THE POLAR EXPEDITIONS AND THE SEARCH FOR THE NORTH-WEST PASSAGE.
The Northmen--Eric the Red--The Zenos--John Cabot--Cortereal-- Sebastian Cabot--Willoughby--Chancellor.
Pytheas had opened up the road to the north to the Scandinavians by discovering Iceland (the famous Thule) and the Cronian Ocean, of which the mud, the shallow-water, and the ice render the navigation dangerous, and where the nights are as light as twilight. The traditions of the voyages undertaken by the ancients to the Orkneys, the Faröe Islands, and even to Iceland, were treasured up among the Irish monks, who were learned men, and themselves bold mariners, as their successive establishments in these archipelagos clearly prove. They were also the pilots of the Northmen, a name given generally to the Scandinavian pirates, both Danish and Norwegian, who rendered themselves so formidable to the whole of Europe during the Middle Ages. But if all the information that we owe to the ancients, both Greeks and Romans, with regard to these hyperborean countries be extremely vague and so to speak fabulous, it is not so with that which concerns the adventurous enterprises of the "Men of the North." The Sagas, as the Icelandic and Danish songs are called, are extremely precise, and the numerous data which we owe to them are daily confirmed by the archæological discoveries made in America, Greenland, Iceland, Norway, and Denmark. This is a source of valuable information which was long unknown and unexplored, and of which we owe the revelation to the learned Dane, C. C. Rafn, who has furnished us with authentic facts of the greatest interest bearing on the pre-Columbian discovery of America.
Norway was poor and encumbered with population. Hence arose the necessity for a permanent emigration, which should allow a considerable portion of the inhabitants to seek in more favoured regions the nourishment which a frozen soil denied them. When they had found some country rich enough to yield them an abundant spoil, they then returned to their own land, and set out the following spring accompanied by all those who could be enticed either by the love of lucre, the desire for an easy life, or by the thirst for strife. Intrepid hunters and fishermen, accustomed to a dangerous navigation between the continent and the mass of islands which border it and appear to defend it against the assaults of the ocean, and across the narrow, deep fiords, which seem as though they were cut into the soil itself by some gigantic sword, they set out in those oak vessels, the sight of which made the people tremble who lived on the shores of the North Sea and British Channel. Sometimes decked, these vessels, long or short, large or small, were usually terminated in front by a spur of enormous size, above which the prow sometimes rose to a great height, taking the form of an S. The hällristningar, for so they call the graphic representations so often met with on the rocks of Sweden and Norway, enable us to picture to ourselves these swift vessels, which could carry a considerable crew. Such was the Long-serpent of Olaf Tryggvason, which had thirty-two benches of rowers and held ninety men, Canute's vessel, which carried sixty, and the two vessels of Olaf the Saint, which carried sometimes 200 men. The Sea-kings, as they often called these adventurers, lived on the ocean, never settling on shore, passing from the pillage of a castle to the burning of an abbey, devastating the coasts of France, ascending rivers, especially the Seine, as far as Paris, sailing over the Mediterranean as far as Constantinople, establishing themselves later in Sicily, and leaving traces of their incursions or their sojourn in all the regions of the known world.
Piracy, far from being, as at the present day, an act falling under the ban of the law, was not only encouraged in that barbarous or half-civilized society, but was celebrated in the songs of the Skalds, who reserved their most enthusiastic eulogies for celebrating chivalrous struggles, adventurous privateering, and all exhibitions of strength. From the eighth century, these formidable sea-rovers frequented the groups of the Orkney, the Hebrides, the Shetland, and Faröe Islands, where they met with the Irish monks, who had settled themselves there nearly a century earlier, to instruct the idolatrous population.
In 861 a Norwegian pirate, named Naddod, was carried by a storm towards an island covered with snow, which he named Snoland (land of snow), a name changed later to that of Iceland (land of ice). There again the Northmen found the Irish monks under the name of Papis, in the cantons of Papeya and Papili.
Ingolf installed himself some years afterwards in the country, and founded Reijkiavik. In 885 the triumph of Harold Haarfager, who had just subjugated the whole of Norway by force of arms, brought a considerable number of malcontents to Iceland. They established there the republican form of government, which had just been overthrown in their own country, and which subsisted till 1261, the epoch when Iceland passed under the dominion of the kings of Norway.
When established in Iceland, these bold fellows, lovers of adventure and of long hunts in pursuit of seals and walrus, retained their wandering habits and pursued their bold plans in the west, where only three years after the arrival of Ingolf, Guunbjorn discovered the snowy peaks of the mountains of Greenland. Five years later, Eric the Red, banished from Iceland for murder, rediscovered the land in latitude 64 degrees north, of which Guunbjorn had caught a glimpse. The sterility of this ice-bound coast made him decide to seek a milder climate with a more open country, and one producing more game, in the south. So he rounded Cape Farewell at the extremity of Greenland, established himself on the west coast, and built some vast dwellings for himself and his companions, of which M. Jorgensen has discovered the ruins. This country was worthy at that period of the name of Green-Land (Groenland) which the Northmen gave to it, but the annual and great increase of the glaciers, has rendered it since that epoch a land of desolation.
Eric returned to Iceland to seek his friends, and in the same year that he returned to Brattahalida (for so he called his settlement), fourteen vessels laden with emigrants came to join him. It was a veritable exodus. These events took place in the year 1000. As quickly as the resources of the country allowed of it, the population of Greenland increased, and in 1121, Gardar, the capital of the country, became the seat of a bishopric, which existed until after the discovery of the Antilles by Christopher Columbus.
In 986 Bjarn Heriulfson, who had come from Norway to Iceland to spend the winter with his father, learnt that the latter had joined Eric the Red in Greenland. Without hesitation, the young man again put to sea, seeking at haphazard for a country of which he did not even know the exact situation, and was cast by currents on coasts which we think must have been those of New Scotland, Newfoundland, and Maine. He ended, however, by reaching Greenland, where Eric, the powerful Norwegian jarl, reproached him for not having examined with more care countries of which he owed his knowledge to a happy accident of the sea.
Eric had sent his son Leif to the Norwegian court, so close at this time was the connexion between the metropolis and the colonies. The king, who had been converted to Christianity, had just despatched a mission to Iceland charged to overthrow the worship of Odin. He committed to Leif's care some priests who were to instruct the Greenlanders; but scarcely had the young adventurer returned to his own country, when he left the holy men to work out the accomplishment of their difficult task and hearing of the discovery made by Bjarn, he fitted out his vessels and went to seek for the lands which had been only imperfectly seen. He landed first on a desolate and stony plain, to which he gave the name of Helluland, and which we have no hesitation in recognizing as Newfoundland, and afterwards on a flat sandy shore behind which rose an immense screen of dark forests, cheered by the songs of innumerable birds. A third time he put to sea and steering towards the south he arrived at the Bay of Rhode Island, where the mild climate and the river teeming with salmon induced him to settle, and where he constructed vast buildings of planks, which he called Leifsbudir (Leif's house). Then he sent some of his companions to explore the country, and they returned with the good news that the wild vine grows in the country, to which it owes the name of Vinland. In the spring of the year 1001, Leif, having laded his ship with skins, grapes, wood, and other productions of the country, set out for Greenland; he had made the valuable observation that the shortest day in Vinland lasted nine hours, which places the site of Leifsbudir at 41 degrees 24 minutes 10 seconds. This fortunate voyage and the salvage of a Norwegian vessel carrying fifteen men, gained for Leif the surname of the Fortunate.
This expedition made a great stir, and the account of the wonders of the country in which Leif had settled, induced his brother Thorvald, to set out with thirty men. After passing the winter at Leifsbudir, Thorvald explored the coasts to the south, returning in the autumn to Vinland, and in the following year 1004, he sailed along the coast to the north of Leifsbudir. During this return voyage, the Northmen met with the Esquimaux for the first time, and without any provocation, slaughtered them without mercy. The following night they found themselves all at once surrounded by a numerous flotilla of Kayacs, from which came a cloud of arrows. Thorvald alone, the chief of the expedition, was mortally wounded; he was buried by his companions on a promontory, to which they gave the name of the promontory of the Cross.
Now, in the Gulf of Boston in the eighteenth century, a tomb of masonry was discovered, in which, with the bones, was found a sword-hilt of iron. The Indians not being acquainted with this metal, it could not be one of their skeletons; it was not either, the remains of one of the Europeans who had landed after the fifteenth century, for their swords had not this very characteristic form. This tomb has been thought to be that of a Scandinavian, and we venture to say, that of Thorvald, son of Eric the Red.
In the spring of 1007, three vessels carrying 160 men and some cattle, left Eriksfjord; the object in view was the foundation of a permanent colony. The emigrants after sighting Helluland, Markland, and Vinland, landed in an island, upon which they constructed some barracks and began the work of cultivation. But they must either have laid their plans badly, or have been wanting in foresight, for the winter found them without provisions, and they suffered cruelly from hunger. They had, however, the good sense to regain the continent, where in comparative ease, they could await the end of the winter.
At the beginning of 1008, they set out to seek for Leifsbudir, and settled themselves at Mount-Hope Bay, on the opposite shore to the old settlement of Leif. There, for the first time, some intercourse was held with the natives, called Skrellings in the sagas, and whom, from the manner in which they are portrayed, it is easy to recognize as Esquimaux. The first meeting was peaceable, and barter was carried on with them until the day when the desire of the Esquimaux to acquire iron hatchets, always prudently refused them by the Northmen, drove them to acts of aggression, which decided the new-comers, after three years of residence, to return to their own country, which they did without leaving behind them any lasting trace of their stay in the country.
It will be easily understood that we cannot give any detailed account of all the expeditions, which set out from Greenland, and succeeded each other on the coasts of Labrador and the United States. Those of our readers who wish for circumstantial details, should refer to M. Gabriel Gravier's interesting publication, the most complete work on the subject, and from which we have borrowed all that relates to the Norman expeditions.
The same year as Erik the Red landed in Greenland (983), a certain Hari Marson, being driven out of the ordinary course by storms, was cast upon the shores of a country known by the name of "White man's land," which extended according to Rafn from Chesapeake Bay to Florida.
What is the meaning of this name "White man's land"? Had some compatriots of Marson's already settled there? There is some reason to suppose so even from the words used in the chronicle. We can understand how interesting it would be, to be able to determine the nationality of these first colonists. However, the Sagas have not as yet revealed all their secrets. There are probably, some of them still unknown, and as those which have been successively discovered, have confirmed facts already admitted, there is every reason to hope that our knowledge of Icelandic navigation may become more precise.
Another legend, of which great part is mere romance, but which nevertheless, contains a foundation of truth, relates that a certain Bjorn, who was obliged to quit Iceland in consequence of an unfortunate passion, took refuge in the countries beyond Vinland, where in 1027, he was found by some of his countrymen.
