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Cabo San Lucas

Although the sea of Cortez bears his name, it was not Hernan Cortez, but his navigator, Francisco de Ulloa that was credited with first discovering Cabo San Lucas in 1537.

It soon became a busy trading port and stopover for pirates. British and Dutch ships both had a field day cashing in on the Spanish treasure ships trying to take treasure back to Spain.

The Spanish treasure-galleon, the Great St. Anne, was captured off Cape St Lucas by Sir Thomas Cavendish on November 14, 1587, prompting King Phillip II of Spain to establish a small fortress at Cabo San Lucas to try to rid the waters of "undesirables."

With the establishment of a fort at Cabo San Lucas, the area was opened up to exploration. Settlements along the Baja began to spring up as pearls were discovered in the Sea of Cortez. In 1730 a Jesuit mission, Jose del Cabo, was established to the north. Together, the two towns became known as Los Cabos (the capes).

However, Cabo San Lucas remained largely undeveloped having no steady water supply. By the 1930s the population of Cabo San Lucas was still around 400 when it started to become know as a sports fishing haven. Accessible only by small plane, long range yacht, or anyone willing to travel 1000 miles of rutted dirt "roads" to get there.

May 3, 1902, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A

Inhabitants of Lower California Who Are in Want of Necessaries of Life

Map of Mexico. 1847.
Map of Mexico. 1847

SAN FRANCISCO, May 2. The steamer Curacao, from Mexican ports, brings a tale of want and famine existing in the town of San Juan de Cabo, situated near Cape San Lucas. For the space of three and a half years no rain has fallen in the sections surrounding the city, and for as many years the crops have been utter failures. The cattle industry, at one time the mainstay of the region, has fallen into decay. The animals, for want of food, have died by hundreds. The condition of the people has rapidly grown more and more desperate until now it is unbearable. Scores of cases of death from starvation and neglect have been reported. The people are now rapidly moving away from the impoverished district. The Curacao on her northward trip brought forty people from San Juan de Cabo to Ensenada. It is believed that other steamers are performing the same mission.

1899. World's Fleet. Boston Daily Globe

Lloyds Register of Shipping gives the entire fleet of the world as 28,180 steamers and sailing vessels, with a total tonnage of 27,673,628, of which 39 perent are British.

Great Britain10,990 vessels, total tonnage of 10,792,714
United States 3,010 vessels, total tonnage of 2,405,887
Norway 2,528 vessels, tonnage of 1,604,230
Germany 1,676 vessels, with a tonnage of 2,453,334, in which are included her particularly large ships.
Sweden 1,408 vessels with a tonnage of 643, 527
Italy1,150 vessels
France 1,182 vessels

For Historical Comparison
Top 10 Maritime Nations Ranked by Value (2017)

  Country # of Vessels







1 Greece 4,453 206.47 $88.0
2 Japan 4,317 150.26 $79.8
3 China 4,938 159.71 $71.7
4 USA 2,399 55.92 $46.5
5 Singapore 2,662 64.03 $41.7
6 Norway 1,668 39.68 $41.1
7 Germany 2,923 81.17 $30.3
8 UK 883 28.78 $24.3
9 Denmark 1,040 36.17 $23.4
10 South Korea 1,484 49.88 $20.1
Total 26,767 87.21 $466.9

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



Merchant Shipping

Merchant Shipping.Merchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.  
History of Merchant Shipping and Ancient CommerceMerchant Shipping and Ancient Commerce.
W. S. Lindsay

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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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