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Expanded Diary of Pedro Font
3/27/1776

Wednesday, March 27.—I said Mass. In the morning the weather was fair and very clear, a favor which God granted us during all these days, and especially today, in order that we might see the harbor which we were going to explore, which we would not have been able to do if the fog had risen. We set out from the little arroyo at seven o'clock in the morning, and shortly after eleven halted on the banks of a lake or spring of very fine water near the mouth of the port of San Francisco, having traveled some six leagues, the first three to the northwest, and the last three to the north-northwest, and even almost to the north.—Six leagues.

At first we traveled some three leagues over level and green country with some low hills, having on our left the foothills of the Sierra de Pinabetes, which ends at the Punta de Almejas. In this range of foothills we saw a grove of live oaks near which is the Lagruna de la Merced, where Captain Ribera stopped; and through here we saw many bears, but although the men chased them they were not able to kill any. Then we entered lands somewhat broken and sandy, with plentiful grass and brushy growth, and stretches of groves of shrubby live oaks, but without any large trees. Then, going around the sand dunes of the beach, which we kept at our left and in whose vicinity we saw a good-sized lake of fresh water, we came to the lake where we halted. [Footnote 307]

I wished to observe the latitude, but since the packs were a little late in arriving, when I set up the instrument the time had already passed, and I was not able to make the observation; so I deferred it to the next day. We went then to examine the port, the commander, I, the lieutenant, and four soldiers, and there we saw a prodigy of nature which it is not easy to portray, but of which I will later on give a description. We went first to the point of the mouth where Captain Ribera was, [Footnote 308] as I said on February 7, and where he set up a cross. We found it on the ground, and now without the form of a cross, perhaps because the Indians took from it the rope with which it was tied and held in shape. Here I occupied myself a while in mapping, with a graphometer which Father Palóu loaned me, the mouth of the port, the Punta de Reyes, the Punta de Almejas, the Farallones which are out in the sea, and the length of the passage as far as the estuary. On leaving we descended to a small stretch of beach between cliffs where the sea is very quiet, to which runs the arroyo of the port, [Footnote 309] which hitherto had not been seen. From here we went over to the sea beach which runs to ward the Punta de Almejas and is very sandy, [Footnote 310] to see the cayuco brought by the bark San Carlos when it returned from the exploration of the coast farther up and entered this harbor, as I said on February 7. We found it broken in pieces and the commander brought out two of its fragments. The cayuco is a vessel resembling a canoe or little launch, like those of the Channel, used by the Indians farther up the coast. It is made of several pieces without nails, and the extremities end in a point with a piece hollowed out as if with a chisel, judging from the cutting and the signs which were seen on the inside of the point.

We again ascended the sand hills, descended to the arroyo, and crossed high hills until we reached the edge of the white cliff, [Footnote 311] which forms the end of the mouth of the port, and where begins the great estuary containing islands. The cliff is very high and perpendicular, so that from it one can spit into the sea. From here we saw the pushing and resistance which the out-going water of the estuary makes against that of the sea, forming there a sort of a ridge like a wave in the middle, and it seems as if a current is visible. We saw the spouting of whales, a shoal of dolphins or tunny fish, sea otter, and sea lions. On this elevation the commander decided to erect a cross, ordering it made at once so that he might set it up the next day. We now returned to the camp, which was not far away, and where we arrived at five o'clock, having traveled in all this journey some three leagues.

This place and its vicinity has abundant pasturage, plenty of firewood, and fine water, all good advantages for establishing here the presidio or fort which is planned. It lacks only timber, for there is not a tree on all those hills, though the oaks and other trees along the road are not very far away. The soldiers chased some deer, of which we saw many today, but got none of them. We also found antlers of the large elk which are so very plentiful on the other side of the estuary. The sea is so quiet in the harbor that the waves scarcely break, and from the camp site one scarcely heard them, although it was so near. Here and near the lake there are yerba buena and so many lilies that I had them almost inside my tent. Today the only Indians we saw were one who was far away on the beach of the estuary, and two who came to the camp as soon as we arrived. They were of good body and well bearded. They were attentive and obsequious, and brought us firewood. They remained at camp a while, but when the commander gave them glass beads they departed. While we were on the cliff at the mouth, some Indians on the other side of the port yelled at us several times, according to what the soldiers said; but I did not see them or hear them.

