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Where were Cape François and the May River?

Scholars have long assumed that Cape François was either present day Cape Canaveral They have also assumed that the May River was the St. Johns River.  However, the distances between these points and Beaufort, SC (Port Royal Sound) don’t seem to correlate with the time that French fleet spent to travel. De Laudonniére’s memoirs state that the fleet sailed directly from Cape François to the outlet of the May River in two weeks.  They spent two weeks more exploring a series of islands and rivers between the May River and Port Royal. They stopped to explore inlets and rivers. Late 16th century and 17th century French maps generally show Cape François to be north of the mouth of the St. Johns River. The numbers just don’t add up.  Jacksonville is 138 miles from Cape Canaveral (9.8 miles per day) and 27 miles from St. Augustine (1.9 miles per day.)  Jacksonville is 163 miles from Beaufort, SC (11.6 miles per day.)  If the May River was the St. Johns River at Jacksonville,  the time required to reach Port Royal Sound (Beaufort) should have been more like three weeks.  Furthermore, de Laudonniére’s memoirs state that the ships became lost in a fog as they approached Port Royal, losing much time. The question is significant because for well over a century, archaeologists and artifact collectors have searched along the mouth of the St. John’s River for the location of the second French colony, Fort Caroline and Fort St. Mateo, the Spanish fortress that was built on its ruins. This is because everyone has assumed that the May River and the St. Johns...

First Voyage Commanded by Jean Ribault – 1562

On February 15, 1562 the government of France dispatched Captain Jean Ribault with a small fleet to explore the South Atlantic Coast, claim it for the King of France, and identify potential locations for colonies. Unlike colonial expeditions sponsored by Spain and England in that century, the French expedition was extremely well planned, at least on paper. It was financed by the French Crown, whereas Spanish and English colonial attempts were privately capitalized.  The members of the expedition included all skills necessary to survive in the New World, including carpenters and ship builders. Admiral de Cologny intended French Florida to become a major center of ship-building, because of the inexhaustible supply of wood on the Southeast. The colony would thrive from the profits of ship-building and not be dependent on support from the French Crown for very long.  That was the plan, at least. The expedition reached the coast of North American around April 15.  De Laudonniére’s memoirs do not give a specific date. The place is called a cape or headland that consisted of a white sandy beach and a horizon defined by trees.  This well could have been one of the larger barrier islands on the South Atlantic coast.  The French called this geographical landmark, Cape François.  De Laudonniére said that it was at about 30 degrees latitude. Almost all scholars assume that Cape François was Cape Canaveral, however, Cape Canaveral is at 28.47 degrees. Furthermore, a later passage in de Laudonniére’s memoirs describe Cape Canaveral as a different geographical feature, farther south than they had sailed. Cape François may have been the entrance to St. Augustine....
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