John Vonderlin: These Guys Saw It First….

Story by John Vonderlin

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Hi June,

These are descriptions of our coast by the earliest Europeans to see the Coastside. This is from the Coast Dairies document. Sebastian Cermeno and Francisco del Bolanos in a makeshift canoe? Now that sounds like an interesting story. I’ll see if I can find it. Enjoy. John


Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, November 1542

Cabrillo’s account includes a brief mention of the North Coast including the fact that they saw “neither Native Americans nor smokes” (Wagner, 1929). Cabrillo’s emphasis that trees came right down to the water at other locations (Point Reyes, Point Pinos) suggests that the coastal terrace near present-day Año Nuevo had few if any trees.

Sebastian Cermeño, December 1595

In December 1595, Spanish explorer Sebastian Cermeño sailed southward along the coastline in a makeshift canoe. He was much more definite about the appearance of the land: “

In going along very close to land, frequently only a musket-shot from it, all that may be seen is bare land near the sea and pine and oak timber in the high country. No smokes or fires appeared .” (Wagner, 1929)

Francisco de Bolaños, 1603

Spanish pilot Francisco de Bolaños was with Cermeño and returned with Captain Sebastian Vizcaíno in the 1603 passage that was the occasion to name Año Nuevo. Bolaños wrote the description that would be the guide for all Spanish ship captains for the next 150 years. His description of the coastline south of Point Reyes: “

From the Punta de los Reyes about fourteen leagues southeast a quarter south there is a point [probably Pigeon Point]. Before reaching it the country consists in places of sierra, bare to the sea and of medium height with some cliffs, but soon the country inside [inland] becomes massive and wooded until you reach a point of low land in 37 ½ degrees named the ‘Punta de Año Neuvo.”

To emphasis the distinctiveness of Point Pinos on the south side of Monterey Bay, Bolaños noted that the forests there covered the land “ down to the sea itself.” (Wagner, 1929)


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