The port of San Francisco, indicated on the map by the letter H, is a marvel of nature, and might well be called the harbor of harbors, because of its great capacity, and of several small bays which it enfolds in its margins or beach and in its islands. The mouth of the port, which appears to have a very easy and safe entrance, must be about a league long [Footnote 312] and somewhat less than a league wide on the outside, facing the sea, and about a quarter of a league on the inside, facing the harbor. The inner end of the passage is formed by two very high and perpendicular cliffs almost due north and south of each other, on this side a white one and on the other side a red one. The outer end of the passage is formed on the other side by some large rocks, and on this side by a high and sandy hill which ends almost in a round point, and has on its skirts within the water some white rocks, [Footnote 313] like small farallones. It was this point which Commander Ribera reached and on which he placed a cross when he went to reconnoiter this port.

The shore of the passage on the farther side runs from east to west, inclining to the south, as I observed on the 1st of April from the other side of the estuary [Footnote 314] or port when I passed along there, and it appears to be entirely of red rocks. On this side the shore of the passage runs from northeast to southwest, not in a straight line, but broken by a bend, on whose beach empties the arroyo which runs from the lagoon where we halted, and which we called the Arroyo del Puerto. [Footnote 315] To it the launch can come to take on water, for in all the coast for the length of the passage the sea is quiet and the waves do not break on the beach as they do on the coast of the sea outside. The Punta de Almejas, with respect to the exterior point of the mouth of the port on this side, lies to the south, and by an air line must be some three leagues, the beach between, which is very sandy, forming almost a semicircle. [Footnote 316] The Punta de Reyes, [Footnote 317] on the other side, with respect to the same exterior point of the mouth lies northwest by west, and by the coast to that point it must be some twelve leagues. The coast does not run straight, but is broken by an inlet or bay of no great size, about three or four leagues away from what I could see. About six or eight leagues out at sea are seen some rather large farallones like white rocks, which have this shape (sketch inserted here), and with respect to the exterior point of the mouth of the port they lie west by south. To the west of the same point there are seen nearer the coast four other farallones which look like this (sketch inserted here).

From what I learned, the Puerto de Bodega, discovered on October 3, 1775, by Don Juan de la Quadra y Bodega, captain of the goleta Sonora, and situated in latitude 38° 18', lies some four leagues to the north of Punta de Reyes. Its mouth is formed on this side by the Punta del Cordón and on the other side by the Punta de Arenas, and a league to the northwest of the mouth lies the Punta de Murguía, past which the coast runs. [Footnote 318]

From the inner terminus of the passage extends the remarkable port of San Francisco. This harbor consists of a great gulf or estuary, as they call it, which must be some twenty-five leagues long. Viewed from the mouth it runs about southeast and northwest, the entry or mouth being in the middle. Most of the beach of the harbor, according to what I saw when we went around it, is not clean, but muddy, miry and full of sloughs, and for this reason bad. The width of the port is not uniform. for at the southern end it must be a league wide and in the middle some four leagues. At the extreme northwest it ends in a great bay [Footnote 319] more than eight leagues in extent, as it seemed to me, whose beach appeared to me clean and not miry like the other, and which is nearly round in shape, although several inlets are seen in it, so that at so long a distance I was not able accurately to distinguish its form.

About the middle of the bay on this side is the outlet or mouth of what hitherto has been taken for a very large river and has been called the Rio de San Francisco, but from here forward I shall call it the Boca del Puerto Dulce, [Footnote 320] from the experiments which were made when we went to explore it, as I shall set forth hereinafter.

