Monday, November 3rd, 2008
A weekly handful of weird, wonderful and wacky happenings dredged up from the kaleidoscopic depths of San Francisco history.
November 7, 1595:
The accidental naming of San Francisco Bay
All right. Let’s get serious about going back in time, way, way, WAY back, 413 years into the past. How can this even be related to San Francisco, you ask? Well, it isn’t, but then again, yes it is — the first of a long chain of events leading up to the naming of our fair city.
Here’s how it began: Captain Sebastian Rodriguez CermeÃ±o was dispatched by the Spanish to sail up the coast of Alta California and find a safe harbour for the pirate-harassed galleons sailing between New Spain and the Philippines.
A violent storm off of what would one day be named Point Reyes forced him to head for shore — yup, “any port in a storm” — and his ship fetched up in Drake’s Bay. He’d missed discovering the Golden Gate by just a few miles.
CermeÃ±o’s ship, the “San Agustin”, ran aground, destroying it — and the loyal captain claimed that ground for Spain. Not knowing that Sir Francis Drake had shown up in the same spot 16 years earlier — or so we think — CermeÃ±o named the bay “Puerto de San Francisco”.
The industrious CermeÃ±o and his crew salvaged a small launch from the wreckage and sailed it all the way back down to Baja California, incidentally discovering San Diego’s bay along the way.
But how does this relate to our bay?
Well, almost 200 years later, scouts from the Spanish mission-building expedition led by Gaspar de PortolÃ¡ and Fray Junipero Serra discovered the Golden Gate from the land side. Mistaking it for the body of water named by CermeÃ±o, they called it San Francisco Bay — and this time, the name stuck.