George Lensen's "The Russian Push Toward Japan" says on p. 261:

In 1815 the transport Pavel under the command of Navigator's Apprentice Srednii left Okhotsk with six Japanese castaways, three of whom had been shipwrecked off the Kuril islands, the others having been swept to California and brought from there by an English merchantman.

I've not been able to verify this story anywhere else. Did Japanese sailors really reach Spanish California?

1 Answer 1


This study, Japanese Wrecks stranded and picked up adrift in the North Pacific Ocean by Charles Wolcott Brooks, presented before the California Academy of Sciences in 1875, published in 1876, lists on page 10 (among dozens of other entries covering many years) what may have been the relevant encounter in 1815 (emphasis mine):

  1. Captain Alexander Adams, formerly pilot at Honolulu, relates that March 24, 1815, in latitude 32° 45' N., longitude 126° 57' W., when sailing master of brig Forrester, Captain Piggott, and cruising off Santa Barbara, California, he sighted at sunrise a Japanese junk drifting at the mercy of the winds and waves. Her rudder aud masts were gone. Although blowing a gale, he boarded the junk, and found fourteen dead bodies in the hold, the captain, carpenter, and one seaman alone surviving; took them on board, where by careful nursing they were well in a few days. They were on a voyage from Osaka to Yedo, and were 17 months out, having been dismasted in consequence of losing their rudder.

So it appears three survivors were picked up off the Santa Barbara coast in 1815.

The same page also lists a couple of other encounters you may find of interest.(Russian encounters).

An interesting map showing the related winds and currents can be seen in the early pages.You can see from the flow of these ocean currents how a ship which had lost the ability to navigate (broken rudder and/or masts) could end up either along Kamchatka, Alaska, or even the California Coast.

enter image description here

By the way, to actually answer the direct question, concerning this specific event, it does not appear that they had landed, but were rescued from a ruined ship offshore.

  • At a guess that position should actually be 32° 45' N, 126° 57' W.
    – Steve Bird
    Oct 11, 2017 at 5:20
  • @SteveBird Thanks, I tried to catch the OCR errors, missed the numbers.
    – justCal
    Oct 11, 2017 at 11:28
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    my, what a horrible outcome for a journey between two cities ON THE SAME ISLAND. Oct 11, 2017 at 18:27
  • 1
    fwiw Debris from the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami started to arrive in British Columbia about a year later.
    – bgwiehle
    Oct 11, 2017 at 19:52
  • 1
    Interesting, so debris made better time than a broken ship.
    – justCal
    Oct 11, 2017 at 19:55

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