Monday, March 14, 2011

Juan de Fuca or Apostolos Valerianos or Ioannis Phocas

Juan de Fuca strait in Canada

Juan de Fuca was a Greek navigator who sailed for Spain under a Spanish name. His original name was Apostolos Valerianos or Ioannis fokas and he was likely born in the Greek island of Kefalonia.He was the fourth son of Emmanuel Phocas or Phocas Valerianos who was from Constantinople.Likely  his first name may have been Ioannis-Apostolos. Like many Greeks sailors at his time he  seeked a job at the Spanish navy.

He worked for 40 years as a navigator in the Spanish navy and participated in numerous expeditions.In one of them in November 1587 his ship Santa Anna was attacked by the English somewhere near modern Philippines and he was captured as a hostage losing a cargo worth of 60.000 ducats.

Later he was released and in 1588 he went to Mexico. There he was appointed by the viceroy of Mexico Luis de Velaseo to explore the Northern shores of N. America and find the  mythical strait of Anian which alledgedly connected the Pacific with the Atlantic ocean. He was given one small caravel at his disposal.

He made two travels. His first travel was unsuccesful because of a mutiny and he returned back to Acapulco.He then tried a second travel going this time more northern. He  sailed up the western coast of North America from Acapulco of Mexico to Vancouver Island which is in modern Canada in 1592, looking for a passage from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean.He was perhaps the first European to see this area. He sailed through the Strait of Juan de Fuca (which was named for him in 1725) and believed it to be the beginning of a route to the Atlantic Ocean (it is not). This strait connects the Pacific Ocean to the Puget Sound and the Georgia Strait, between the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, USA, and Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada.
He awaited two years for a reward for his discovery  but unfortunately for him his discovery was considered dubious.He travelled to Spain in 1594 to speak to  the king in person about his discovery but again his efforts were futile.
Dissapointed he started a journey back to his homeland. In Florence he met an Englishman called John Douglas to whom he narrated his adventures. Douglas gave him a reference letter  and sent him to Mickael Locke a rich English merchant who at the time happened to be in Venice. He asked Locke to mediate to the English crown on his behalf. He hoped that the English would pay a compensation for holding him a captive by apointing him to find the Anian strait. Locke tried to communicate with English officials but there was no response. Juan de fuca couldn't afford to wait so long and continued his journey back to Kefalonia.
In 1602 Locke sent a letter to Kefalonia for Juan but he never got a response. Thus he assumed that may have died. Locke's story about Phocas' life was published in 1625 in a travel  book called "Hakluytus Posthumus or 'Purchas His Pilgrimes Contayning a History of the World in Sea Voyages and Lande Travells by Englishmen and others"  
In 1787 the British  Charles Barkley explored the area were Juan de fuca had been and confirmed the Greek navigator's discoveries by giving his name to the strait.

That's how the Spanish believed the Northern America was

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