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Territorial Timeline

The Washington coast sighted by Sir Francis Drake and claimed for England

In June 1579 Sir Francis Drake sailed along the Oregon coast and possibly reached the coast of present-day Washington. He named the sighted land New Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I of England. This was the first of many strong claims the British made for possession of the Pacific Northwest.

In 1577 Sir Francis Drake set out from England with five small ships on a buccaneering expedition. As a privateer, his goal was to plunder Spanish ports and treasure ships for his benefit and England’s glory. By the time he sailed through the Straits of Magellan into the Pacific Ocean only one ship remained, the Golden Hind.

In raids upon Spanish ports and ships, Drake attacked Spanish ships and stole their silver and gold. However, the Golden Hind was not a large ship and became so overloaded with treasure that Drake decided he would not be able to fight his way past the Spanish ships waiting for his return. Instead he continued to sail north, in search of fair winds that would take him westward across the Pacific, around the world and home to England.

By June 1579 Drake claimed to have sailed as far north as 48 degrees north; although this claim has been disputed, this latitude would have placed him roughly due west of present-day Everett, Washington. He named the sighted land New Albion and claimed it for Queen Elizabeth I of England. Drake completed his trip around the world and arrived in England both rich and famous from having completed the most successful privateering voyage in history.