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The Mystery of Francis Drake's Californian Voyage

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Why was Francis Drake in the Pacific in the 1570s? Was the Golden Hind bound on a trade voyage or was there a deeper political motive? The documents are lost, but David Cressy feels the historian can still speculate.

On June 17th, 1579, Francis Drake eased his laden and leaking ship, the Golden Hind , into 'a convenient and fit harbour' somewhere on the coast of California in what is today Marin County. He had been away from England for about 550 days and with some anxiety was considering how best to get home. Five ships had set out from Plymouth in December, 1577, ostensibly bound for Alexandria to trade in the Mediterranean. The voyage soon developed into a plundering expedition against the maritime power of Portugal and Spain with an enigmatic interest in waters on the other side of the world. Whether the mariners and gentlemen on board knew it or not, they were embarked on a dangerous, provocative and highly secret penetration of the Iberian American Empire. They were bound on an odyssey of piracy and discovery which had profound religious and diplomatic significance in the Europe of the Counter Reformation. With clandestine royal backing, and support from the most bellicose faction at the Elizabethan court, Francis Drake was leading his fleet in a Protestant English challenge to the Catholic Hispanic monopoly of the rich Pacific Ocean.


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