The DNG's Story
The Drake Navigators Guild is an international, non-profit history research group which brings together persons from many fields of scholarship to study the early exploration of the west coast of North America. Its members and associates have included practical seamen and researchers in fields as diverse as nautical history, anthropology, cartography, hydrography, meteorology, ship construction, exploration, seamanship, navigation, biology, zoology, archaeology, ethnography, museology, medicine, education, and business. It used these multi-disciplinary methods to document and promote Francis Drake’s visit to the west coast of North America in 1579. Additionally the Guild has researched and assisted study with numerous other related maritime explorations and events.
Founded in 1949, the Guild’s research authenticated the long-standing conclusion that Drake’s Nova Albion—New Albion—was at Drakes Bay, California. The first members were a small group of professional men, most with extensive nautical backgrounds, all with skills relevant to the research at hand. With hydrographer-historian Professor George Davidson’s work as a rough guide, they embarked on a search to identify more than the general area—namely the specific, exact location of Francis Drake’s campsite and anchorage in the place he claimed for England: Nova Albion—New Albion.
Professor Davidson’s late nineteenth century research was extensively used to produce the U.S. Coast Survey. Davidson’s work, in 1886, also resulted in Drakes Bay being officially named as such and the designation was reaffirmed by the Chief Geographer of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the successor to the Coast Survey, in 1994. That designation has appeared on official charts, maps, and coast pilots for more than a century.
These first efforts by the Guild began much work, copiously expanding on Davidson’s studies. After several years, the Guild’s research firmly identified the specific careening site at Drake’s Cove within the Bay, the cove named by Fleet Admiral Nimitz. Following up on their findings, the Guild continued the research, probing deeply with numerous and diverse disciplines which continued to definitively identify the location of Francis Drake's 1579 safe harbor. This location is the specific site where Drake camped for five weeks, repaired the Golden Hind, provided for the welfare of his men, explored the interior land, made friends with the Coast Miwok, and readied for the long voyage across the Pacific Ocean and on to England. Most significantly, this is where Drake made the first English claim to the land which eventually became the English colonies and finally the United States.
Eventually, the DNG wrote the National Historic Landmark application and presented it to National Park Service committees. After an exhaustive review process that took several years to complete, the Secretary of the Interior made the final decision and awarded the National Historic Landmark designation on October 12, 2012. The location, Drake's Cove, next to Drakes Bay, is thirty miles north of San Francisco at Point Reyes National Seashore.
The Guild has also investigated Manila galleon contacts with the North American Pacific coast, including the 1595 shipwreck of Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño's San Agustin at Drakes Bay. Furthermore, Guild member Ray Aker located the probable site of the Golden Hind’s final resting place in England. Notably, the Guild also published the behind-scenes story of the Drake Plate of Brass hoax in California History magazine's Volume 81, Number 2, 2002. Additionally, the Guild has had other, numerous book and periodical publications, participated in major conferences across the nation, assisted domestic and foreign scholars, and been long involved with support and outreach to numerous museums in the United States and abroad.
The Guild's work is most easily accessible in its eighty-page book, Discovering Francis Drake's California Harbor. The book tells the story of Drake's voyage `round the world, his visit to California, the story of the previous fifty years of research that established the location of his activities on this coast. The book's bibliography lists the Guild's specialized monographs that give the details of the research.
The group continues its educational and research efforts to bring Drake and New Albion’s story to the public. Throughout its history, the Guild has and—still does—opened its work and both provides and offers its assistance to scholars, organizations, and museums around the world.