In 1051, during another expedition, an Icelandic woman was killed by some Skrellings, and in 1867, a tomb was exhumed, bearing a runic inscription, and containing bones, and some articles of the toilet, which are now preserved in the museum at Washington. This discovery was made at the exact spot indicated in the Saga which related these events, and which was not itself discovered until 1863.
But the Northmen, established in Iceland and Greenland, were not the only people who frequented the coast of America about the year 1000, which is proved by the name of "Great Ireland," which was given to White man's land. As the history of Madoc-op-Owen proves, the Irish and Welsh founded colonies there, regarding which we have but little information, but vague and uncertain as it is, MM. d'Avezac and Gaffarel agree in recognizing its probability.
Having now said a few words upon the travels and settlements of the Northmen in Labrador, Vinland, and the more southern countries, we must return to the north. The colonies first founded in the neighbourhood of Cape Farewell, had not been slow in stretching along the western coast, which at this period was infinitely less desolate than it is at the present day, as far as northern latitudes, which were not again reached until our own day. Thus at this time they caught seals, walrus, and whales in the bay of Disco; there were 190 towns counted then in Westerbygd and eighty-six in Esterbygd, while at the present day, there are far fewer Danish settlements on these icy shores. These towns were probably only inconsiderable groups of those houses in stone and wood, of which so many ruins have been found from Cape Farewell, as far as Upernavik in about 72 degrees 50 minutes. At the same time numerous runic inscriptions, which have now been deciphered, have given a degree of absolute certainty to facts so long unknown. But how many of these vestiges of the past still remain to be discovered! how many of these valuable evidences of the bravery and spirit of enterprise of the Scandinavian race are for ever buried under the glaciers!
We have also obtained evidence that Christianity had been brought into America, and especially into Greenland. To this country, according to the instructions of Pope Gregory IV., there were pastoral visits made to strengthen the newly-converted Northmen in the faith, and to evangelize the Esquimaux and the Indian tribes. Besides this, M. Riant in 1865, has proved incontrovertibly that the Crusades were preached in Greenland in the bishopric of Gardar, as well as in the islands and neighbouring lands, and that up to 1418, Greenland paid to the Holy See tithes and St. Peter's pence, which for that year consisted of 2600 lbs. of walrus tusks.
The Norwegian colonies owe their downfall and ruin to various causes: to the very rapid extension of the glaciers,--Hayes has proved that the glacier of Friar John moves at the rate of about thirty-three yards annually;--to the bad policy of the mother country, which prevented the recruiting of the colonies; to the black plague, which decimated the population of Greenland from 1347 to 1351; lastly, to the depredations of the pirates, who ravaged these already enfeebled countries in 1418, and in whom some have thought they recognized certain inhabitants of the Orkney and Faröe Islands, of which we are now about to speak.
One of the companions of William the Conqueror, named Saint-Clair or Sinclair, not thinking that the portion of the conquered country allotted to him was proportioned to his merits, went to try his luck in Scotland, where he was not long in rising to fortune and honours. In the latter half of the fourteenth century, the Orkney Islands passed into the hands of his descendants.
About 1390, a certain Nicolo Zeno, a member of one of the most ancient and noble Venetian families, who had fitted out a vessel at his own expense, to visit England and Flanders as a matter of curiosity, was wrecked in the archipelago of the Orkneys whither he had been driven by a storm. He was about to be massacred by the inhabitants, when the Earl, Henry Sinclair took him under his protection. The history of this wreck, and the adventures and discoveries which followed it, published in the collection of Ramusio had been written by Antonio Zeno, says Clements Markham, the learned geographer, in his "Threshold of the Unknown Region." Unfortunately one of his descendants named Nicolo Zeno, born in 1515, when a boy, not knowing the value of these papers, tore them up, "but some of the letters surviving, he was able from them subsequently to compile the narrative as we now have it, and which was printed in Venice in 1558. There was also found in the palace an old map, rotten with age, illustrative of his voyages. Of this he made a copy, unluckily supplying from his own reading of the narrative what he thought was requisite for its illustration. By doing this in a blundering way, unaided by the geographical knowledge which enables us to see where he goes astray, he threw the whole of the geography which he derived from the narrative into the most lamentable confusion, while those parts of the map which are not thus sophisticated, and which are consequently original, present an accuracy far in advance by many generations of the geography even of Nicolo Zeno's time, and confirm in a notable manner the site of the old Greenland colony. In these facts we have not only the solution of all the discussions which have arisen on the subject, but the most indisputable proof of the authenticity of the narrative; for it is clear that Nicolo Zeno, junior, could not himself have been the ingenious concocter of a story the straightforward truth of which he could thus ignorantly distort upon the face of the map."
The name of Zichmni, in which writers of the present day, and chief among them Mr. H. Major, who has rescued these facts from the domain of fable, recognize the name of Sinclair--appears to be in fact only applicable to this earl of the Orkneys.
At this time the seas of the north of Europe were infected by Scandinavian pirates. Sinclair, who had recognized in Zeno a clever mariner, attached him to himself, and with him conquered the country of Frisland, the haunt of pirates, who ravaged all the north of Scotland. In the maps at the end of the fifteenth and beginning of the sixteenth century this name is applied to the archipelago of the Faröe Islands, a reasonable indication, for Buache has recognized in the present names of the harbours and islands of this archipelago a considerable number of those given by Zeno; finally the facts which we owe to the Venetian navigator about the waters,--abounding in fish and dangerous from shallows,--which divide this archipelago, are still true at the present day.
Satisfied with his position, Zeno wrote to his brother Antonio to come and join him. While Sinclair was conquering the Faröe Islands, the Norwegian pirates desolated the Shetland Islands, then called Eastland. Nicolo set sail to give them battle, but was himself obliged to fly before their fleet, much more numerous than his own, and to take refuge on a small island on the coast of Iceland.
After wintering in this place Zeno must have landed the following year on the eastern coast of Greenland at 69 degrees north latitude, in a place "where was a monastery of the order of preaching friars, and a church dedicated to St. Thomas. The cells were warmed by a natural spring of hot water, which the monks used to prepare their food and to bake their bread. The monks had also gardens covered over in the winter season, and warmed by the same means, so that they were able to produce flowers, fruits, and herbs as well as if they had lived in a mild climate." There would seem to be some confirmation of these narratives in the fact that between the years 1828-1830 a captain of the Danish navy met with a population of 600 individuals at 69 degrees north latitude, of a purely European type.
But these adventurous travels in countries of which the climate was so different from that of Venice, proved fatal to Zeno, who died a short time after his return to Frisland.
An old sailor, who had returned with the Venetian, and who said he had been for many long years a prisoner in the countries of the extreme west, gave to Sinclair such precise and tempting details of the fertility and extent of these regions, that the latter resolved to attempt their conquest with Antonio Zeno who had rejoined his brother. But the inhabitants showed themselves everywhere so hostile, and opposed such resistance to the strangers landing, that Sinclair after a long and dangerous voyage was obliged to return to Frisland.
These are all the details that have been left to us, and they make us deeply regret the loss of those that Antonio should have furnished in his letters to his father Carlo, on the subject of the countries which Forster and Malto-Brun have thought may be identified with Newfoundland.
Who knows, if in his voyage to England and during his wanderings as far as Thule, Christopher Columbus may not have heard mentioned the ancient expeditions of the Northmen and the Zeni, and if this information may not have appeared to him a strange confirmation of the theories which he held, and of the ideas for whose realization he came to claim the protection of the King of England?
From the collection of facts which have been here briefly given, it follows that America was known to Europeans and had been colonized before the time of Columbus. But in consequence of various circumstances, and foremost among these must be placed the rarity of communication between the people in the north of Europe and those in the south, the discoveries made by the Northmen were only vaguely known in Spain and Portugal. Judging by appearances, we of the present day know much more on this subject than did the fellow-countrymen and contemporaries of Columbus. If the Genoese mariner had been informed of the existence of some rumours, he classed them with the information he had collected in the Cape de Verd Islands and with his classical recollections of the famous Island of Antilia and the Atlantides of Plato. From this information, which came from so many different sides, the certainty awoke within him that the east could be reached by the western route. However it may be, his glory remains whole and entire; he is really the discoverer of America, and not those who were carried thither in spite of themselves by chances of wind and storm, without their having any intention of reaching the shores of Asia, which Christopher Columbus would have done, had not the way been barred by America.
The information that we are about to give on the family of Cortereal, although it may be much more complete than that which can be met with in biographical Dictionaries, is still extremely vague. Nevertheless we must content ourselves with it, for up to this time history has not collected further details concerning this race of intrepid navigators.
Joao Vaz Cortereal was the natural son of a gentleman named Vasco Annes da Costa, who had received the soubriquet of Cortereal from the King of Portugal, on account of the magnificence of his house and followers. Devoted like so many other gentlemen of this period to sea-faring adventure, Joao Vaz had carried off in Gallicia a young girl named Maria de Abarca, who became his wife. After having been gentleman-usher to the Infante don Fernando, he was sent by the king to the North Atlantic, with Alvaro Martins Homem. The two navigators saw an island known from this time by the name of Terra dos Bacalhaos--the land of cod-fish--which must really have been Newfoundland. The date of this discovery is approximately fixed by the fact that on their return, they landed at Terceira and finding the captainship vacant by the death of Jacome de Bruges, they went to ask for it from the Infanta Doña Brites, the widow of the Infante Don Fernando; she bestowed it upon them on condition that they would divide it between them, a fact which is confirmed by a deed of gift dated from Evora the 2nd of April, 1464. Though one cannot guarantee the authenticity of this discovery of America, it is nevertheless an ascertained fact that Cortereal's voyage must have been signalized by some extraordinary event; donations of such importance as this were only made to those who had rendered some great service to the crown.
When Vaz Cortereal was settled at Terceira from 1490 to 1497, he caused a fine palace to be built in the town of Angra, where he lived with his three children. His third son, Gaspard, after having been in the service of King Emmanuel, when the latter was only Duke de Beja had felt himself attracted while still young to the enterprises of discovery which had rendered his father illustrious. By an act dated from Cintra the 12th of March, 1500, King Emmanuel made a gift to Gaspard Cortereal of any islands or terra firma which he might discover, and the king added this valuable information, that "already and at other times he had sought for them on his own account and at his own expense."
