Francisco de Ulloa

Last updated
Francisco de Ulloa
Francisco de Ulloa

Died1540 (1541)
Nationality Spanish
Occupation Explorer
Known forExploring the west coast of Mexico
Route of the 1539 voyage by Francisco de Ulloa from (Acapulco) along the west coast of Mexico Wpdms ulloa 1539.jpg
Route of the 1539 voyage by Francisco de Ulloa from (Acapulco) along the west coast of Mexico

Francisco de Ulloa (pronounced  [fɾanˈθisko de uˈʎoa] ) (died 1540) was a Spanish explorer who explored the west coast of present-day Mexico under the commission of Hernán Cortés. The reports of his expeditions along the Baja California Peninsula are credited with being influential in the perpetuation of the 17th century cartographic misconception of the existence of the Island of California.


Exploring career

It is not known whether Ulloa accompanied Cortés on his first expedition to the New Spain. By the account of Bernal Díaz del Castillo, he came to Mexico later while transporting letters to Cortés from his wife. According to some early historians, Ulloa was influential in helping subdue the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan by naval power.

In 1539, at the private expense of Cortés, he embarked on an expedition in three small vessels, sailing north from Acapulco to explore the Pacific Coast, and to seek the mythical Strait of Anián that supposedly led to the Gulf of St. Lawrence, proving the existence of the Northwest Passage. The expedition left on July 8 sailing northwards along the coast and reaching the Gulf of California six weeks later. Ulloa named it the "Sea of Cortés" in honor of his patron. When one of his ships was lost in a storm Ulloa paused to repair the other two ships, and then resumed his voyage on September 12, eventually reaching the head of the Gulf.

Unable to find the Strait of Anián, Ulloa turned south and sailed along the eastern coast of the Baja California Peninsula, landing at the Bay of La Paz. After taking on supplies of wood and water Ulloa rounded the tip of the peninsula with great difficulty and sailed northward along the western shore in the Pacific Ocean.

The progress of his small ships was hampered by the fierce winds and high seas he encountered, eventually forcing him to turn back to New Spain. The voyage eventually reached 28 degrees north near the Isla de Cedros.

Although his discoveries showed that Baja California is a peninsula, legends and maps depicting California as an island persisted intermittently into the 18th century. According to Díaz del Castillo, Ulloa was stabbed to death in 1540. By other accounts, his ship was lost without a trace during the return voyage from Baja California. Supposedly his ship was swept inland with a tsunami, later becoming known as the Lost Ship of the Desert. [1]

Related Research Articles

Hernando de Alarcón was a Spanish explorer and navigator of the 16th century, noted for having led an early expedition to the Baja California Peninsula, during which he became one of the first Europeans to ascend the Colorado River from its mouth and perhaps the first to reach Alta California.

Hernán Cortés Spanish conquistador

DonHernán Cortés de Monroy y Pizarro Altamirano, Marquis of the Valley of Oaxaca was a Spanish Conquistador who led an expedition that caused the fall of the Aztec Empire and brought large portions of what is now mainland Mexico under the rule of the King of Castile in the early 16th century. Cortés was part of the generation of Spanish colonizers who began the first phase of the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Baja California Peninsula Peninsula of North America on the Pacific Coast of Mexico

The Baja California Peninsula is a peninsula in Northwestern Mexico. It separates the Pacific Ocean from the Gulf of California. The peninsula extends 1,247 km from Mexicali, Baja California in the north to Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur in the south. It ranges from 40 km at its narrowest to 320 km at its widest point and has approximately 3,000 km of coastline and approximately 65 islands. The total area of the Baja California Peninsula is 143,390 km2 (55,360 sq mi), roughly the same area as the country of Nepal.

Champotón, Campeche City in Campeche, Mexico

Champotón is a small city in Champotón Municipality in the Mexican state of Campeche, located at 19°21′N90°43′W, about 60 km south of the city of Campeche where the small Champotón river meets the coast of the Gulf of Mexico. At the 2010 census it had a population of 30,881.

Strait of Magellan Strait in southern Chile joining the Atlantic and Pacific oceans

The Strait of Magellan, also called the Straits of Magellan, is a navigable sea route in southern Chile separating mainland South America to the north and Tierra del Fuego to the south. The strait is considered the most important natural passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. It has been traversed by explorers and others throughout modern history.

Gaspar de Portolá explorer and soldier in New Spain

Gaspar de Portolà i Rovira, more commonly known simply as Gaspar de Portolà, (1716–1786) was a Spanish soldier and administrator in the Viceroyalty of New Spain. As commander of the Portolá expedition on land and sea that established San Diego and Monterey, Portolá expanded New Spain's Las Californias province far to the north from its beginnings on the Baja California peninsula. Portolá's expedition also was the first known European to see and record what we now call San Francisco Bay. His expedition gave names to geographic features along the way, many of which are still in use.

