Hispanic Division: Back to Portuguese Role in Exploring and Mapping the New World

Cabrilho's Discovery of California

Portuguese were also involved in the exploration of the west coast of North America. In 1542-43, Portuguese-born João Rodrigues Cabrilho and his chief pilot Bartolomé Ferrelo, who may have been Portuguese, were the first Europeans to explore the coast of the present state of California. Sailing for Spain, Cabrilho left in June of 1542 from Navidad on the west coast of Mexico and proceeded north. He reached San Diego Bay in September, becoming the first European to set foot in what is today the state of California. He continued north along the California coast but died in January 1543 from an infection resulting from a broken arm. Ferrelo, his pilot, continued north, possibly reaching the Oregon coast in March 1543.

Cabrilho's and Ferrelo's voyages are indicated by light reddish brown and light blue on this reconstructed map compiled by the nineteenth-century German historical geographer Johann Georg Kohl. A student of America's discovery and exploration, Kohl prepared this map, as well as similar maps of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, as a graphic device for summarizing and visualizing the area covered by the various explorers. The extent of each explorer's travels is indicated in a different color.
A Map Showing the Progress of Discovery on the West Coast of the U.S. and Vancouver Island Johann Georg Kohl. A Map Showing the Progress of Discovery on the West Coast of the U.S. and Vancouver Island. 1857. Pen, ink, and watercolor. Geography and Map Division, Kohl Collection, miscellaneous (5).


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Portugal during the Age of Discoveries

The Azore Islands

The First Circumnavigation of the Globe

Portuguese Exploration along the Northeast Coast of North America

Cabrilho's Discovery of California

Portuguese View of the World at the Beginning of the Seventeenth Century