For Gaspard Cortereal this was not his first essay. Probably, his researches may have been directed to the parts where his father had discovered the Island of Cod. At his own expense, although with the assistance of the king, Gaspard Cortereal fitted out two vessels at the commencement of the summer of 1500, and after having touched at Terceira, he sailed towards the north-west. His first discovery was of a land of which the fertile and verdant aspect seems to have charmed him. This was Canada. He saw there a great river bearing ice along with it on its course--the St. Lawrence--which some of his companions mistook for an arm of the sea, and to which he gave the name of Rio Nevado. "Its volume is so considerable that it is not probable that this country is an island, besides, it must be completely covered with a very thick coating of snow to produce such a stream of water."
The houses in this country were of wood and covered with skins and furs. The inhabitants were unacquainted with iron, but used swords made of sharpened stones, and their arrows were tipped with fish-bones or stones. Tall and well-made, their faces and bodies were painted in different colours according to taste, they wore golden and copper bracelets, and dressed themselves in garments of fur. Cortereal pursued his voyage and arrived at the Cape of Bacalhaos, "fishes which are found in such great quantities upon this coast that they hinder the advance of the caravels." Then he followed the shore for a stretch of 600 miles, from 56 degrees to 60 degrees, or even more, naming the islands, the rivers, and the gulfs that he met with, as is proved by Terra do Labrador, Bahia de Conceiçao, &c., and landing and holding intercourse with the natives. Severe cold, and a veritable river of gigantic blocks of ice prevented the expedition from going farther north, and it returned to Portugal bringing back with it fifty-seven natives. The very year of his return, on the 15th of May, 1501, Gaspard Cortereal, in pursuance of an order of the 15th of April, received provisions, and left Lisbon in the hope of extending the field of his discoveries. But from this time he is never again mentioned. Michael Cortereal, his brother, who was the first gentleman-usher to the king, then requested and obtained permission to go and seek his brother, and to pursue his enterprise. By an act of the 15th of January, 1502, a deed of gift conveyed to him the half of the terra firma and islands which his brother might have discovered. Setting out on the 10th of May of this year with three vessels, Michael Cortereal reached Newfoundland, where he divided his little squadron, so that each of the vessels might explore the coasts separately, while he fixed the place of rendezvous. But at the time fixed, he did not reappear, and the two other vessels, after waiting for him till the 20th of August, set out on their return to Portugal.
In 1503, the king sent two caravels to try to obtain news of the two brothers, but the search was in vain, and they returned without having acquired any information. When Vasco Annes, the last of the brothers Cortereal, who was captain and governor of the Islands of St. George and Terceira, and alcaide mõr of the town of Tavilla, became acquainted with these sad events, he resolved to fit out a vessel at his own cost, and to go and search for his brothers. The king, however, would not allow him to go, fearing to lose the last of this race of good servants.
Upon the maps of this period, Canada is often indicated by the name of Terra dos Cortereales, a name which is sometimes extended much further south, embracing a great part of North America.
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All that concerns John and Sebastian Cabot has been until recently shrouded by a mist which is not even now completely dissipated, notwithstanding the conscientious labours of Biddle the American in 1831, and of our compatriot M. d'Avezac; as also those of Mr. Nicholls the Englishman, who taking advantage of the discoveries made among the English, Spanish, and Venetian archives, has built up an imposing monument, of which some parts, however, are open to discussion. It is from the two last-named works that we shall draw the materials for this rapid sketch, but principally from Mr. Nicholls' book, which has this advantage over the smaller volume of M. d'Avezac, that it relates the whole life of Sebastian Cabot.
It has been found impossible to determine with certainty either the name or the nationality of John Cabot, and still less to settle the period of his birth. John Cabota, Caboto or Cabot must have been born, if not in Genoa itself, as M. d'Avezac asserts, at least in the neighbourhood of that town, possibly at Castiglione, about the first quarter of the fifteenth century. Some historians have considered that he was an Englishman, and perhaps Mr. Nicholls from national considerations is inclined to adopt this opinion; at least this seems to be the meaning of the expressions used by him. What we do know without room for doubt, is that John Cabot came to London to occupy himself with commerce, and that he soon settled at Bristol, then the second town in the kingdom, in one of the suburbs which had received the name of Cathay, probably from the number of Venetians who resided there, and the trade carried on by them with the countries of the extreme East. It was at Bristol that Cabot's two youngest children were born, Sebastian and Sancho, if we may rely upon the following account given by the old chronicler Eden. "Sebastian Cabot told me that he was born at Bristol, and that at four years of age he went with his father to Venice, returning with him to England some years later; this made people imagine that he was born at Venice." In 1476, John Cabot was at Venice, and there on the 29th of March, he received letters of naturalization, which prove that he was not a native of this city, and that he must have merited the honour by some service rendered to the Republic. M. d'Avezac is inclined to think that he devoted himself to the study of cosmography and navigation, perhaps even in company with the celebrated Florentine, Paul Toscanelli, with whose theories upon the distribution of land and sea on the surface of the globe, he would certainly be acquainted at this time. He may also have heard mention made of the islands situated in the Atlantic, and known by the names of Antilia, the Land of the Seven Cities, or Brazil. What seems more certain is, that his business affairs took him to the Levant, and, it is said, to Mecca, and that while there he would learn from what country came the spices, which then constituted the most important branch of Venetian commerce.
Whatever value we may attach to these speculative theories, it is at least certain that John Cabot founded an important mercantile house at Bristol. His son Sebastian, who in these first voyages had acquired an inclination for the sea, studied navigation, as far as it was then known, and made some excursions on the sea, to render himself as familiar with the practice of this art, as he already was with its theory. "For seven years past," says the Spanish Ambassador in a despatch of the 25th of July, 1498, speaking of an expedition commanded by Cabot, "the people of Bristol have fitted out two, three, or four caravels every year, to go in search of the Island of Brazil, and of the Seven Cities, according to the ideas of the Genoese." At this time the whole of Europe resounded with the fame of the discoveries of Columbus. "It awoke in me," says Sebastian Cabot, in a narrative preserved by Ramusio, "a great desire and a kind of ardour in my heart to do myself also something famous, and knowing by examining the globe, that if I sailed by the west wind I should reach India more rapidly, I at once made my project known to His Majesty, who was much satisfied with it." The king to whom Cabot addressed himself was the same Henry VII. who some years before had refused all support to Christopher Columbus. It is evident that he received with favour the project which John and Sebastian Cabot had just submitted to him; and though Sebastian, in the fragment which we have just quoted, attributes to himself alone all the honour of the project, it is not less true that his father was the promoter of the enterprise, as the following charter shows, which we translate in an abridged form.
"We Henry ... permit our well-beloved Jehan Cabot, citizen of Venice, and Louis, Sebastian, and Sancho, his sons, under our flag and with five vessels of the tonnage and crew which they shall judge suitable, to discover at their own expense and charge ... we grant to them as well as to their heirs and assigns, licence to occupy, possess ... at the charge of, by them, upon the profits, benefits, and advantages, accruing from this navigation, to pay us in merchandise or in money the fifth part of the profit thus obtained, for each of their voyages, every time that they shall return to the port of Bristol (at which port they shall be compelled to land).... We promise and guarantee to them, their heirs and assigns, that they shall be exempt from all custom-house duties on the merchandise which they shall bring from the countries thus discovered.... We command and direct all our subjects, as well on land as on the sea, to render assistance to the said Jehan, and to his sons.... Given at ... the 5th day of March, 1495."
Such was the charter that was granted to John Cabot and his sons upon their return from the American continent, and not as certain authors have pretended, anterior to this voyage. From the time that the news of the discovery made by Columbus had reached England, that is to say, probably in 1493, John and Sebastian Cabot prepared the expedition at their own expense, and set out at the beginning of the year 1494, with the idea of reaching Cathay, and finally the Indies. There can be no doubt upon this point, for in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris is preserved an unique copy of the map engraved in 1544, that is to say, in the lifetime of Sebastian Cabot, which mentions this voyage, and the precise and exact date of the discovery of Cape Breton.
It is probable that we must attribute to the intrigues of the Spanish Ambassador, the delay which occurred in Cabot's expedition, for the whole of the year 1496 passed without the voyage being accomplished.
The following year he set out at the beginning of summer. After having again sighted the Terra Bona-vista, he followed the coast, and was not long in perceiving to his great disappointment that it trended towards the north. "Then, sailing along it to make sure if I could not find some passage, I could not perceive any, and having advanced as far as 56 degrees, and seeing that at this point the land turned towards the east, I despaired of finding any passage, and I put about to examine the coast in this direction towards the equinoctial line, always with the same object of finding a passage to the Indies, and in the end, I reached the country now called Florida, where as provisions were beginning to run short, I resolved to return to England." This narrative, of which we have given the commencement above, was related by Cabot to Fracastor, forty or fifty years after the event. Also, is it not astonishing that Cabot mixes up in it two perfectly distinct voyages, that of 1494, and that of 1497? Let us add some reflections on this narrative. The first land seen was, without doubt, the North Cape, the northern extremity of the island of Cape Breton, and the island which is opposite to it is that of Prince Edward, long known by the name of St. John's Island. Cabot, probably penetrated into the estuary of the St. Lawrence, which he took for an arm of the sea, near to the place where Quebec now stands, and coasted along the northern shore of the gulf, so that he did not see the coast of Labrador stretching away in the east. He took Newfoundland for an archipelago, and continued his course to the south, not doubtless, as far as Florida as he states himself, the time occupied by the voyage making it impossible that he can have descended so low, but as far as Chesapeake Bay. These were the countries which the Spaniards afterwards called "Terra de Estevam Gomez."
On the 3rd of February, 1498, King Henry VII. signed at Westminster some new letters patent. He empowered John Cabot or his representative,--being duly authorized--to take in English ports six vessels of 200 tons' burden, and to procure all that should be required for their equipment, at the same price as if it were for the crown. He was allowed to take on board such master-mariners, pages, and other subjects as might of their own accord wish to go, and pass with him to the recently discovered land and islands. John Cabot bore the expense of the equipment of two vessels, and three others were fitted out at the cost of the merchants of Bristol.
