Thursday, September 6, 2007

The Straits of…..Apostolos Valerianos?

Juan de Fuca aka Apostolos Valerianos

Juan de Fuca, most likely the first European to venture into the Pacific Northwest, was a Greek sea pilot from the Island of Cephalonia in the Ionian Sea. His real name was Apostolos Valerianos. Valerianos or, de Fuca, served the King of Spain as Pilot of the West Indies for 40 years.

While serving the Spanish King in 1587 de Fuca, returning from China and the Philippines in his ship the Santa Anna, was captured, taken to California and relieved of his valuable cargo by an English Captain Candish. Five years later the Vicroy of Mexico sent de Fuca with three small ships and 200 soldiers up the Pacific Coast in search of the fabled “Straits of Anian” or the Northwest Passage. The soldiers mutinied due to the “misconduct” of a Captain and the ill-fated voyage returned from California to Mexico.

In 1592 the Vicroy sent him again, this time with a small Caravela and a Pinnance in hopes of finding the mythical passage. There, between 47 & 48 degrees latitude, de Fuca discovered a “broad Inled of Sea, he entered there into, sayling therein more than twentie days” here he is said to have seen people “clad in Beast’s skins” and a land “fruitful and rich of Gold, Silver, Pearle, and other things, like Nova Spaina.” Believing that he had completed his mission he returned to Acapulco where he was honored but not paid. After two years he returned to Spain still hoping to collect his pay. Yet again, he received honors and flattery but no rewards of substance. Disenchanted he left Spain for his home on the Ionian Island of Cephalonia stopping in Venice in the year 1596.

In Venice de Fuca met the English Consul, Michael Lok who pled his case to Queen Elizabeth and de Fuca agreed to serve the English Queen as a pilot exploring the Northwest Passage for a ship of 40 tons and compensation for his losses at the hand of the English Captain Candish. In spite of Lok’s advocacy the crown was slow to act and de Fuca, becoming impatient, returned at last to his Island home where according to the Island’s later inhabitants the old Mariner retired at last in comfort and peace.

Thanks to Michael Lok, de Fuca’s voyages were recorded by Samual Purchas in Purchas His Pirgrimes printed in London in 1625. The English Captain Charles Barkley was familiar with Purchas tome and in 1787 when Barkley sailed the Imperial Eagle up the Northwest Coast to the 47th parallel. It was Barkley who wrote there on his chart, “Juan de Fuca’s Strait”.


  1. very nice text helped me a lot with my project.

  2. I have been looking all afternoon for some information on my project and I think I just hit the jackpot!