Juan de Grijalva Spanish conquistador

Juan de Grijalva was a Spanish conquistador, and relation of Diego Velázquez. He went to Hispaniola in 1508 and to Cuba in 1511. He was one of the early explorers of the Mexican coastline.

Bernal Díaz del Castillo Spanish conquistador

Bernal Díaz del Castillo was a Spanish conquistador, who participated as a soldier in the conquest of Mexico under Hernán Cortés and late in his life wrote an account of the events. As an experienced soldier of fortune, he had already participated in expeditions to Tierra Firme, Cuba, and to Yucatán before joining Cortés. In his later years he was an encomendero and governor in Guatemala where he wrote his memoirs called The True History of the Conquest of New Spain. He began his account of the conquest almost thirty years after the events and later revised and expanded it in response to the biography published by Cortes's chaplain Francisco López de Gómara, which he considered to be largely inaccurate in that it did not give due recognition to the efforts and sacrifices of others in the Spanish expedition.

Bahía de los Ángeles Place in Baja California, Mexico

Bahía de los Ángeles is a coastal bay on the Gulf of California, located along the eastern shore of the Baja California Peninsula in the state of Baja California, Mexico. The town of the same name is located at the east end of Federal Highway 12 about 42 miles (68 km) from the Parador Punta Prieta junction on Federal Highway 1. The area is part of the Ensenada Municipality.

La Paz, Baja California Sur City in Baja California Sur, Mexico

La Paz is the capital city of the Mexican state of Baja California Sur and an important regional commercial center. The city had a 2015 census population of 244,219 inhabitants, making it the most populous city in the state. Its metropolitan population is somewhat larger because of the surrounding towns, such as El Centenario, Chametla and San Pedro. It is in La Paz Municipality, which is the fourth-largest municipality in Mexico in geographical size and reported a population of 290,286 inhabitants on a land area of 20,275 km2 (7,828 sq mi).

Island of California phantom island

The Island of California refers to a long-held European misconception, dating from the 16th century, that the Baja California Peninsula was not part of mainland North America but rather a large island separated from the continent by a strait now known as the Gulf of California.

Fortún Ximénez was a Spanish sailor who led a mutiny during an early expedition along the coast of Mexico and is the first European known to have landed in Baja California.

Garci Rodríguez de Montalvo was a Castilian author who arranged the modern version of the chivalric romance Amadis of Gaul, written in three books in the 14th century by an unknown author.

The human history of the west coast of North America is believed to stretch back to the arrival of the earliest people over the Bering Strait, or alternately along a now-submerged coastal plain, through the development of significant pre-Columbian cultures and population densities, to the arrival of the European explorers and colonizers. The west coast of North America today is home to some of the largest and most important companies in the world, as well as being a center of world culture.

Ioannis Phokas, better known by the Spanish translation of his name, Juan de Fuca, was a Greek maritime pilot in the service of the King of Spain, Philip II. He is best known for his claim to have explored the Strait of Anián, now known as the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the Olympic Peninsula.

Portolá expedition exploration of the present-day state of California, United States, 1769–1770

The Portolá expedition was a Spanish voyage of exploration in 1769–1770 that was the first recorded European land entry and exploration of the interior of the present-day U.S. state of California. It was led by Gaspar de Portolá, governor of Las Californias, the Spanish colonial province that included California, Baja California, and other parts of present-day Mexico and the United States. The expedition led to the founding of Alta California and contributed to the solidification of Spanish territorial claims in the disputed and unexplored regions along the Pacific coast of North America.

The Lost Ship of the Desert is the subject of legends about various historical maritime vessels having supposedly become stranded and subsequently lost in the deserts of the American Southwest, most commonly in California's Colorado Desert. Since the period following the American Civil War, stories about Spanish treasure galleons buried beneath the desert sands north of the Gulf of California have emerged as popular legends in American folklore.

The Pacific Coast of Mexico or West Coast of Mexico stretches along the coasts of western Mexico at the Pacific Ocean and its Gulf of California.

Exploration of the Pacific

Polynesians reached nearly all the Pacific islands by about 1200 AD, followed by Asian navigation in Southeast Asia and West Pacific. Around the Middle Ages Muslim traders linked the Middle East and East Africa to the Asian Pacific coasts. The direct contact of European fleets with the Pacific began in 1512, with the Portuguese, on its western edges, followed by the Spanish discovery of the Pacific from the American coast.

Francisco Cortés Ojea was a 16th-century Spanish sailor and explorer who took part in the first expeditions sent from the General Captaincy of Chile to the Strait of Magellan. The times and places of his birth and death have not been documented.


  1. Weight, Harold O. (1959). "Lost Ship of the Desert: A Legend of the Southwest". Twentynine Palms, California: The Calico Press. Retrieved October 31, 2018.