In all probability it was death--a sudden and unexpected death--which prevented John Cabot from taking the command of this expedition. His son Sebastian then assumed the direction of the fleet, which carried 300 men and provisions for a year. After having sighted land at 45 degrees, Sebastian Cabot followed the coast as far as 58 degrees, perhaps even higher, but then it became so cold, and although it was the month of July, there was so much floating ice about, that, it would have been impossible to go further northwards. The days were very long, and the nights excessively light, an interesting detail by which to fix the latitude reached, for we know that below the 60th parallel of latitude the longest days are eighteen hours. These various reasons made Sebastian Cabot decide to put about, and he touched at the Bacalhaos Islands, of which the inhabitants, who were clothed in the skins of animals, were armed with bow and arrows, lance, javelin, and wooden sword. The navigators here caught a great number of cod-fish; they were even so numerous, says an old narrative, that they hindered ships from advancing. After having sailed along the coast of America as far as 38 degrees, Cabot set out for England, where he arrived at the beginning of autumn. This voyage had indeed a threefold object, that of discovery, commerce, and colonization, as is shown by the number of vessels which took part in it and the strength of the crews. Nevertheless it does not appear that Cabot landed any one, or that he made any attempts at forming a settlement, either in Labrador, or in Hudson's Bay--which he was destined to explore more completely in 1517, in the reign of Henry VIII.--or even to the south of the Bacalhaos, known by the general name of Newfoundland. At the close of this expedition, which was almost entirely unproductive, we lose sight of Sebastian Cabot, if not completely, at least so as to be insufficiently informed about his deeds and voyages until 1517. The traveller Hojeda, whose various enterprises we have related above, had left Spain in the month of May, 1499. We know that in this voyage he met with an Englishman at Caquibaco, on the coast of America. Can this have been Cabot? Nothing has come to light to enable us to settle this point; but we may believe that Cabot did not remain idle, and that he would be likely to undertake some fresh expedition: what we do know is, that in spite of the solemn engagements that he had made with Cabot, the King of England granted certain privileges of trading in the countries which he had discovered, to the Portuguese and to the merchants of Bristol. This ungenerous manner of recognizing his services wounded the navigator, and decided him to accept the offers which had been made to him on different occasions, to enter the Spanish service. From the death of Vespucius, which happened in 1512, Cabot was the navigator held in most renown. To attach him to himself, Ferdinand wrote on the 13th of September, 1512, to Lord Willoughby, commander in chief of the troops which had been transported to Italy, to treat with the Venetian navigator.
As soon as he arrived in Castille, Cabot received the rank of captain, by an edict dated the 20th of October, 1512, with a salary of 5000 maravédis. Seville was fixed upon for his residence, until an opportunity might arise of turning his talents and experience to account. There was a plan on foot for his taking the command of a very important expedition, when Ferdinand the Catholic died, on the 23rd of January, 1516. Cabot returned at once to England, having probably obtained leave of absence. Eden tells us that the following year Cabot was appointed with Sir Thomas Pert to the command of a fleet which was to reach China by the north-west. On the 11th of June, he was in Hudson's Bay at 67-1/2 degrees of latitude; the sea free from ice spread itself out before him so far that he reckoned upon success in his enterprise, when the faintheartedness of his companion, together with the cowardice and mutinous spirit of the crews, who refused to go any further, obliged him to return to England. In his Theatrum orbis terrarum, Ortelius traces the shape of Hudson's Bay as it really is; he even indicates at its northern extremity a strait leading northwards. How can the geographer have attained to such exactness? "Who," says Mr. Nicholls, "can have given him the information set forth in his map, if not Cabot?"
On his return to England, Cabot found the country ravaged by a horrible plague, which put a stop even to commercial transactions. Soon, either because the time of his leave had expired, or that he wished to escape from the pestilence, or that he was recalled to Spain, the Venetian navigator returned to that country. In 1518, on the 5th of February, Cabot was made pilot-major, with a salary which, added to that which he already had, made a total of 125,000 maravédis, say, 300 ducats. He did not actually exercise the functions of his office till Charles V. returned from England. His principal duty consisted in examining pilots, who were not allowed to go to the Indies until after having passed this examination.
This epoch was by no means favourable to great maritime expeditions. The struggle between France and Spain absorbed all the resources both in men and money, of these two countries--Cabot too, who seems to have adopted science for his fatherland, much more than any particular country, made some overtures to Contarini, the Ambassador of Venice, to take service on board the fleets of the Republic; but when the favourable answer of the Council of Ten arrived, he had other projects in his head, and did not carry his attempt any further.
In the month of April, 1524, Cabot presided at a conference of mariners and cosmographers, which met at Badajoz, to discuss the question whether the Moluccas belonged, according to the celebrated treaty of Tordesillas, to Spain or Portugal. On the 31st of May, it was decided that the Moluccas were within the Spanish waters, by 20 degrees. Perhaps this resolution of the junta of which Cabot was president, and which again placed in the hands of Spain a great part of the spice trade, was not without its influence upon the resolutions of the council of the Indies. However this may be, in the month of September of the same year Cabot was authorized to take the command of three vessels of 100 tons, and a small caravel, carrying together 150 men, with the title of captain-general.
The declared aim of this voyage was to pass through the Strait of Magellan, carefully to explore the western coast of America, and to reach the Moluccas, where they would take in on their return a cargo of spices. The month of August, 1525, had been fixed upon as the date of departure, but the intrigues of Portugal succeeded in delaying it until April, 1526.
Different circumstances seem from this moment to have augured ill for the voyage. Cabot had only a nominal authority, and the association of merchants who had defrayed the expenses of the equipment not accepting him willingly as chief, had found means to oppose all the plans of the Venetian sailor. Thus it was that in place of the man whom he had appointed as second in command, another was imposed upon him, and that instructions destined to be unsealed when at sea were delivered to each captain. They contained this absurd arrangement, that in case of the death of the captain-general, eleven individuals were to succeed him each in his turn. Was not this an encouragement given to assassination?
Scarcely was the fleet out of sight of land, when discontent appeared. The rumour spread that the captain-general was not equal to his task; then as they saw that these calumnies did not affect him, they pretended that the flotilla was already short of provisions. The mutiny broke out as soon as land was reached, but Cabot was not the man to allow himself to be annihilated by it; he had suffered too much from Sir Thomas Pert's cowardice to bear such an insult. In order to nip the evil in the bud, he had the mutinous captains seized, and notwithstanding their reputation and the brilliancy of their past services, he made them get into a boat, and abandoned them on the shore. Four months afterwards they had the good luck to be picked up by a Portuguese expedition, which seems to have had orders to thwart the plans of Cabot.
The Venetian navigator then penetrated into the Rio de la Plata, the exploration of which had been commenced by his predecessor the Pilot-major de Solis. The expedition was not then composed of more than two vessels, one having been lost during the voyage. Cabot sailed up the Argent River, and discovered an island which he called Francis Gabriel, and upon which he built the fort of San Salvador, entrusting the command of it to Antonio de Grajeda. Cabot had the keel removed from one of his caravels, and with it, being towed by his small boats, entered the Parana, built a new fort at the confluence of the Carcarama and Terceiro, and after having thus secured his line of retreat he pursued the course of these rivers farther into the interior. Arriving at the confluence of the Parana and Paraguay, he followed the second, the direction of which agreed best with his project of reaching the region of the west where silver was to be obtained. But it was not long before the aspect of the country changed, and the attitude of the inhabitants altered also. Until now, they had collected in crowds, astonished at the sight of the vessels; but upon the cultivated shores of the Paraguay they courageously opposed the strangers' landing, and three Spaniards having tried to knock down the fruit from a palm-tree, a struggle took place, in which 300 natives lost their lives. This victory had disabled twenty-five Spaniards. It was too much for Cabot, who rapidly removed his wounded to the fort San Spirito and retired, still presenting a bold front to the enemy.
Cabot had already sent two of his companions to the Emperor, to acquaint him with the attempt at revolt of the captains, to explain to him the motives which obliged him to modify the course marked out for his voyage, and to request aid from him, both in men and provisions. The answer arrived at last. The Emperor approved of what Cabot had done, and ordered him to colonize the country in which he had just made a settlement, but did not send him either one man or a single maravédi. Cabot tried to procure the resources which he needed in the country, and caused some attempts at cultivation to be commenced. At the same time, to keep his troops in exercise, he reduced the neighbouring nations to obedience, had some forts built, and again sailing up the Paraguay he reached Potosi, and the water-courses of the Andes which feed the basin of the Atlantic. At last he prepared to enter Peru, from whence came the gold and silver which he had seen in the possession of the natives; but it needed more troops than he could muster, to attempt the conquest of this vast region. The Emperor, however, was quite unable to send him any. His European wars absorbed all his resources, the Cortez refused to vote new subsidies and the Moluccas had just been pledged to Portugal. In this state of affairs, after having occupied the country for five years, and waited all this time for the assistance which never came, Cabot decided to evacuate a part of his settlements, and he returned with some of his people to Spain. The rest, amounting to 120, men who were left to guard the fort of San Spirito, after many vicissitudes which cannot be related here, perished by the hands of the Indians, or were obliged to take refuge in the Portuguese settlements on the coast of Brazil. It is to the horses imported by Cabot that is due the wonderful race of wild horses which may be seen in large troops on the pampas of La Plata at the present day; this was the only result of the expedition.
Some time after his return to Spain, Cabot resigned his office, and went to Bristol, where he settled about 1548, that is to say at the beginning of the reign of Edward VI. What were the motives of this fresh change? Was Cabot discontented at having been left to his own resources during his expedition? Was he hurt at the manner in which his services were recompensed? It is impossible to say. But Charles V. took advantage of Cabot's departure to deprive him of his pension, which Edward VI. hastened to replace, causing him to receive 250 marks annually, about 116l. and a fraction, which was a considerable sum for that period.
The post which Cabot occupied in England seems to be best expressed by the name of Intendant of the Navy; under the authority of the king and council, he appears to have superintended all maritime affairs. He issues licences, he examines pilots, he frames instructions, he draws maps, a varied and complicated function for which he possessed the rare gift of both practical and theoretical knowledge. At the same time he instructed the young king in cosmography, explained to him the variation of the compass, and was successful in interesting him in nautical matters, and in the glory resulting from maritime discoveries. It was a high and almost unique situation. Cabot used it to put into execution a project which he had long cherished.
At this period, we may almost say there was no trade in England. All commerce was in the hands of the Hanseatic towns, Antwerp, Hamburg, Bremen, &c. These companies of merchants had, on various occasions, obtained considerable reductions in import duties, and had ended by monopolizing the English trade. Cabot held that Englishmen possessed as good qualifications as these merchants for becoming manufacturers, and that the already powerful navy which England possessed might assist marvellously in the export of the products of the soil and of the manufactures. What was the use of having recourse to strangers when people could do their own business? If they had been unable up to this time to reach Cathay and India by the north-west, might they not endeavour to reach it by the north-east. And if they did not succeed, would they not find in this direction more commercial, and more civilized people than the miserable Esquimaux on the coast of Labrador and Newfoundland?
Cabot assembled some leading London merchants, laid his projects before them, and formed them into an association, of which on the 14th of December, 1551, he was named president for life. At the same time he exerted himself most vigorously with the king, and having made him understand the wrong which the monopoly enjoyed by strangers did to his own subjects, he obtained its abolition on the 23rd of February, 1551, and inaugurated the practice of free trade.
The Association of English Merchants, under the name of "Merchant Adventurers," hastened to have some vessels built, adapted to the difficulties to be encountered in the navigation of the Arctic regions. The first improvement which the English marine owed to Cabot was the sheathing of the keels, which he had seen done in Spain, but which had not hitherto been practised in England.
