EXPLORATION AND
FOREIGN INTERFERENCE
CHAPTER 7

During the long period when Alta California was settled by Spanish priests, soldiers, and colonists, the crown continued to press onward with exploration. From Mexico City, New Spain’s Viceroy, Antonio Bucareli, asked his mariners to find out what lay beyond the northernmost reaches of California’s coastline. In March 1775 he commissioned two explorers, Captains Bruno de Heceta and Juan Francisco de la Bodega, to sail northward from San Blas. At latitude 41 degrees north, their ships headed into a fine bay. Its shoreline, covered with wild roses, irises, manzanitas, and tall pines, was so inviting that the Spaniards landed and took possession of the place in the name of the king of Spain. Since this event took place on the day of the Holy Trinity, they called the bay Trinidad, by which name it is still known.

Captain Heceta also deserves credit for the discovery of the Columbia River, on July 27, 1775, although the achievement is sometimes ascribed to the American sea captain Robert Gray, who arrived on the site in 1792. When Heceta reached Nootka, on the west coast of cold and damp Vancouver Island, the miserable condition of his crew forced him to sail back down the coast to California.

As for Bodega, although short of food and water and with a crew crippled by scurvy, he pressed on until the cold autumn rains set in. Finally, his men suffering severely from insufficient clothing, he too was compelled to turn around. The southward trip was a stormy one. Great seas rolled over Bodega’s ship, carrying away everything movable and filling the hold with water. On October 3, 1775, his vessel drifted into a bay four leagues north of Point Reyes. There he watched bears and deer feeding along the banks. His navigator named the bay Bodega after the captain. The area remained remote for many years thereafter.

-53-

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