Samuel Bawlf (1944–2016)

Teoksen The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake tekijä

1 Work 289 jäsentä 6 arvostelua

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Samuel Bawlf is a geographer and former minister in the government of British Columbia, responsible for the province's historic and archaeological sites and its coastal ferry service. He has sailed the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to San Francisco, and enjoys a lifelong passion for maritime näytä lisää history. He lives on Salt Spring Island, British Columbia näytä vähemmän

Sisältää nimet: SAMUAL BAWLF, R. Samuel Bawlf

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Not an historical fiction. Rather, an interesting non-fiction. Author seems pretty committed to proving a certain point. Makes me wonder whether there aren’t salient counter arguments against? Nov 2009
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BBrookes | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 13, 2023 |
Interesting, but at times overly drawn out. the travelogue was good as was the analysis of the 'missing' material regarding Drake's northern escapades. Just slightly dull at times....
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untraveller | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | May 31, 2019 |
A fine history only slightly tarnished by a tiny amount of woo-woo; and even then woo-woo might be true – it just goes beyond what the data justifies. Sir Francis Drake was the second captain to take a crew entirely around the world (in fact, arguably the first, since Ferdinand Magellan got himself killed messing around in local politics in the Philippines and the voyage was completed under the command of Juan Sebastián Elcano).

Spain and England were nominally at peace when Drake set out in 1577, but even before he got into the Pacific Drake started to pick up Spanish and Portuguese vessels. Once he got through the Strait of Magellan, the pickings got really rich – The Golden Hind, even with stops to pick up water, could sail considerably faster than Spanish couriers could ride and thus each coastal town in the Viceroyalty of Peru had no warning that the English were on the seas. The exact amount of loot Drake picked up is unclear, but the best guess is around £500K. To put that in perspective, the entire annual budget of the Elizabethan Royal Navy was around £10K, and a pound in 1570 had the buying power of about $400 US. The English government’s share of Drake’s loot – about half - paid for about one fifth of the entire cost of the subsequent war with Spain.

Author Samuel Bawlf’s account of the voyage proper is straightforward and a pleasant read; things get interesting when Bawlf speculates on details of 16th century Realpolitk. No one published a comprehensive account of the voyage during Drake’s lifetime; for example, it does not appear in Richard Hakluyt’s The Principal Navigations, Voyages, Traffiques and Discoveries of the English Nation. The information that was publically available suggested Drake had sailed along the North American west coast up to about latitude 40° N or so, the headed west across the Pacific after refitting in a bay somewhere on the California coast. Bawlf suggests that Drake had, in fact, gone much further north – to about 57° N, using the Inside Passage, and that public records and maps were altered to keep the extent of Drake’s exploration secret from the Spaniards. The real charts and logs were lost when Whitehall burned in 1698; Bawlf has some interesting and reasonably convincing circumstantial evidence.

Bawlf shows that a number of contemporary maps were altered to either eliminate details of the North American coast, or to move those details south. Since Drake was the only European to have explored these waters, the information could only have come from him or his crew. In a particularly interesting diagram, Bawlf juxtaposes a Dutch map of around 1586 with the modern coastline, and shows a good correspondence between four islands on the map and their adjacent coast and Prince of Wales Island, the Queen Charlotte Islands, Vancouver Island, and the Olympic Peninsula and their adjacent coast (we have to assume Drake thought the Olympic Peninsula was an island – except all the features on the Dutch map are 10° too far south. What’s more, Drake was in the Netherlands in 1586 negotiating with the Dutch rebels, so could have provided the information to the map maker.

Further, Bawlf shows a plausible correspondence between the few available written descriptions of this part of the voyage and capes, mountains, and river estuaries in the Inside Passage, concluding that Drake spent some weeks poking around in the area, trying to find the mythical “Strait of Annian” that was the western entrance of the Northwest Passage, and also scouting for a suitable base for an English colony (“Nova Albion”) that would provide a base for English ships raiding Spanish commerce in the Pacific.