A flotilla of three vessels was assembled at Deptford. They were the Buona-Speranza, of which the command was given to Sir Hugh Willoughby, a brave gentleman who had earned a high reputation in war; the Buona-Confidencia, Captain Cornil Durforth; and the Bonaventure, Captain Richard Chancellor, a clever sailor, and a particular friend of Cabot's; he received the title of pilot-major. The sailing-master of the Bonaventure was Stephen Burrough, an accomplished mariner, who was destined to make numerous voyages in the North seas, and later to become pilot in chief for England.
Although age and his important duties prevented Cabot from placing himself at the head of the expedition, he wished at least, to preside over all the details of the equipment. He himself wrote out the instructions, which have been preserved, and which prove the prudence and skill of this distinguished navigator. He there recommends the use of the log-line, an instrument intended to measure the speed of the vessel, and he desires that the journal of the events happening at sea may be kept with regularity, and that all information as to the character, manners, habits, and resources of the people visited, and the productions of the country, may be recorded in writing. The sailors were to offer no violence to the natives, but to act towards them with courtesy. All blasphemy and swearing was to be punished with severity, and also drunkenness. The religious exercises are prescribed, prayers are to be said morning and evening, and the Holy Scriptures are to be read once in the day. Cabot ends by recommending union and concord above all, and reminds the captains of the greatness of their enterprise, and the honour which they might hope to gain; finally he promises them to add his prayers to theirs for the success of their common work.
The squadron set sail on the 20th of May, 1558, in presence of the court assembled at Greenwich, amid an immense concourse of people, after fêtes and rejoicings, at which the king, who was ill, could not be present. Near the Loffoden Islands, on the coast of Norway at the bearing of Wardhous, the squadron was separated from the Bonaventure. Carried away by the storm, Willoughby's two vessels touched, without doubt, at Nova Zembla, and were forced by the ice to return southwards. On the 18th of September, they entered the port formed by the mouth of the River Arzina in East Lapland. Some time afterwards, the Buona-Confidencia, separated from Willoughby by a fresh tempest, returned to England. As to the latter, some Russian fishermen found his vessel the following year, in the midst of the ice. The whole crew had died of cold. This, at least, is what we are led to suppose from the journal kept by the unfortunate Willoughby up to the month of January, 1554.
Chancellor, after having waited in vain for his two consorts at the rendezvous which had been agreed upon in case of separation, thought they must have outsailed him, and rounding the North Cape, he entered a vast gulf which was none other than the White Sea; he then landed at the mouth of the Dwina, near the monastery of St. Nicholas, on the spot upon which the town of Archangel was soon to stand. The inhabitants of these desolate places told him that the country was under the dominion of the Grand Duke of Russia. Chancellor resolved at once to go to Moscow, in spite of the enormous distance which separated him from it. The Czar then on the throne was Ivan IV. Wassiliewitch, called the Terrible. For some time before this, the Russians had shaken off the Tartar yoke, and Ivan had united all the petty rival principalities in one body politic, of which the power was already becoming considerable. The situation of Russia, exclusively continental, far from any frequented sea, isolated from the rest of Europe, of which it did not yet form part, so much were its habits and manners still Asiatic, promised success to Chancellor.
The Czar, who up to this time, had not been able to procure European merchandise, except by way of Poland, and who wished to gain access to the German seas, saw with pleasure the attempts of the English to establish a trade which would be beneficial to both parties. He not only received Chancellor courteously, but he made him most advantageous offers, granted him great privileges and encouraged him, by the kindness of his reception, to repeat his voyage. Chancellor sold his merchandise to great advantage, and after taking on board another cargo of furs, of seal and whale oils, copper, and other products, returned to England, carrying a letter from the Czar. The advantages which the Company of Merchant Adventurers had derived from this first voyage, encouraged them to attempt a second. So Chancellor the following year, made a fresh voyage to Archangel, and took two of the Company's agents to Russia, who concluded an advantageous treaty with the Czar. Then he set out again for England with an ambassador and his suite, sent by Ivan to Great Britain. Of the four vessels which composed the flotilla, one was lost on the coast of Norway, another as it left Drontheim, and the Bonaventure, on board of which were Chancellor and the ambassador, foundered in the Bay of Pitsligo, on the east coast of Scotland on the 10th of November, 1556. Chancellor was drowned in the wreck, being less fortunate than the Muscovite ambassador, who had the good luck to escape; but the presents and merchandise which he was carrying to England were lost.
Such was the commencement of the Anglo-Russian Company. A goodly number of expeditions succeeded each other in those parts, but it would be beside our purpose to give an account of them. Let us now return to Cabot.
It was in 1554 that Queen Mary of England was married to Philip II., King of Spain. When the latter came to England he showed himself very ill-disposed towards Cabot, who had abandoned the service of Spain, and who, at this very moment was procuring for England a commerce which would soon immensely increase the maritime power of an already formidable country. Thus we are not surprised to learn that eight days after the landing of the King of Spain, Cabot was forced to resign his office and his pension, both of which had been bestowed upon him for life by Edward VI. Worthington was nominated in his place. Mr. Nicholls thinks that this dishonourable man, who had had some quarrels with the law, had a secret mission to seize among Cabot's plans, maps, instructions, and projects, those which could be of use to Spain. The fact is that all these documents are now lost, at least unless they may yet be discovered among the archives of Simancas.
At the end of this period, history completely loses sight of the old mariner. The same mystery which hangs over his birth, also envelopes the place and date of his death. His immense discoveries, his cosmographical works, his study of the variations of the magnetic needle, his wisdom, his humane disposition, and his honourable conduct, place Sebastian Cabot in the foremost rank among discoverers. A figure lost in the shadow and vagueness of legends until our own day, Cabot owes it to his biographers, to Biddle, D'Avezac, and Nicholls, that he is now better known, more highly appreciated, and for the first time really placed in the light.
John Verrazzano--Jacques Cartier and his three voyages to Canada-- The town of Hochelaga--Tobacco--The scurvy--Voyage of Roberval-- Martin Frobisher and his voyages--John Davis--Barentz and Heemskerke--Spitzbergen--Winter season at Nova Zembla--Return to Europe--Relics of the Expedition.
From 1492 to 1524, France had stood aloof, officially at least, from enterprises of discovery and colonization. But Francis I. could not look on quietly while the power of his rival Charles V. received a large addition by the conquest of Mexico. He therefore ordered John Verrazzano, a Venetian who was in his service, to make a voyage of exploration. We will pause here for a short time, although the various places may have already been visited on several occasions, because for the first time the banner of France floats over the shores of the New World. This exploration besides, was to prepare the way for those of Jacques Cartier and of Champlain in Canada, as well as for the unlucky experiments in colonization of Jean Ribaut, and of Laudonnière, the sanguinary voyage of reprisals of Gourgues, and Villegagnon's attempt at a settlement in Brazil.
We possess no biographical details with regard to Verrazzano. Under what circumstances did he enter the service of France? What was his title to the command of such an expedition? Nothing is known of the Venetian traveller, for all we possess of his writings is the Italian translation of his report to Francis I. published in the collection of Ramusio. The French translation of this Italian translation exists in an abridged form in Lescarbot's work on New France and in the Histoire des Voyages. For our very rapid epitome we shall make use of the Italian text of Ramusio, except in some passages where Lescarbot's translation has appeared to give an idea of the rich, original, and marvellously modulated language of the sixteenth century.
Having set out with four vessels to make discoveries in the ocean, says Verrazzano in a letter written from Dieppe to Francis I. on the 8th July, 1524, he was forced by a storm to take refuge in Brittany with two of his vessels, the Dauphine and the Normande, there to repair damages. Thence he set sail for the coast of Spain, where he seems to have given chase to some Spanish vessels. We see him leave with the Dauphine alone on the 17th of January, 1524, a small inhabited island in the neighbourhood of Madeira, and launch himself upon the ocean with a crew of fifty men, well furnished with provisions and ammunition for an eight months' voyage.
Twenty-five days later he has made 1500 miles to the west, when he is assailed by a fearful storm; and twenty-five days afterwards, that is to say on the 8th or 9th of March, having made about 1200 miles, he discovers land at 30 degrees north latitude, which he thought had never been previously explored. "When we arrived, it seemed to us to be very low, but on approaching within a quarter of a league we saw by the great fires which were lighted along the harbours and borders of the sea, that it was inhabited, and in taking trouble to find a harbour in which to land and make acquaintance with the country, we sailed more than 150 miles in vain, so that seeing the coast trended ever southwards, we decided to turn back again." The Frenchmen finding a favourable landing-place, perceived a number of natives who came towards them, but who fled away when they saw them land. Soon recalled by the friendly signs and demonstrations of the French, they showed great surprise at their clothes, their faces, and the whiteness of their skin. The natives were entirely naked, except that the middle of the body was covered with sable-skins, hung from a narrow girdle of prettily woven grasses, and ornamented with tails of other animals, which fell to their knees. Some wore crowns of birds' feathers. "They have brown skins," says the narrative, "and are exactly like the Saracens; their hair is black, not very long, and tied at the back of the head in the form of a small tail. Their limbs are well proportioned, they are of middle height, although a little taller than ourselves, and have no other defect beyond their faces being rather broad; they are not strong, but they are agile, and some of the greatest and quickest runners in the world." It was impossible for Verrazzano to collect any details about the manners and mode of life of these people, on account of the short time that he remained among them. The shore at this place was composed of fine sand interspersed here and there with little sandy hillocks, behind which were scattered "groves and very thick forests which were wonderfully pleasant to look upon." There were in this country, as far as we could judge, abundance of stags, fallow deer and hares, numerous lakes, and streams of sparkling water, as well as a quantity of birds.
This land lies at 34 degrees. It is therefore the part of the United States which now goes by the name of Carolina. The air there is pure and salubrious, the climate temperate, the sea is entirely without rocks, and in spite of the want of harbours it is not unfavourable for navigators.
During the whole month of March the French sailed along the coast, which seemed to them to be inhabited by a numerous population. The want of water forced them to land several times, and they perceived that the savages were most pleased with mirrors, bells, knives, and sheets of paper. One day they sent a long-boat ashore with twenty-five men in it. A young sailor jumped into the water "because he could not land on account of the waves and currents, in order to give some small articles to these people, and having thrown them to them from a distance because he was distrustful of the natives, he was cast violently on shore by the waves. The Indians seeing him in this condition, take him and carry him far away from the sea, to the great dismay of the poor sailor, who expected they were about to sacrifice him. Having placed him at the foot of a little hill, in the full blaze of the sun, they stripped him quite naked and wondered at the whiteness of his skin; then lighting a large fire they made him come to it and recover his strength, and it was then that the poor young man as well as those who were in the boat, thought that the Indians were about to massacre and immolate him, roasting his flesh in this large brazier and then eating their victim, as do the cannibals. But it happened quite differently; for having shown a desire to return to the boat they reconducted him to the edge of the sea, and having kissed him very lovingly, they retired to a hill to see him re-enter the boat."
