Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo: A History of Catalina Island

Joe Duncan Gleason, 1881-1959, American artist, sailor, athlete, author.

Prepared by Deke Keasbey

Voyage of Discovery

Juan Cabrillo and the discovery of Catalina Island, 1542. Painting by Duncan Gleason, American 1958.

Cabrillo Flagship San Salvador Approaching San Pedro Bay, 1542. Painting by Duncan Gleason, American, 1953 Collection of the Port of Los Angeles

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, 1499-1543, was the first European to explore the California coast. His fleet of three ships, flagship San Salvador, La Victoria and San Miguel, set sail from Navidad, Mexico in June 1542. His mission was to seek trade routes to the Orient and look for the mythical northwest passage. The extent of the Pacific Ocean was unknown at this time. He sailed up the coast to San Diego Bay, Catalina Island, San Pedro Bay, Santa Monica Bay, Pt. Reyes, Monterey Bay and as far north as present-day Sonoma County. Cabrillo died from an accident in January 1543. It is unknown where he is buried. His second in command Ferrer continued the expedition and returned to Mexico in April 1543.

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