Exactly where Sir Francis Drake sought refuge from a storm on the West Coast 441 years ago has been a matter of study and often colorful debate for six decades, a debate that is about to be settled.
Professional and amateur archaeologists and historians since before World War II have promoted a number of different spots, from Drakes Bay at the Point Reyes Seashore to Campbell Cove in Bodega Bay and even places along the Oregon coast.
The debate even spurred a highly publicized hoax by members of E Clampus Vitus, a Gold Rush-era historical fraternity, who in 1936 fashioned an authentic-looking brass plate purportedly left by Drake that ended up enshrined in UC Berkeley's Bancroft Library.
Now, the federal government is about to put its official imprimatur on Drakes Bay in the Point Reyes National Seashore as the likely spot by granting it National Historic Landmark status.
“It is a significant step, It is the final step,” said John Dell'Osso, chief of interpretation and resource education at Point Reyes National Seashore.
The nomination was approved in November by the National Park Service's landmarks commission, a panel of scientists and archaeologists that gives all nominations a grueling and exacting review.
It subsequently was endorsed by a parks service advisory committee.
Landmark status now awaits just one more step, the signature of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “They give it another look.
They are looking to see if there are any flaws,” said Ed Von der Porten of San Francisco, a maritime archaeologist and historian.