What early period documents directed our research?

Card image cap
The Hondius Broadside Map

This is the Hondius Broadside map oriented with north at the top. The Hondius Inset, that showing Drake’s 1579 camp at New Albion, is at the upper left and the Moluccas at the bottom left.

The Drake Navigators Guild, beginning in 1950, worked upon the premise that a group of people with specialized skills—particularly navigation and seamanship—might collectively and firmly resolve the riddle of Francis Drake’s 1579 landing place. This required the gathering of a copious amount of facts which motivated further documentary and archaeological evidence, all which eventually pointed to the specific location of Drake’s encampment and careenage off Drakes Bay and within a cove located in Drakes Estero. Drakes Bay, Drakes Estero, and Drake’s Cove—all contiguous—lie within the immediate region generally referred to as Point Reyes.

All sources, including primary and extant, were applied to the matter. Strict application of historical facts, practical and first-hand knowledge of seamanship, requirements of 16th century navigation and ship maintenance, field and laboratory archaeology, cartography, hydrography, meteorology, ship construction, biology, zoology, and ethnography were all employed.

The basic and essential facts upon which identification began are all found in these following period documents which the Guild used. They are not the only period sources relating to Drake’s 1579 landing, but they are assessed to have enough significant data useful in specifying Drake’s safe harbor in California.

  • Diary of Richard Maddox

    Madox was Chaplain on Edward Fenton’s ship in 1582. On board were several people who had been on Drake’s circumnavigating voyage. From them, Madox recorded fragments of California native people’s speech and song. These gave a basis for identifying the specific tribe and general area of Drake’s landing.

  • John Drake’s Deposition of 1584 and Deposition of 1587

    John Drake, Drake’s cousin who crewed on Drake’s circumnavigation, was captured by the Spaniards on a later voyage. He was consequently examined by Spanish inquisitors and gave scant but useful information regarding New Albion.

  • The Anonymous Narrative

    This unknown author’s account is curated in the British Library. Date unknown, it was written by one hostile to Drake, plausibly by someone on the voyage and possibly John Doughty—brother to the man Drake executed: Thomas Doughty. Hakluyt and Camden may have use this source.

  • John Stow’s The Chronicles of England

    Written in 1592, this account gives brief information about Drake’s movements on the Northwest Coast of America. They differ from other accounts. Stow was probably acquainted with Drake.

  • William Camden’s Annales, The True and Royall History of the famous Empress Elizabeth

    With the information coming directly from Drake, Camden acquired almost all the information we know of Drake’s early life. Without asserting that it came directly from Drake, he wrote briefly of Drake’s voyage.

  • Richard Hakluyt’s The famous voyage of Sir Francis Drake into the South Sea, and there hence about the whole Globe of the Earth, begun in the yeere of our Lord 1577.

    This is the first detailed account of Drake’s circumnavigating voyage and consisted of six unnumbered folio leaves inserted in his The Principall Navigations voiages and Discoveries of the English Nation. Hakluyt almost certainly used several sources including The Anonymous Narrative, Francis Fletcher (Drake’s chaplain), and sources unknown. As he relays information not found elsewhere, he may have interviewed Drake. Here, this work is referred to as The Famous Voyage.

  • The World Encompassed by Sir Francis Drake Being his next voyage to that to Nombre de Dios formerly imprinted; Carefully collected out of the notes of Master FRANCIS FLETCHER Preacher in this imploymnet, and diuers others his followers in the same

    Printed almost 50 years after Drake’s voyage, it is extraordinarily detailed with extensive information about the voyage along Pacific northwest coast and New Albion. The writing is probably from notes—a log perhaps—Fletcher made on the voyage as part of his regular duties. Here, this work is referred to as The World Encompassed.


    The title presented above is much shorter than the original which read in part: A True Description of the Entire Naval Expedition of Sir Francis Drake. Published by Jodicus Hondius (Latininzed version of his true name, Jodocus de Hondt), it is highly respected. The borders are particularly significant as they depict four views of places and incidents on the voyage, one which is of Drake’s New Albion haven: Portus Novae Albionis. Here, it is referred to the Hondius inset.

  • Robert Dudley’s Manuscript Chart No. 85 and Dell’ Arcano del Mare

    Dudley was a staunch friend of Drake and an expert navigator. The charts drawn by him in the atlas Dell’ Arcano del Mare and the undated Manuscript Chart No. 85 are important sources for locating Drake’s location on the California coast. Manuscript Chart No. 85 is curated in the Imperial Museum at Munich and suggests information gleaned directly from Drake.


    Authorities believe this is the earliest map devoted to Drake’s circumnavigation. It is similar to the Hondius Broadside Map, and it—or its source—is likely the model for the Hondius Map. It is important as it may be based on what was either Queen Elizabeth’s own map of Drake’s voyage or a similar one such as one given by Drake to the Archbishop of Canterbury.

At this point, one might wonder about Drake’s records. They are lost. When he returned from the journey, along with the purloined treasure, he handed over all his notes and a large map that was drawn during the journey. Francis Drake and John Drake composed accomplished drawings of the journey. This was reported by a briefly held Spanish prisoner who observed their drawing sessions.

The map, known as the Queen’s Map, was available for limited view for a number of years. All of these were eventually lost, the map when Whitehall burned in 1598.

This is how the research was based and what directed the Guild’s evidentiary collection and analysis. In 1956, Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz described the Guild’s findings as such:

It is unlikely that any re-charting of the course the Guild has followed could lead to a different site, unless Drake’s calculation of latitude be proved wrong; Fletcher’s observation of weather conditions be proved fraudulent; the landmark of white cliffs be termed a falsification; the naming of the land Nova Albion be considered a figment of nostalgia; the avowed purpose of the landing be declared a fiction; or the charting of Portus Novae Albionis be declared an imaginative invention only coincidentally true to periodic physical fact.