<hero description="The Lost Treasure of Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo" imagename="" cropposition=""></hero>

Welcome to the Cabrillo Treasure WikiaEdit


Bust of Juan Cabrillo displayed in Cabrillo College Library

This page is dedicated to the histories, resources, and possible locations of a treasure belonging to Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo, supposedly abandoned here in 1542 during his historic voyage up the coast of present day California. Although there is reasonable evidence to suggest it exists, it seems unlikely any cache of gold would have remained undiscovered for so much time. It remains instead somewhat of a tourist attraction. Tourists, hiking enthusiasts, or daycationing Angelenos have found in this myth an enjoyabe excursion in which they get to explore some unique locations within Los Angeles.

The Man, the History, the TreasureEdit

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo was a Portuguese explorer, born in Seville. He is known for being the first European to set foot on California.

Cabrillo shipped for Havana as a young man and joined forces with Hernán Cortés in Mexico (then called New Spain). Later, his success in mining gold in Guatemala made him one of the richest of the conquistadores in Mexico. According to biographer Harry Kelsey, he took an indigenous woman as his common-law wife and sired several children, including at least three daughters. Later he married Beatriz Sanchez de Ortega in Seville during a hiatus in Spain. She returned to Guatemala with him and bore two sons.


Early Spanish Map

Cabrillo benefited from the encomienda system that enslaved the Native peoples of the Americas. In Honduras, for example, he broke up families, sending the men to the mines for gold and to the forest to harvest materials he needed for ship building. The women and girls he gave over to his soldiers and sailors, presumably as slaves.

He accompanied Francisco de Orozco to subdue the indigenous Mixtec people at what would eventually become the city of Oaxaca, in Mexico. Little is known of what Cabrillo did there.

In 1539, Francisco de Ulloa, who had been commissioned by Hernán Cortés, discovered the Gulf of California and reached nearly as far north as the 30th parallel. Cabrillo was then commissioned by the new Viceroy of New Spain, Antonio de Mendoza, to lead an expedition up the Pacific coast in search of trade opportunities, perhaps to find a way to China (for the full extent of the northern Pacific was unknown) or to find the mythical Strait of Anián (or Northwest Passage) connecting the Pacific Ocean with Hudson Bay. Cabrillo built and owned the flagship of his venture (two or three ships), and stood to profit from any trade or treasure.

In 1540 the fleet sailed from Acajutla, El Salvador, and reached Navidad, Mexico on Christmas Day. While in Mexico, Pedro de Alvarado went to the assistance of the town of Nochistlán, which was under siege by hostile natives, and was killed when his horse fell on him, crushing his chest. Following Alvarado's death, the viceroy took possession of Alvarado's fleet. Part of the fleet was sent off to the Philippine Islands under Ruy Lopez de Villalobos and two of the ships were sent north under the command of Cabrillo.
Cabrillo-national-monument-2 lrg

Cabrillo National Monument in San Diego

On 27 June 1542, Cabrillo set out from Navidad with three ships: the 200-ton galleon and flagship San Salvador, the smaller La Victoria (c. 100 tons), and the lateen-rigged, twenty-six oared "fragata" or "bergantin" San Miguel. Fearing a similar fate to that of Alvarado, he made the decision to load up his ships with all of the gold he could muster, sacrificing space for much needed supplies and rations. On1 August Cabrillo anchored within sight of Cedros Island.

Before the end of the month they had passed Baja Point (named "Cabo del Engaño" by de Ulloa in 1539) and entered "uncharted waters, where no Spanish ships had been before". On 28 September, he landed in what is now San Diego Bay and named it "San Miguel." A little over a week later he reached Santa Catalina Island (7 October), which he named "San Salvador," after his flagship. On sending a boat to the island "a great crowd of armed Indians appeared." It was not until later that the Indians were identified as the Tongva People. Under attack, Cabrillo fled the island. Torches thrown by the natives ignited the Spanish galleons. The next morning, October 8, Cabrillo came to San Pedro Bay, which was named "Baya de los Fumos" (English: Smoke Bay) due to the smoke which still billowed from the sails of La Victoria and the San Salvador. Here Cabrillo and his men spent days repairing the damage done to the ships. It is in this sequence of events in which the myth behind Cabrillo's Gold was formed.

Having narrowly escaped with their lives, Cabrillo and his men immediately began repairs to salvage their ships. It is said that Cabrillo was traumatized that his gold had nearly sunk to the bottom of the Pacific, and if not for their timely arrival in San Pedro, all would have been lost. Although repairs on the sails took only a matter of weeks, Cabrillo and his men did not depart from San Pedro for well over a month, leading many to speculate about what he was doing. Enthusiasts of the Cabrillo Gold myth believe he hid his accumulated wealth, in fear that should he be attacked again his vast wealth would be forever lost. So little is known about what happened during this period of time believers in the myth argue that this period was when Cabrillo found a hiding place for his gold.

Juan Cabrillo headstone

Juan Cabrillo's Memorial

His fleet departed shortly thereafter, exploring as far North as San Francisco, although he never entered the San Francisco Bay. Running low on supplies, Cabrillo turned his fleet back South to return to Central America.

On 13 December 1542 while sailing through a dense fog, the fleet collided with some rocks. Cabrillo had unknowingly arrived back in "San Salvador" (Santa Catalina Island). Cabrillo ordered his remaining ships to drop anchor, deciding to stop for the winter to make repairs to his flagship. Specific accounts are sparse, however a few weeks later Cabrillo's men came under attack from a mass of Tongva warriors. Although Cabrillo slept in his quarters on the ship, most of his men had set up camp ashore Catalina. It is said Cabrillo stepped out of his boat and splintered his shin when he stumbled onto a jagged rock while trying to rescue some of his men in the fighting. The injury became infected and gangrenous. He died of his wounds on 3 January 1543.

A possible headstone denoting his grave was later found on San Miguel Island. His second-in-command had brought the remainder of the party back to Navidad, where they arrived 14 April 1543. A notary's official report of Cabrillo's inconclusive expedition was lost; all that survives is a summary made by another investigator, Andrés de Urdaneta, who had access to ships' logs and charts. Urdaneta never reported any specific records confirming any treasure, however he did make reference of "markers" left behind to guide Cabrillo's "countrymen" whom were assumed would soon follow. Spain would not return to colonize this region for nearly 200 years.

Unfortunately for modern day treasure seekers, there is not much guidance as to how Cabrillo's Gold could actually be found. Although there is vague mention of "markers," there are no detailed descriptions as to what these markers were constructed of, or where they were located. Many search for Spanish coins, some dig for relics and search for traces of maps, while others analyze Spanish statues for a seal that could tie them to the famous explorer.

If there is a riddle to be solved here, the first piece of the puzzle has yet to be found.

Possible Locations Edit

João Rodrigues Cabrilho
Juan Rodríguez Cabrillo