So far, this is fairly reasonable. Bawlf exercises a prudent degree of caution in presenting his speculations. In the closing chapters, however, he goes a little overboard. Like many early New World explorers, Francis Drake attracts considerable attention from hoaxers and frauds; thus a number of putative Drake artifacts have turned up. Bawlf discusses, for example, some inscribed stones near Cape Flattery on the Olympic Peninsula with the chiseled number “1632” and the words “deos” and “augur” (reportedly, at least). For Bawlf, “1632” is a distance in English yards, not a date; “deos” and “augur” mean “heaven” and “predict”, and the whole setup (with accompanying diagram) is an attempt to use the lunar distance method to determine longitude. The idea behind the lunar distance method is to compare the position of the Moon and a reference star at a given date at an unknown longitude with the published position at a known longitude; with the difference you can calculate the time difference – and thus the longitude – between the two. The lunar distance method for longitude was mentioned as early as 1512, but there’s no evidence the necessary tables had been worked out before the 1670s. It’s tantalizing; the written documents available from the voyage describe a cape in the same general area as “Point of Position” (once again, assuming that everything that Drake mentions is 10° too far south).

A further dubious item is a supposed metal plate found in a cave on Kuiu Island, Alaska, in 1954. The discoverer, Alaska prospector Donald McDonald, sent a rubbing of the plate to the Smithsonian in 1956 and (according to McDonald; Bawlf doesn’t cite any records from the Smithsonian) the plate had a Latin inscription stating the Francis Drake had taken possession of “Point Discovery” in the name of Queen Elizabeth. Sometime later the plate was (conveniently) stolen by thieves. Bawlf apparently finds this story credible, even though there’s another “Drake Plate” from California that was found in 1936 but not shown to be a fraud until 1970.

Finally, Bawlf goes over the top with the suggestion that Drake really did found a colony. The essence of the argument is that (according to Bawlf) about twenty men vanished from Drake’s crew between the time he left California and the time he arrived in the Moluccas. Bawlf’s idea is the missing men were left behind in California with a pinnace or other small craft (Drake did have several small captures and carried some prefabricated pinnaces in The Golden Hind’s hold which had been assembled and disassembled at several times during the voyage). Supposedly, the crew left behind were to take the pinnace and continue exploring northward until they found the Northwest Passage and return to England that way. If they were unable to find it, they were supposed to return to their harbor and hang on until Drake returned for them. Again, I stress this whole scenario is spun out of the “missing crew members”; I find the suggestion that 20 seamen would tamely agree to being marooned on an unknown shore (and they would have necessarily included someone able to navigate, hence an officer), and that nobody would talk about it when the rest of them got back to England untenable. I would suspect some error somewhere in the crew roster instead.

So: the account of the conventional view of Drake’s voyage – exciting and interesting. The continuation to explore north – intriguing but unproven (and possibly unprovable). The “lunar distance observatory”, the “metal plate” and the “missing crew” – historical woo-woo.
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setnahkt | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Dec 29, 2017 |
This is a history of the voyages of Drake. After giving you the commonly known history of the man and explaining his times and the world situation to some degree his suppressed voyage details are discussed. His voyage around the world was not a secret. But the official story didn't match up the amount of time it took for the voyage. Here, the author discusses the logical explanation, Drake's time exploring the Puget Sound/Vancouver area and why his exploration of this area was suppressed. Details on maps from his time in England confirm his knowledge of the area and there is no other reasonable explanation for this. We have plenty of evidence that the Queen directed information about his voyage suppressed. Sadly, additional records have been lost or destroyed either during the civil war or when the palace at Whitehall burned.

It's very interesting thinking about what a different world it was in this time and what outsized characters (like Drake) accomplished.
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Chris_El | 5 muuta kirja-arvostelua | Mar 19, 2015 |



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