Juan De Fuca from Kefalonia

The seafarer Juan De Fuca from Kefalonia, in the Ionian: The history of seafarers in Kefalonia goes back to the adventures of Odysseus, to whose kingdom it belonged. In these pages, there is also the name of Kefalonian Juan De Fuca, the sea captain, and explorer who made brave efforts to find a passage between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans through the northern straits of Canada.

Juan De Fuca was born in 1536 to a noble family of Kefalonia, while the island was under Venetian control. He was named Ioannis Phokas (John Fokas). Juan grew up with the stories of ancient seafarers and adventures. In 1550, he joined the Royal Spanish Navy, he became a captain and was deputed to the Spanish fleet in West Indies. Since the Spanish were in search of a shorter route to their colonies on the west coast of South America, Juan De Fuca soon was given charge of this adventurous expedition.

Juan set off on the expedition in 1590, from Mexico toward Canada with 3 ships. But as the ships reached the coast of California, mutiny broke out and the ships were forced to return. Later the Spanish kingdom refused to compensate the Greek sailor for his further explorations claiming it as unsuccessful. Juan left the colonial service but remained a sailor until he returned to his home town of Valerianos in Kefalonia, to spend his last days. He died in 1602.

Before his return to Kefalonia, Juan (also known as Apostolos Valerianos in his diary), had narrated his life to an English Officer in Venice, who published his diary in 1604. In the diary, the Englishman Michael Lok assumes that Juan did indeed find the route to the North Sea, but this has not been proven. It was forgotten until it was discovered in 1787 by the English captain John Meares. In 1788, he named it as the Juan De Fuca Strait. It lies by Vancouver Island in the USA.