Continuing to follow the shore northwards for more than 150 miles, the Frenchmen reached a land which seemed to them more beautiful, being covered with thick woods. Into these forests, twenty men penetrated for more than six miles and only returned to the shore from the fear of losing themselves. In this walk, having met two women, one young and the other old, with some children, they seized one of the latter who might be about eight years old, with the idea of taking him away to France; but they could not do the same with the young woman, who began to cry with all her might, calling for aid from her compatriots, who were hidden in the wood. In this place the savages were whiter than any of those hitherto met with; they snared birds and used a bow of very hard wood, and arrows tipped with fish-bones. Their canoes, twenty feet long and four feet wide, were hollowed by fire out of a trunk of a tree. Wild vines abounded and climbed over the trees in long festoons as they do in Lombardy. With a little cultivation they would no doubt produce excellent wine--"for the fruit is sweet and pleasant like ours, and we thought that the natives were not insensible to it, for in all directions where these vines grew, they had taken care to cut away the branches of the surrounding trees so that the fruit might ripen." Wild roses, lilies, violets, and all kinds of odoriferous plants and flowers, new to the Europeans, carpeted the ground everywhere, and filled the air with sweet perfumes.
After remaining for three days in this enchanting place, the Frenchmen continued to follow the coast northwards, sailing by day and casting anchor at night. As the land trended towards the east, they went 150 miles further in that direction, and discovered an island of triangular shape about thirty miles distant from the continent, similar in size to the Island of Rhodes, and upon which they bestowed the name of the mother of Francis I., Louisa of Savoy. Then they reached another island forty-five miles off, which possessed a magnificent harbour and of which the inhabitants came in crowds to visit the strange vessels. Two kings, especially, were of fine stature and great beauty. They were dressed in deer-skins, with the head bare, the hair carried back and tied in a tuft, and they wore on the neck a large chain ornamented with coloured stones. This was the most remarkable nation which they had until now met with. "The women are graceful," says the narrative published by Ramusio. "Some wore the skins of the lynx on their arms; their head was ornamented with their plaited hair and long plaits hung down on both sides of the chest; others had headdresses which recalled those of the Egyptian and Syrian women; only the elderly women, and those who were married, wore pendants in their ears of worked copper." This land is situated on the same parallel as Rome, in 41 degrees 40 minutes, but its climate is much colder.
On the 5th of May, Verrazzano left this port and sailed along the sea-shore for 450 miles. At last he reached a country of which the inhabitants resembled but little any of those whom he had hitherto met with. They were so wild that it was impossible to carry on any trade with them, or any sustained intercourse. What they appeared to esteem above everything else were fish-hooks, knives, and all articles in metal, attaching no value to all the trifling baubles which up to this time had served for barter. Twenty-five armed men landed and advanced from four to six miles into the interior of the country. They were received by the natives with flights of arrows, after which the latter retired into the immense forests which appeared to cover the whole country.
One hundred and fifty miles further on spreads out a vast archipelago composed of thirty-two islands, all near the land, separated by narrow canals, which reminded the Venetian navigator of the archipelagos which in the Adriatic border the coasts of Sclavonia and Dalmatia. At length, 450 miles further on, in latitude 50 degrees, the French came to lands which had been previously discovered by the Bretons. Finding themselves then short of provisions, and having reconnoitred the coast of America for a distance of 2100 miles, they returned to France, and disembarked safely at Dieppe in the month of July, 1524.
Some historians relate that Verrazzano was made prisoner by the savages who inhabit the coast of Labrador, and was eaten by them. A fact which is simply impossible, since he addressed from Dieppe to Francis I. the account of his voyage which we have just abridged. Besides, the Indians of these regions were not anthropophagi. Certain authors, but we have not been able to discover on the authority of what documents, nor under what circumstances this happened, relate that Verrazzano having fallen into the power of the Spaniards, had been taken to Spain and there hanged. It is wiser to admit that we know nothing certain about Verrazzano, and that we are totally ignorant what rewards his long voyage procured for him. Perhaps when some learned man shall have looked through our archives (of which the abstract and inventory are far from being finished), he may recover some new documents; but for the present we must confine ourselves to the narrative of Ramusio.
Ten years later a captain of St. Malo, named Jacques Cartier, born on the 21st of December, 1484, conceived the project of establishing a colony in the northern part of America. Being favourably received by Admiral Philippe de Chabot, and by Francis I., who asked to see the clause in Adam's will which disinherited him of the New World in favour of the kings of Spain and Portugal, Cartier left St. Malo with two vessels on the 20th of April, 1534. The vessel which carried him weighed only sixty tons and carried a crew of sixty-one men. At the end of only twenty days, so favourable was the voyage, Cartier discovered Newfoundland at Cape Bonavista. He then went northwards as far as Bird Island, which he found surrounded by ice, all broken up and melting, but on which he was able, nevertheless, to lay in a stock of five or six tons of guillemots, puffins, and penguins, without reckoning those which were eaten fresh. He then explored all the coast of the island, which at this time bore a number of Breton names, thus proving the assiduous manner in which the French frequented these shores. Then penetrating into the Strait of Belle-Isle, which separates the continent from the Island of Newfoundland, Cartier arrived at the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Along the whole of this coast the harbours are excellent: "If the land only corresponded to the goodness of the harbours," says the St. Malo sailor, "it would be a great blessing; but one ought not to call it land; it is rather pebbles and savage rocks and places fit for wild beasts: as for all the land towards the north, I never saw as much earth there as would fill a tumbrel." After having coasted along the continent, Cartier was cast by a tempest upon the west coast of Newfoundland, where he explored Cape Royal and Cape Milk, the Columba Islands, Cape St. John, the Magdalen Islands, and the Bay of Miramichi on the continent. In this place he had some intercourse with the savages, who showed "a great and marvellous eagerness in the acquisition of iron tools and other things, always dancing and performing various ceremonies, among others throwing sea-water on their heads with their hands; so well did they receive us that they gave us all that they had, keeping back nothing." The next day the number of the savages was even greater, and our French sailors made an ample harvest of furs and skins of animals.
After having explored the Bay of Chaleurs, Cartier arrived at the entrance of the estuary of the St. Lawrence, where he saw some natives, who possessed neither the appearance nor the language of the first. "The latter may truly be called savages, for no poorer people can be found in the world, and I think that all put together, excepting their boats and their nets, they could not have had the value of two pence half-penny. They have the head entirely shaved, with the exception of a lock of hair on the very top, which they allow to grow as long as a horse's tail, and which they fasten upon the head with some small copper needles. Their only dwelling is underneath their boats, which they overturn and then stretch themselves on the ground beneath them without any covering."
After having planted a large cross in this place, Jacques Cartier obtained the chief's permission to take away with him two of his children, whom he was to bring back again on his next voyage. Then he set out again for France, and landed at St. Malo on the 5th of September, 1534.
The following year, on the 19th of May, Cartier left St. Malo at the head of a fleet composed of three vessels called the Grande and the Petite Hermine and the Emerillon on board of which some gentlemen of high rank had taken passages, among whom may be named Charles de la Pommeraye, and Claude de Pont-Briant, son of the Sieur de Moncevelles and cup-bearer to the Dauphin.
Very soon the squadron was dispersed by the storm, and could not be brought together again until it reached Newfoundland. After having landed at Bird Island, in Whitesand harbour, which is in Castle Bay, Cartier penetrated into the Bay of St. Lawrence. He discovered there the Island of Natiscotec which we call Anticosti, and entered a great river called Hochelaga, which leads to Canada. On the banks of this river lies the country called Saguenay, whence comes the red copper, to which the two savages whom he had taken on his first voyage gave the name of caquetdazé. But before entering the St. Lawrence, Cartier wished to explore the whole gulf, to see if no passage existed to the north. He afterwards returned to the Bay of the Seven Islands, went up the river, and soon reached the river Saguenay, which falls into the St. Lawrence on its northern bank. A little further on, after passing by fourteen islands, he entered the Canadian territories, which no traveller before him had ever visited.
"The next day the lord of Canada, called Donnacona, with twelve boats and accompanied by sixteen men, approached the ships. When abreast of the smallest of our vessels he began to make a palaver or preachment in their fashion, while moving his body and limbs in a marvellous manner, which is a sign of joy and confidence, and when he arrived at the flag-ship where were the two Indians who had been brought back from France, the said chief spoke to them and they to him. And they began to relate to him what they had seen in France and the good treatment which they had received, at which the said chief was very joyful, and begged the captain to give him his arms that he might kiss and embrace them, which is their mode of welcome in this country. The country of Stadaconé, or St. Charles, is fertile and full of very fine trees of the same nature and kind as in France, such as oaks, elms, plum-trees, yews, cedars, vines, hawthorns--which bear fruit as large as damsons--and other trees; beneath them grows hemp as good as that of France." Cartier succeeded afterwards in reaching with his boats and his galleon a place which is the Richelieu of the present day, next, a great lake formed by the river--St. Peter's Lake--and at last he arrived at Hochelaga or Montreal, which is 630 miles from the mouth of the St. Lawrence. In this place are "ploughed lands and large and beautiful plains full of the corn of the country, which is like the millet of Brazil, as large or larger than peas, on which they live as we do on wheat. And among these plains is placed and seated the said town of Hochelaga near to and joining on to some high ground which is around the town; and which is well cultivated and quite small; from the top of it one can see very far. We named this mountain the Mount Royal."
