01/13/2014 11:17 EST | Updated 01/25/2014 04:01 EST

B.C. Coin Discovery Renews Interest In Drake's ‘Secret Voyage' Of 1579

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The discovery of a 16th-century coin buried in clay on a Vancouver Island shoreline is rekindling interest in a controversial theory that English explorer Sir Francis Drake made a secret voyage to Canada’s Pacific Coast in 1579 — two centuries before Spanish sailors and the legendary British navigator Capt. James Cook made their famous “first” European visits to the future British Columbia in the 1770s.

Former B.C. cabinet minister Samuel Bawlf, the leading proponent of the Drake theory and author of a 2003 book on the subject, says the discovery of the coin by a Victoria metal-detector hobbyist adds to the substantial documentary evidence that Drake — well known to have reached California during his 1579 expedition — actually sailed to Vancouver Island and well beyond, but was ordered by Queen Elizabeth I to hide the true extent of his northward travels to protect England’s strategic interests in the New World.