During the 18th century, an explorer seemed to be one part trained government representative, one part trade capitalist, and one large part hopeful romantic. Tales of men who had found the entrance to the Northwest Passage were printed in magazines and books. Mingled with the apparent evidence of printed maps that revealed its location, legends of a Northwest Passage were plentiful in every exploring home port in the late 1700s.
Lorenzo Ferrer Maldonado told of sailing through the Strait of Anian, a mythical strait in the northern Pacific that bordered lands of great riches. He claimed to have reached the Pacific by this Strait in 1588. The publication of this story in Madrid in 1788 inspired Malaspina’s final search for the Strait on behalf of the Spanish.
A Greek pilot named Apostolos Valerianos, but known as “Juan de Fuca”, claimed to have sailed from Mexico in 1592, reaching the Passage entrance at between 47º and 48º North latitude. He also told of the Strait of Anian. These stories inspired Englishman Michael Lok, said to have heard them in a tavern, to invest in Martin Frobisher’s search for the Passage. Captain Charles William Barkley of Britain and his young wife Francis (the first European woman to visit the Pacific Northwest) arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 1787 on a trading vessel. They had heard this story passed on by Lok almost two centuries ago. Noting that the waters between Vancouver Island and the mainland were located at the latitudes in the story, they named the strait after Juan de Fuca.
The fabricated “memoir” of Bartholomew de Fonte was published in an 18th century London magazine. The writers claimed he had sailed out of Peru and reported that the Passage could be found at 53º North latitude. In 1752, the French geographers Joseph Nicholas Delisle (who was a member of the Imperial Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg) and Phillipe Buache published a map that showed the results of these alleged expeditions, along with the mythical island of Gama Land in the northern Pacific near Kamchatka. It took many charting expeditions to correct these legendary, non-existent geographical features of the Pacific Northwest.