Raymond Aker (March 10, 1920—January 4, 2003)
Ramond Aker, a native of Yonkers, New York, grew up in Atherton California. As a child he developed an interest in sailing, and when he was young he developed a hobby of making models and paintings of ships, particularly old historic ones. Making detailed drawings and models of ships was a hobby that he continued throughout his life. Aker enrolled in the California Nautical School in 1939 when 19 years old, and in 1942—after the attack on Pearl Harbor—Raymond’s class was graduated early. Aker became a deck officer aboard troop transport and supply ships. After World War II, he continued as a deck officer with the Matson Lines until 1949. Afterwards, he worked 29 years for Westinghouse with projects such as the Polaris missile and ship propeller design.
Aker had developed a fascination of Drake and his circumnavigation, and applied his maritime knowledge to assess and support Drake’s careenage at New Albion. His maritime knowledge was substantial, even indispensable, and its application was international. This master mariner was a recognized authority regarding sailing ship design, cartography, and hydrogeology.
Aker joined the Drake Navigators Guild in 1953, became its president 10 years later, and led the Guild for decades from that position. Aker also spent several years analyzing the variation in the tides at Drake’s Estero. In the process, he most notably addressed critics of the Drakes Estero theory who maintained that the geography of the cove does not match the descriptions in the journals of those on the voyage or the inset on the Hondius map known as the Drake Broadside. Aker ascertained that the cove geography was cyclic over decades, and in 2001 he correctly predicted the reemergence of a spit in the cove which closely matched the contemporary accounts of Drake's landing spot. He was also a driving force behind the effort that led to the United States Department of the Interior designating Drakes Bay as a National Historic Landmark.
As part of his study of Drake's circumnavigation, Aker firmly believed that Drake was the true discoverer of Cape Horn, rather than the Dutch explorer Willem Schouten. After extensively studying and documenting the matter, Aker’s findings were subsequently endorsed by the American National Maritime Historical Society and the National Geographic Society.
In 1998, Aker received a personal request from Sir David Nicholas to find the resting place of Drake’s ship, the Golden Hind. After a careful analysis, Aker became convinced that the partial remains of Drake's ship are buried at the site of the old Deptford Navy yard along the Thames in east London.
Aker’s studies of Drake’s life, adventures, and expeditions have appeared in books about Drake. Pre-imminent Drake scholar, John Sugden, wrote: Ray Aker and Michael Turner probably know more about the geography of Drake’s circumnavigation than anyone else.