The welcome given to Jacques Cartier could not have been more cordial. The chief or Agouhanna, who was crippled in all his limbs, begged the captain to touch them, as if he had asked him for a cure. Then the blind, and those who were blind in one eye, the lame, and the impotent came and sat down near Jacques Cartier, that he might touch them, so thoroughly were they persuaded that he was a god descended to heal them. "The said captain, seeing the faith and piety of this people, recited the Gospel of St. John, namely: In principio, making the sign of the cross over the poor sick people, praying GOD that he would give them the knowledge of our holy faith and grace to accept Christianity and baptism. Then the said captain took a book of Hours and read aloud the Passion of our Saviour, so well that all those present could hear it, all the poor people being quite silent, looking up to heaven and using the same ceremonies as they saw us use." After making themselves acquainted with the country, which could be seen for ninety miles around from the top of Mount Royal, and having collected some information about the water-falls and rapids of the St. Lawrence, Jacques Cartier returned towards Canada, where he did not delay to rejoin his ships. We owe to him the first information on tobacco for smoking, which does not seem to have been in use throughout the whole extent of the New World. "They have a herb," he says, "of which they collect great quantities during the summer for the winter; they esteem it highly, and the men alone use it in the following manner: they dry it in the sun and carry it on their necks in a small skin of an animal in the shape of a bag, with a horn of stone or of wood, then constantly they make the said herb into powder, and put it into one of the ends of the said horn; they then place a live coal upon it and blow through the other end, and so fill their body with smoke that it issues from the mouth and nostrils, as if from the shaft of a chimney. We have tried the said smoke, but after having put it into our mouths, it seemed as if there were ground pepper in them, so hot is it." In the month of December the inhabitants of Stadaconé were attacked by an infectious disease which proved to be the scurvy. "This malady spread so rapidly in our vessels that by the middle of February out of our 110 men there were but ten in good health." Neither prayers, nor orisons, nor vows to our Lady of Roquamadour brought any relief. Twenty-five Frenchmen perished up to the 18th of April, and there were not four amongst them who were not attacked by the malady. But at this time a savage chief informed Jacques Cartier that a decoction of the leaves and sap of a certain tree, probably either the Canadian fir-tree or the barberry, was very salutary. As soon as two or three had experienced its beneficial effects "there was a crowding as if they would have killed each other to be the first to get the medicine; and one of the tallest and largest trees I ever saw was used in less than eight days, which had such an effect that if all the doctors of Louvain and Montpellier had been there with all the drugs of Alexandria, they had not done as much in a year as the said tree accomplished in eight days."
Some time after, Cartier, having noticed that Donnacona was trying to excite sedition against the French, caused him to be seized, as well as nine other savages, that he might take them to France, where they died. He set sail from the harbour of St. Croix on the 6th of May, descended the St. Lawrence, and after a voyage which was not marked by any incident, he landed at St. Malo on the 16th of July, 1536.
Francis I., in consequence of the report of this voyage which the St. Malo captain made to him, resolved to take effective possession of the country. After having appointed François de la Roque, Sieur de Roberval, viceroy of Canada, he caused five vessels to be fitted out, which being laden with provisions and ammunition for two years, were to transport Roberval and a certain number of soldiers, artizans, and gentlemen to the new colony, which they were about to establish. The five vessels set sail on the 23rd of May, 1541. They met with such contrary winds that it took them three months to reach Newfoundland. Cartier did not arrive at the harbour of St. Croix till the 23rd of August. As soon as he had landed his provisions, he sent back two of his vessels to France with letters for the king, telling him what had been done, also that the Sieur de Roberval had not yet appeared, and that they did not know what had happened to him. Then he had works commenced to clear the land, to build a fort, and to lay the first foundations of the town of Quebec. He next set out for Hochelaga, taking with him Martin de Paimpont and other gentlemen, and went to examine the three waterfalls of Sainte Marie, La Chine, and St. Louis; on his return to St. Croix, he found Roberval had just arrived. Cartier returned to St. Malo in the month of October, 1542, where, probably ten years later, he died. As to the new colony, Roberval having perished in a second voyage, it vegetated, and was nothing more than a factory until 1608, the date of the foundation of Quebec by M. de Champlain, of whom we shall relate the services and discoveries a little further on.
We have just seen how Cartier, who had set out first to seek for the north-west passage, had been led to take possession of the country and to lay the foundations of the colony of Canada. In England a similar movement had begun, set on foot by the writings of Sir Humphrey Gilbert and of Richard Wills. They ended by carrying public opinion with them, and demonstrating that it was not more difficult to find this passage than it had been to discover the Strait of Magellan. One of the most ardent partizans of this search was a bold sailor, called Martin Frobisher, who after having many times applied to rich ship-owners, at last found in Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, the favourite of Queen Elizabeth, a patron, whose pecuniary help enabled him to equip a pinnace and two poor barks of from twenty to twenty-five tons' burden. It was with means thus feeble, that the intrepid navigator went to encounter the ice in localities which had never been visited since the time of the Northmen. Setting out from Deptford on the 8th of June, 1576, he sighted the south of Greenland, which he took for the Frisland of Zeno. Soon stopped by the ice, he was obliged to return to Labrador without being able to land there, and he entered Hudson's Straits. After having coasted along Savage and Resolution Islands, he entered a strait which has received his name, but which is also called by some geographers, Lunley's inlet. He landed at Cumberland, took possession of the country in the name of Queen Elizabeth, and entered into some relations with the natives. The cold increased rapidly, and he was obliged to return to England. Frobisher only brought back some rather vague scientific and geographical details about the countries which he had visited; he received, however, a most flattering welcome when he showed a heavy black stone in which a little gold was found. At once all imaginations were on fire. Several lords and the Queen herself contributed to the expense of a new armament, consisting of a vessel of 200 tons, with a crew of 100 men, and two smaller barks, which carried six months' provision both for war and for nourishment. Frobisher had some experienced sailors--Fenton, York, George Best, and C. Hall, under his command. On the 31st of May, 1577, the expedition set sail, and soon sighted Greenland, of which the mountains were covered with snow, and the shores defended by a rampart of ice. The weather was bad. Exceedingly dense fogs,--as thick as pease-soup, said the English sailors,--islands of ice a mile and a half in circumferance, floating mountains which were sunk seventy or eighty fathoms in the sea, such were the obstacles which prevented Frobisher from reaching before the 9th of August, the strait which he had discovered during his previous campaign. The English took possession of the country, and pursued both upon land and sea some poor Esquimaux, who, wounded "in this encounter, jumped in despair from the top of the rocks into the sea," says Forster in his Voyages in the North, "which would not have happened if they had shown themselves more submissive, or if we could have made them understand that we were not their enemies." A great quantity of stones similar to that which had been brought to England were soon discovered. They were of gold marcasite, and 200 tons of this substance was soon collected. In their delight, the English sailors set up a memorial column on a peak to which they gave the name of Warwick Mount, and performed solemn acts of thanksgiving. Frobisher afterwards went ninety miles further on in the same strait, as far as a small island, which received the name of Smith's Island. There the English found two women, of whom they took one with her child, but left the other on account of her extreme ugliness. Suspecting, so much did superstition and ignorance flourish at this time, that this woman had cloven feet, they made her take the coverings off her feet, to satisfy themselves that they really were made like their own. Frobisher, now perceiving that the cold was increasing, and wishing to place the treasures which he thought he had collected, in a place of safety, resolved to give up for the present any farther search for the north-west passage. He then set sail for England, where he arrived at the end of September, after weathering a storm which dispersed his fleet. The man, woman, and child who had been carried off were presented to the Queen. It is said with regard to them, that the man, seeing at Bristol Frobisher's trumpeter on horseback wished to imitate him, and mounted with his face turned towards the tail of the animal. These savages were the objects of much curiosity, and obtained permission from the Queen to shoot all kinds of birds, even swans, on the Thames, a thing which was forbidden to every one else under the most severe penalties. They did not long survive, and died before the child was fifteen months old.
People were not slow in discovering that the stones brought back by Frobisher really contained gold. The nation, but above all the higher classes, were immediately seized with a fever bordering on delirium. They had found a Peru, an Eldorado. Queen Elizabeth, in spite of her practical good sense, yielded to the current. She resolved to build a fort in the newly discovered country, to which she gave the name of Meta incognita, (unknown boundary) and to leave there, with 100 men as garrison, under the command of Captains Fenton, Best, and Philpot, three vessels which should take in a cargo of the auriferous stones. These 100 men were carefully chosen; there were bakers, carpenters, masons, gold-refiners, and others belonging to all the various handicrafts. The fleet was composed of fifteen vessels, which set sail from Harwich on the 31st of May, 1578. Twenty days later the western coasts of Frisland were discovered. Whales played round the vessels in innumerable troops. It is related even that one of the vessels propelled by a favourable wind, struck against a whale with such force that the violence of the shock stopped the ship at once, and that the whale after uttering a loud cry, made a spring out of the water and then was suddenly swallowed up. Two days later, the fleet met with a dead whale which they thought must be the one struck by the Salamander. When Frobisher came to the entrance of the strait which has received his name, he found it blocked up with floating ice. "The barque Dennis, 100 tons," says the old account of George Best, "received such a shock from an iceberg that she sank in sight of the whole fleet. Following upon this catastrophe, a sudden and horrible tempest arose from the south-east, the vessels were surrounded on all sides by the ice; they left much of it, between which they could pass, behind them, and found still more before them through which it was impossible for them to penetrate. Certain ships, either having found a place less blocked with ice, or one where it was possible to proceed, furled sails and drifted; of the others, several stopped and cast their anchors upon a great island of ice. The latter were so rapidly enclosed by an infinite number of islets of ice and fragments of icebergs, that the English were obliged to resign themselves and their ships to the mercy of the ice, and to protect the ships with cables, cushions, mats, boards, and all kinds of articles which were suspended to the sides, in order to defend them from the fearful shocks and blows of the ice." Frobisher himself was thrown out of his course. Finding the impossibility of rallying his squadron, he sailed along the west coast of Greenland, as far as the strait which was soon to be called Davis' Strait, and penetrated as far as the Countess of Warwick Bay. When he had repaired his vessels with the wood which was to have been used in the building of a dwelling, he loaded the ships with 500 tons of stones similar to those which he had already brought home. Judging the season to be then too far advanced, and considering also that the provisions had been either consumed, or lost in the Dennis, that the wood for building had been used for repairing the vessels, and having lost 40 men, he set out on his return to England on the 31st of August. Tempests and storms accompanied him to the shores of his own country. As to the results of his expedition they were almost none as to discoveries, and the stones, which he had put on board in the midst of so many dangers, were valueless.
This was the last Arctic voyage in which Frobisher took part. In 1585 we meet with him again as vice-admiral, under Drake; in 1588 he distinguished himself against the Invincible Armada; in 1590 he was with Sir Walter Raleigh's fleet on the coast of Spain; finally in a descent on the coast of France, he was so seriously wounded that he had only time to bring his squadron back to Portsmouth before he died. If Frobisher's voyages had only gain for their motive, we must put this down not to the navigator himself, but to the passions of the period, and it is not the less true that in difficult circumstances, and with means the insufficiency of which makes us smile, he gave proof of courage, talent, and perseverance. To Frobisher is due, in one word, the glory of having shown the route to his countrymen, and of having made the first discoveries in the localities where the English name was destined to render itself illustrious.
