Calafia described in the popular 1510 romance novel Las Sergas de Esplandian (The Adventures of Esplandian) written by Graci Ordonez de Montalvo.
Cabrillo was able to sail around the Gulf of California and determine it was not an island; however, northward exploration was more difficult. Harsh waters, rugged coasts, unfamiliar biosphere, suspicious Indians, and fog made exploring beyond San Diego expensive, dangerous and fragmented. After a century of exploration that yielded minimal results, European expeditions ceased (by Spanish royal decree). Maps reverted back to depicting California as an island again.
Another century later, in 1702, California was discovered not to be an island…again! This time it was by a Jesuit missionary-explorer, Eusebio Kino, conducting an expedition of the Colorado river.
Cabrillo National Monument is situated in the beautiful and history area of Point Loma. It is thought that Cabrillo landed in Point Loma, and today it is home to a large Navy base. A long sailing history due to San Diego’s “very good enclosed port.”
A picture tour through Cabrillo National Monument and the restored lighthouse:
*The information contained in this post was obtained from academic research, lectures and course materials during a California History course at University of CA, Chico.