San Diego Visited by Viscaino 1602

A Natural and Civil History of California containing an accurate description of that country, its soil, mountains, harbours, lakes, rivers and seas … together with accounts of the several voyages and attempts made for settling California

Translated from Spanish of Miguel Venegas

1759  James Rivington and James Fletcher  London



Appendix 2


Narrative of the voyage of Capt. Sebastian Vizcaino in the year 1602, for surveying the outward or western coast California on the South Sea.


San Diego Bay


One day a Sentinel posted in the wood, gave notice that he saw a great number of Indians coming along the shore, naked, and their skins daubed with black and white colors, and armed with bows and arrows. On this the general desired father Antonio to go and offer them peace. He was attended by Ensign Juan Francisco and six soldiers. On coming up to the Indians, having made signs of peace with a bit of white linen, and throwing the earth up with their hands, the savages immediately delivered their bows and arrows to the soldiers. Father Antonio embrace them, gave them bread and necklaces, with which they were greatly pleased; but on coming to the general’s quarters, the Indians, at the sight of such a number of people, drew back to a little eminence; from whence they sent two women, who approaching the general’s tent, with a timid air, the religious and others made them presence of beads, biscuits, and strings of bugles, and thus dismissed them to give their countrymen an account of the usage they had met with from the strangers. Their report was doubtless very favorable; for soon after they all came with them to see the Spaniards. Most of them were painted or besmeared with black and white; and their heads loaded with feathers. The general and others received them with great courtesy; distributed among them several things and a great deal of fish which had been caught with the net in their presence. The kind of paint they used look like a mixture of silver and blue color: and on asking them by signs what it was, they gave them a piece of metallic ore, from whence they made it: and signified by signs that a certain people up the country who had beards and work clothes like Spaniards, made them from this mineral very fine ribbons; resembling the laces on the soldiers buff coats: and some like that on a purple velvet doublet, in which the general was then dressed; adding that these men, by their dress, complexions, and customs seem to be of the same country with themselves. The Indians were quite transported with a good treatment shown them, and every third day came for biscuit and fish: bringing with them skins of several kinds of beasts, as sables, wild cats, and the nets with which they catch them.


In this harbor is a great variety of fish, as oysters, mussels, lobsters, soles, etc. and in some of the rocks up the country they found geese, ducks, and quails; rabbits and hares were also here in great numbers. The general and father Antonio being desirous of viewing the country, took them some soldiers, and walked a considerable distance from the coast, and were highly delighted with the mildness of the climate and the goodness of the soil.


Everything being completed according to the general’s orders, they left this place on the 20th of November, but many of the soldiers were sickly, and some very valuable persons had died while they continued in this harbor. They had no sooner left San Diego, met with their common difficulty, a strong Northwest wind. The ships, however, came in sight of a bay, where the neighboring country made a pleasant appearance. On every side of it they also saw the smoke of large fires which the Indians had kindled, that the ships might put in there. But on approaching the coast, found no shelter for the Northwest wind; they therefore continued their course, and a few leagues further discovered in St. Catherine Bay, a large island about 12 leagues from the land, and from the day of its discovery, they called it the island of St. Catherine. On the 28th of November the ships came close in with it, and from thence had sight of a much larger lying off St. Catherine. They however thought proper not to survey it till their return. At their approaching the island of St. Catherine, the inhabitants made fires in all parts: and when they saw the ships near the strand, the women, children, and old men, began to shout, and with great rejoicings came down from some heights to the shore. The general ordered the Adm.Toribio Gomez to go ashore with father Antonio de la Asención, Capt.Peguero and Ensign Alarcon, and 24 soldiers, to know what the people wanted, and take a view of the island. The man with the Adm. were no sooner landed, then they were met with great numbers of Indians of both sexes, who behaved with that candor and courtesy, as seem to indicate that this was not the first time they had seen Spaniards. On being asked for water, they brought a vessel made of rushes and shaped like a bottle. The water was very good; but they were obliged to fetch it a considerable distance, from a little spring surrounded with favins and briars, with which this island is overrun. This report having been made to the general, he ordered a tent to be pitched for the fathers Andrew and Antonio to say mass in, father Thomas being ill; and all the people came ashore to assist at divine worship. On this occasion also, a great many Indians, robust and well-made, came to the tent, who the day before had been fishing in a vessel made of planks well put together, but of a very odd construction. Some of these vessels conveniently hold 20 men, though generally three persons only, namely two men and a boy go in each.


The manner of fishing among the Indians is very ingenious, easy, and pleasant. They carry in their boats long and thin poles, and to one of these fix a harpoon made of fish bones, fashioning to the harpoon a long rope. When they perceive at the bottom near the rocks a sea wolf or any other fish worth catching, they strike it with the harpoon; then veer out the rope, to the fish being spent, they draw it ashore if large; and if small into the boat. Thus they catch as many fish as they please. The sea wolves served them for food and clothing. The Indian women are well shaped, have fine eyes, and beautiful features; they have a decent behavior and real modesty: both boys and girls have a fine mixture of white and red, and are generally very good-natured. These Indians live in large huts, and their utensils are in general made of rushes, so closely wrought as to hold water. The island abounds with roots like small potatoes, and the Indians drive on a great trade by carrying them for sale to the continent. This island like most of those adjacent is very populous; and the inhabitants lived together in rancherias. Here was also a temple for sacrifices. It was a large enclosure entirely level; and near the altar and ample circle surrounded with the feathers of different kinds of birds, possibly of such as had been sacrificed to the idols. Within the circle was a figure painted with a variety of colors: and resembling the image by which the Indians of New Spain represent the devil: in its hand held the figures of the sun and the moon. It happened that when the soldiers went to see this temple, there was within the circle two crowns of very uncommon size: and at the approach of the Spaniards they flew away: but alighted on a neighboring rock, and the soldiers seeing them so remarkably large, shot them both; at which an Indian who came with the Spaniards as a guide made the most vehement lamentations, and expressed great horror, at the action. This island has several good harbors, abundance of fine fish, especially sardines; and in the country are found partridges and quails, rabbits, hares, and deer. The people themselves are very ingenious particularly in pilfering and concealing, some specimens of which artifice they gave the Spaniards.

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