Terra Cognita

Newsletter of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Page 15

May 2003


[Editor’s note: Although Raymond Aker was not a member of SHD, it is a privilege to remember a man who contributed so much to exploration and discovery knowledge. This obituary was submitted by Barry Gough, Professor of History at Wilfrid Laurier University. Professor Gough is a past editor of The American Neptune: Maritime History & Arts, and is a Life Member of the Society for the History of Discoveries].

Raymond Aker (1920-2003), Drake Navigation Guild President, passed away on 4 January. He was the key researcher and leader of the Guild for nearly half a century. A merchant mariner with a master’s license, he was a deck officer with Matson Lines during World War II. A draftsman for Westinghouse Electric for twenty-nine years, he worked on the Polaris Missile project and ship propeller designs. He lived in Palo Alto and knew the geography of the San Francisco Bay area, especially Marin County, like the back of his hand.
     Not a founding member of the Drake Navigation Guild, he joined the society in 1952 and became its president in 1963. For the rest of his life he retained a position of prominence in the organization. He was a sailor’s historian. His monumental Report of Findings Relating to Identification of Sir Francis Drake’s Encampment at Point Reyes National Seashore (first published in 1970) is the definitive study of this subject. A summation was published as Discovering Francis Drake’s California Harbor. Recently he completed as co-author a study on the Plate of Brass hoax for California Historical Society’s California History magazine, February 2003.
    His line drawings of Drake’s Golden Hind are of the finest quality, and have been used in National Geographic and other journals. His models of the same vessel are on display in such places as the San Francisco Maritime Museum. His plans for various vessels such as the Golden Hind, the Mary Rose, and the San Carlos, the latter the first ship to enter San Francisco Bay, are deposited in various museums including the San Diego Maritime Museum. His contribution to the study of ships of the Elizabethan era is unrivaled.
    Raymond Aker kept a considerable correspondence, and he was sought out by English, American, and Canadian scholars working on Drake’s circumnavigation. Generous with his time, he stoutly defended the claim of the Guild as to Drake’s Cove within Drakes Bay as the site where Drake careened his vessel. In a climate in which all comers have made claims about Drake’s harbor on the west coast of North America, Aker’s position was always the best researched and the most conclusive. He leaves his wife, Dorothy, three children and four grandchildren. 

Contributing Members 2003
      The society wishes to recognize those contributing members who have paid $50.00 annual dues. They are:
Richard Adelson 
Sanford H. Bederman 
Alan Brown 
John G.L. Cabot 
Tom Conley 
Ralph Ehrenberg 
Peter Enggass 
Richard Francaviglia 
Warren Heckrotte 
Robert Highbarger J. 
Arthur Holzheimer
Alice Hudson
H.G. Jones 
Ken Nebenzahl
Fabian O’Dea
Mark O’Donoghue
David Parsons
Walter Ristow
Robert Stocker II
J. Thom Touchton
John Wolter
John Woram
      As of April 1, 2003, SHD counted 294 members. A troubling fact, however is that many individuals will be purged from the master membership file if dues are not received by May 15. We still maintain a strong foreign component, with 59 members from outside of the United States. The breakdown of non-US members is shown below.:

Australia - 2
Bahamas - 1
Belgium - 1
Canada - 18
France - 2
Germany - 2
Israel - 1
Italy - 2
Japan - 1
Mexico - 1

New Zealand - 2
Philippines - 2
Portugal - 1
Spain - 1
Swaziland - 1
Sweden - 1
Switzerland - 1
The Netherlands - 3
United Kingdom - 13

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