Arts and Entertainment

How did the San Juan islands get their names?

Mark Billington - Contributed photo
Mark Billington
— image credit: Contributed photo


How did the San Juan Islands get their name? Who was Juan de Fuca? Why are there so many Spanish names around here?

If these questions have puzzled you, plan on attending a talk by local author and tour guide Mark Billington at English Camp Visitor Center on July 3, at 3 p.m. Billington has researched and self published a bi-lingual book “The Bells of Rosario,” which documents the 18th century Spanish explorations of the Pacific coast.  These voyages began in San Blas, Mexico, where Mark and his daughter lived each winter for six years, and “not only carried monks to set up California missions, but also continued into the Pacific Northwest, leaving their names” Billington said.

An accomplished explorer in his own right, Billington has traversed the San Juan Islands by kayak, and solo paddled from Friday Harbor to Olympia in 1994. He has also written several books, including “I Can’t See the Wind” a narrative of a paddle between Evergreen Point in Bellevue via Meyers Chuck to Seattle. His latest project is Geosoluna, a SJI historical tour calendar with 25 lunar months, each starting on the new moon, and New Year’s Day is our Gregorian calendar’s December Solstice.

For more information on this and other events at San Juan Island National Historical Park, call Ranger Doug Halsey, 360-378-2240 ext. 2228 or email him at

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