Cabeza de Vaca's Florida Landing
by Donald E. Sheppard             DEVACA'S TRAIL ON GOOGLE EARTH

Spanish Ships

Cabeza de Vaca wrote that he "...sighted land on Tuesday, the 12th day of April, 1528... then followed the coast of Florida, and on Holy Thursday cast anchor at the mouth of a bay..." implying that he did so on April 14th. The most important date on the Spanish Calendar, Easter Sunday, would have followed on April 17th according to his statement. History's dilemma is that Easter Sunday occurred on the 12th day of April, 1528, not on the 17th. Cabeza de Vaca historians have never examined his date error before now and have, thereby, misidentified his landing place.

 Timing Complications

Easter Sunday, according to ancient tradition, occurs on the first Sunday after the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox. In 1528 the first Full Moon after the Vernal Equinox (of March 10th on their Julian Calendar) occurred at midnight between Saturday, April 4th and Sunday, April 5th. Easter Sunday, accordingly, was celebrated on the following Sunday, the 12th of April. Vaca's memory of the 12th of April being the date upon which he first sighted Florida was probably confused with that date. Had he sighted land on the 12th of April, Easter Sunday, he certainly would have remembered that coincidence, but alas, he did not. He actually sighted Florida on the Tuesday before Easter, on April 7th, several days after Full Moon.

Florida coastal landings are dramatically affected by moon phases. Until Florida's Gulf Coast harbors were channelized during the last century, they were impassable for Spanish galleons except on particular moon phases. Spring tides, which only occur near new and full moons, dramatically increase the tide's amplitudes, making Florida's harbors passable for large ships for brief periods each month. Given that Cabeza sighted Florida on Tuesday, April 7th, 1528, he had missed the opportunity to enter many of Florida's Gulf Coast harbors in Spanish galleons on the spring tides of April 4th and 5th. His captain's mandate to immediately off-load the ships onto a seashore deep enough to closely approach, instead of in a harbor while his ships returned to Cuba for the remainder of his men and much needed supplies, set off a series of mishaps which can only be understood in the context of lunar time. With all due respect, previous historians have failed to place Cabeza de Vaca's activity in that critical time frame. In doing so, they have misunderstood Vaca for centuries. DeVaca landed at Englewood, Florida, as later reports by DeSoto's people near DeVaca's landing site would prove, not at Tampa Bay.

 DeVaca's Annotated Narration of Florida, Alabama, 
Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona