Greek explorer Ioannis Phokas (Greek: Ἰωάννης Φωκᾶς) better known by his Spanish name, Juan de Fuca, is to be honored with a statue in Vancouver — despite previous claims he never existed at all.
Born in 1536 on the Greek Ionian island of Kefalonia, and dying there in 1602, Phokas was a maritime pilot who served King Philip II of Spain.
He is best known for having explored the Strait of Anian, which is now known as the Juan de Fuca Strait, located between Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada and the Olympic Peninsula which is located in the north-west part of the U.S. state of Washington.
In the past there has been a lot of controversy surrounding Juan de Fuca’s voyages since researchers were unable to find records of the expedition in the Spanish colonial archives, therefore doubting not only his discovery, but whether he even existed as a real person.
It is said that some scholars, along with Captain Cook, the 18th century British explorer, dismissed Juan de Fuca, claiming that he was entirely fictitious. However, in 1787, when English explorer Captain Charles William Barkley re-discovered the passage the Greek had described, he renamed it the Strait of Juan de Fuca.
However, in 1859, the U.S. Consul in the Ionian Islands assisted an American researcher who found that Juan de Fuca was not only a real person, but that his family and history were well known throughout the Greek islands of the Ionian Sea.
On Aug. 5, 2017, in Argostoli, Kefalonia, a statue of Juan de Fuca was erected, and at the same time the name of the port also was changed to honor the explorer.
A similar statue to the one in Kefalonia, will also be erected outside of the Museum of Vancouver at 1100 Chestnut St, at 17:30 on April 24.