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The Portola expedition, led by Gaspar de Portolà from July 14, 1769 to January 24, 1770, was the first known recorded attempt by Spain to explore Alta California by land.[1] The purpose of the expedition was to secure bases in Upper California before the Russians.[2] The plan was to establish a base in the Port of Monterey (now Monterey, California) as described by Sebastián Vizcaíno. The expedition consisted of 64 men in all, and approximately 200 horses and mules. The expedition started at the Presidio of San Diego on July 14 and returned on January 24, 1770 — failing to recognize Monterey Bay.

Official diaries were kept by Father Juan Crespí and Engineer Miguel Costansó.

The expedition is also famous for 'discovering' the Coastal Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) on October 14 1769; (first recorded October 15). They are also widely believed to be the first Europeans to see the San Francisco Bay.[3]

Notes

  1. ^ Cortez was said to have sent a party to explore the area, but no records have been found to date.
  2. ^ The report of Russian expansion was reported by the ambassador, but proved to be a rumor and not fact.
  3. ^ Other parties believe to have seen San Francisco Bay, include Sir Francis Drake, a few earlier Spanish expeditions and the Chinese. However, given the difficult nature of entering the bay this land expedition appears to be first.

Further reading

  • The Discovery of San Francisco Bay: The Portolà Expedition of 1769-1770 (The Diary of Miguel Costansó) Edited by Peter Browning, ISBN 0-944220-06-1

See also


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