Northwest passage: Early approaches
Read a historical
|1. The remarkable
life, adventures, and discoveries of Sebastian Cabot J.
F. Nicholls. London: Sampson, Low and Marston, 1869. BL: 10817.bbb.
Copyright © The British Library Board
||2. A true discourse
of the late voyages of discouerie, for the finding of a passage
to Cathaya, by the Northweast, under the conduct of Martin Frobisher
Generall, etc. George Beste. 3v. London: Henry Bynnyman,
1578. BL: G.6527. Copyright © The British Library Board
|3. Descriptio ac delineatio
Geographica Detectionis Freti, sive transitus ad occasum ...
recens investigati ab M. Henrico Hudsono, etc [edited by
Hessel Gerritszoon]. Amsterodami: Hesselij Gerardi, 1612. BL:
G.7165 (3). Copyright © The British Library Board
||4. North-west Fox; or, Fox from the North-West Passage, etc. Luke Foxe. London: B. Alsop and Tho. Fawcet, 1635.
BL: G.7167. Copyright © The British Library Board
1. Sebastian Cabot
In 1497 John Cabot and possibly his son Sebastian, sponsored by
Henry VII, set out across the Atlantic from Bristol hoping to find
a way to the East. Little is known about the voyage although they
probably landed at Maine, Newfoundland or Nova Scotia. In 1498
John Cabot again travelled westwards in search of a route to Japan
never returned to England. Ten years later Sebastian went on a
disputed expedition in two ships with 300 men in search of a Northwest
Recent evidence suggests that he sailed through Hudson Strait and
into Hudson Bay. Cabot also believed that he had reached the Pacific
This portrait of Cabot is from an engraving of a painting
that was thought to have been by Hans Holbein. The original portrait
in a fire in 1840, but there is a copy in the Massachusetts Historical
Society in Boston.
2. Frobisher and the useless ore
On his first Northwest Passage expedition in 1576 Frobisher discovered
Frobisher Bay and thought he had found gold, thus prompting further
expeditions in 1577 and 1578 that were partly sponsored by Elizabeth
I. On the third voyage Frobisher entered Hudson Strait, which he
named Mistaken Straightes (as on the map). He would have liked to
search for the Northwest Passage but his orders were for mining only.
Having built a small house on an island in Frobisher Bay, his ships
returned to England with over 1000 tons of useless ore.
of the first account of Frobisher's three voyages by George Beste,
who sailed with him, is extremely rare in that
the two maps.
3. Hudson's last voyage
In 1610-11, sponsored by the Northwest Company, Henry Hudson in the Discovery
explored the shores of Hudson Strait and sailed along the east
coast of Hudson Bay, wintering in James Bay. The crew mutinied
when provisions ran
short leaving Hudson and eight others adrift in a boat. Some of
the mutineers returned to England, although Inuit killed four and
one died of starvation,
but no trace was ever found of Hudson and his companions.
of the first publication issued
concerning Hudson's most famous voyage is of "extreme rarity" according
to Thomas Grenville, from whose collection, bequeathed to the British
Museum Library in 1847, it comes.
4. From King Arthur to Luke Foxe
Luke Foxe (or Fox), sponsored by London merchants, sailed for the Arctic
in May 1631. He explored the western shore of Hudson Bay and
met by chance Thomas James, who was on a rival expedition. He turned
north and sailed
Channel (named after him by Parry in the nineteenth century),
into Foxe Basin and along Foxe Peninsula. He returned home when scurvy
broke out at latitude 60º 47' N. Foxe's account of his voyage is
contained in this book, which also describes earlier explorations.
copy has the globe illustrated here and the map, which "are scarce
ever to be found" (Grenville).
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