Within the harbor I counted eight islands, and I am not able to say whether there are more or not. [Footnote 321] The first one seen on entering the harbor, whose center looked at from the outer end of the mouth on this side, lies to the northeast by north, is about a league from the mouth. It is called the Isla del Angel or Isla de los Angeles, and is the island behind which the bark San Carlos anchored, as I said on February 7. It must be nearly a league long, and looked at from the mouth it presents this appearance (sketch inserted here). In front of the mouth there is a very small one like a farallón and another not so small, and nearly to the southeast a still larger one. Another quite long one is seen to the extreme southeast very close to the land. [Footnote 322] I sketched it afterward on passing near it, and to me it appeared to have this shape (sketch inserted here). Another, about three leagues long, and likewise close to the land, is seen to the northwest from the mouth, and near it there are two other small ones which I saw when we went round the port. From the road I sketched the large one and it presented this figure (sketch inserted here). And these, it appears, on that side begin to form the great bay in which ends all that immense sea of waters which, because closed in and surrounded by sierras, are as quiet as if in a cup. Finally, besides the foregoing, in the bay in front of the month of the Puerto Dulce there is a medium-sized island which has this shape (sketch inserted here).

As soon as we returned from the reconnoissance I said to Señor Ansa:

"Señor, now that you wish to erect a cross at the port tomorrow, order it made right off, so that in the morning after Mass I may bless it, if you think well, before going to erect it."

He replied: "All right, that shall be done, Father."

Then, turning his back to me, he went into his tent, snorting and saying between his teeth:

"You always come with if you think it well, 'if you think it well!' "

The fact is that he could not bear to have me give my opinion about anything, and he still retained some of yesterday's rancor, caused by what I shall now relate. It happened that I had with me the diaries of Father Crespi and Father Palóu, kept by them in their journeys, and the map of the port which I had copied; but Señor Ansa did not wish to carry them, saying that he was satisfied with what they had told him in conversation. After we halted at the little arroyo [Footnote 323] I took out the diaries and went to where he was, because on account of the pain which he still felt in his groin he was half reclining. I began to read, and the lieutenant sat down at my side to listen. In a short time Señor Ansa got up and, leaving me with the notebook in my hands, went and sat down some distance from me.

The same thing happened once before, at the Arroyo de las Llagas, [Footnote 324] where, I having brought out the map, he refused to look at it but got up and went some distance away. Thereupon I went to where he was and said to him:

"Señor, you seem to be displeased that I should read the diaries, for you left the seat where you were comfortable and came to sit down here. And this is not the first time that you have left me reading."

He replied that he had moved because he was comfortable there also. I said to him:

"No, you need not admit it, but I very well know that you moved in order not to listen to me. If I bring out the diary it is because we came to explore the port and the good sites for the two missions. The diary may serve to afford us much light, and I am carrying it because you did not wish to bring it."

He replied that he did not need the diary; that he was not preventing me from reading it; and that if any doubt arose in his mind he would then ask me about it. He said that it was not his duty to seek sites for the missions, for this task belonged to Señor Ribera; that his duty was solely to explore the port in order to establish the presidio on it; that he would take care to fulfill his obligation and be guided by what might seem best to him, according to how the country might appear, etc. We talked a little while, very familiarly and in a friendly way, but he appeared somewhat hurt because I had touched upon a subject which was his affair, for he could not bear that I should give him my opinion about anything.

I note this down in order to show the tact with which it is necessary to conduct oneself with persons of sensitive nature and satisfied with themselves. But we were getting along well now, and only with this was he displeased; and afterward we again became harmonious, on account of the care with which he desired to make and did make the exploration of the port and river, and because of the tilts with Señor Ribera which took place when we returned. We continued in friendly harmony until we finished the Journey, when I again fell out of his good graces, because he did not need me any more or because up to that time he had concealed his dislike.



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