If it became necessary to abandon the hope of finding in these circumpolar regions countries in which gold abounded as it did in Peru, this was no ground for not continuing to seek there for a passage to China; an opinion supported by very skilful sailors, and one which found many adherents among the merchants of London. By the aid of several high personages, two ships were equipped; the Sunshine, of fifty tons' burden and carrying a crew of twenty-three in number, and the Moonshine, of thirty-five tons. They quitted Portsmouth on the 7th of June, 1585, under the command of John Davis.
Davis discovered the entrance of the strait which received his name, and was obliged to cross immense fields of drifting ice, after having reassured his crew, who were frightened while in the midst of a dense fog, by the dash of the icebergs, and the splitting of the blocks of ice. On the 20th July, Davis discovered the Land of Desolation, but without being able to disembark upon it. Nine days later he entered Gilbert Bay, where he found a peaceable population, who gave him sealskins and furs in exchange for some trifling articles. These natives, some days afterwards, arrived in such numbers, that there were not less than thirty-seven canoes around Davis' vessels. In this place, the navigator perceived an enormous quantity of drift wood, amongst which he mentions an entire tree, which could not have been less than sixty feet in length. On the 6th of August, he cast anchor in a fine bay called Tottness; near a mountain of the colour of gold, which received the name of Raleigh, at the same time, he gave the names of Dyer and Walsingham to two capes of that land of Cumberland.
During eleven days, Davis still sailed northwards on a very open sea, free from ice, and of which the water had the colour of the Ocean. Already he believed himself at the entrance of the sea, which communicated with the Pacific, when all at once the weather changed, and became so foggy, that he was forced to return to Yarmouth, where he landed on the 30th of September.
Davis had the skill to make the owners of his ships partake in the hope which he had conceived. Thus on the 7th of May (1586), he set out again with the two ships which had made the previous voyage. To them were added the Mermaid of 120 tons, and the pinnace North Star. When, on the 25th of June, he arrived at the southern point of Greenland, Davis despatched the Sunshine and the North Star towards the north, in order to search for a passage upon the eastern coast, whilst he pursued the same route as in the preceding year, and penetrated into the strait which bears his name as far as 69 degrees. But there was a much greater quantity of ice this year, and on the 17th of July, the expedition fell in with an "icefield" of such extent that it took thirteen days to coast along it. The wind after passing over this icy plain was so cold, that the rigging and sails were frozen, and the sailors refused to go any further. It was needful, therefore, to descend again to the east-south-east. There Davis explored the land of Cumberland, without finding the strait he was seeking, and after a skirmish with the Esquimaux, in which three of his men were killed, and two wounded, he set out on the 19th of September, on his return to England.
Although once more his researches had not been crowned with success, Davis still had good hope, as is witnessed by a letter, which he wrote to the Company, in which he said that he had reduced the existence of the passage to a species of certainty. Foreseeing, however, that he would have more trouble in obtaining the despatch of a new expedition, he added that the expenses of the enterprise would be fully covered by the profit arising from the fishery of walrus, seals, and whales, which were so numerous in those parts, that they appeared to have there established their head-quarters. On the 15th of May, 1587, he set sail with the Sunshine, the Elizabeth of Dartmouth, and the Helen of London. This time he went farther north than he had ever done before, and reached 72 degrees 12 minutes, that is to say, nearly the latitude of Upernavik, and he descried Cape Henderson's Hope. Stopped by the ice, and forced to retrace his way, he sailed in Frobisher's Strait, and after having crossed a large gulf, he arrived, in 61 degrees 10 minutes latitude, in sight of a cape to which he gave the name of Chudleigh. This cape is a part of the Labrador coast, and forms the southern entrance to Hudson's Bay. After coasting along the American shores as far as 52 degrees, Davis set out for England, which he reached on the 15th of September.
Although the solution of the problem had not been found, yet nevertheless, precious results had been obtained, but results to which people at that period did not attach any great value. Nearly the half of Baffin's Bay had been explored, and clear ideas had been obtained of its shores, and of the people inhabiting them. These were considerable acquisitions, from a geographical point of view, but they were scarcely those which would greatly affect the merchants of the city. In consequence, the attempts at finding a north-west passage were abandoned by the English for a somewhat long period.
A new nation was just come into existence. The Dutch--while scarcely delivered from the Spanish yoke,--inaugurated that commercial policy, which was destined to make the greatness and prosperity of their country, by the successive despatch of several expeditions to seek for a way to China by the north-east; the same project formerly conceived by Sebastian Cabot, and which had given to England the Russian trade. With their practical instinct, the Dutch had acquainted themselves with English navigation. They had even established factories at Kola, and at Archangel, but they wished to proceed further in their search for new markets. The Sea of Kara appearing to them too difficult, they resolved, acting on the advice of the cosmographer Plancius, to try a new way by the north of Nova Zembla. The merchants of Amsterdam applied therefore, to an experienced sailor, William Barentz, born in the island of Terschelling, near the Texel. This navigator set out from the Texel in 1594, on board the Mercure, doubled the North Cape, saw the island of Waigatz, and found himself, on the 4th of July, in sight of the coast of Nova Zembla, in latitude 73 degrees 25 minutes. He sailed along the coast, doubled Cape Nassau on the 10th of July, and three days later he came in contact with the ice. Until the 3rd of August, he attempted to open a passage through the pack, testing the mass of ice on various sides, going up as far as the Orange Islands at the north-western extremity of Nova Zembla, sailing over 1700 miles of ground, and putting his ship about no less than eighty-one times. We do not imagine that any navigator had hitherto displayed such perseverance. Let us add that he turned this long cruise to account, to fix astronomically, and with remarkable accuracy, the latitude of various points. At last, wearied with the fruitless boxing about along the edge of the pack, the crew cried for mercy, and it became necessary to return to the Texel.
The results obtained were judged so important, that the following year, the Dutch States-General entrusted to Jacob van Heemskerke, the command of a fleet of seven vessels, of which Barentz was named chief pilot. After touching at various points upon the coasts of Nova Zembla and of Asia, this squadron was forced by the pack to go back without having made any important discovery, and it returned to Holland on the 18th of September.
As a general rule governments do not possess as much perseverance as do private individuals. The large fleet of the year 1595, had cost a great sum of money, and had produced no results; this was sufficient to discourage the States-General. The merchants of Amsterdam therefore, substituting private enterprise for the action of the government, which merely promised a reward to the man who should first discover the north-east passage--fitted out two vessels, of which the command was given to Heemskerke and to Jan Corneliszoon Rijp, while Barentz, who had only the title of pilot, was virtually the leader of the expedition. The historian of the voyage, Gerrit de Veer, was also on board as second mate.
The Dutchmen sailed from Amsterdam on the 10th of May, 1596, passed by the Shetland and Faröe Islands, and on the 5th of June, saw the first masses of ice, "whereat we were much amazed, believing at first that they were white swans." They soon arrived to the south of Spitzbergen, at Bear Island, upon which they landed on the 11th of June. They collected there a great number of sea-gulls' eggs, and after much trouble killed at some distance inland a white bear, destined to give its name to the land which Barentz had just discovered. On the 19th of June, they disembarked upon some far-spreading land, which they took to be a part of Greenland, and to which on account of the sharp-pointed mountains, they gave the name of Spitzbergen; of this they explored a considerable portion of the western coast. Forced by the Polar pack to go southwards again to Bear Island, they separated there from Rijp, who was once more to endeavour to find a way by the north. On the 11th of July, Heemskerke and Barentz were in the parts of Cape Kanin, and five days later they had reached the western coast of Nova Zembla, which was called Willoughby's Land. They then altered their course, and again going northwards, they arrived on the 19th at the Island of Crosses, where the ice which was still attached to the shore, barred their passage. They remained in this place until the 4th of August, and two days later they doubled Cape Nassau. After several changes of course, which it would take too long to relate, they reached the Orange Islands at the northern extremity of Nova Zembla. They began to descend the eastern coast, but were soon obliged to enter a harbour, where they found themselves completely blocked in by the pack-ice, and in which "they were forced in great cold, poverty, misery, and grief, to stay all the winter." This was on the 26th of August. "On the 30th the masses of ice began to pile themselves one upon another against the ship, with snow falling. The ship was lifted up and surrounded in such a manner, that all that was about her and around her began to crack and split. It seemed as if the ship must break into a thousand pieces, a thing most terrible to see and to hear, and fit to make one's hair stand on end. The ship was afterwards in equal danger, when the ice formed beneath, raising her and bearing her up as though she had been lifted by some instrument." Soon the ship cracked to such a degree, that prudence dictated the debarkation of some of the provisions, sails, gunpowder, lead, the arquebuses as well as other arms, and the erection of a tent or hut, in which the men might be sheltered from the snow and from any attacks by bears. Some days later, some sailors who had advanced from four to six miles inland, found near a river of fresh water, a quantity of drift-wood; they discovered there also the traces of wild goats and of reindeer. On the 11th of September, seeing that the bay was filled with enormous blocks of ice piled one upon the other, and welded together, the Dutchmen perceived that they would be obliged to winter in this place, and resolved, "in order to be better defended against the cold, and armed against the wild beasts," to build a house there, which might be able to contain them all, while they would leave to itself the ship, which became each day less safe and comfortable. Fortunately, they found upon the shore whole trees, coming doubtless from Siberia, and driven here by the current, and in such quantity that they sufficed not only for the construction of their habitation, but also for firewood throughout the winter.
Never yet had any European wintered in these regions, in the midst of that slothful and immovable sea, which according to the very false expressions used by Tacitus, forms the girdle of the world, and in which is heard the uproar caused by the rising of the sun. The Dutchmen, therefore, were unable to picture to themselves the sufferings which threatened them. They bore them, however, with admirable patience, without a single murmur, and without the least want of discipline or attempt at mutiny. The conduct of these brave seamen, quite ignorant of what so apparently dark a future might have in reserve for them, but who with wonderful faith had "placed their affairs in the hands of God," may be always proposed as an example even to the sailors of the present day. It may well be said that they had really in their heart the æs triplex of which Horace speaks. It was owing to the skill, knowledge, and foresight of their leader Barentz, as much as to their own spirit of obedience, that the Dutch sailors ever came forth from Nova Zembla, which threatened to be their tomb, and again saw the shores of their own country.
The bears, which were extremely numerous at that period of the year, made frequent visits to the crew. More than one was killed, but the Dutchmen contented themselves with skinning them for the sake of their fur, and did not eat them, probably because they believed the flesh to be unwholesome. It would have been, however, a considerable addition to their food, and would have saved them from using their salted meat, and thus they might longer have escaped the attacks of scurvy. But that we may not anticipate, let us continue to follow the journal of Gerrit de Veer.
On the 23rd September, the carpenter died, and was interred the next day in the cleft of a mountain, it being impossible to put a spade into the ground, on account of the severity of the frost. The following days were devoted to the transport of driftwood and the building of the house. To cover it in, it was necessary to demolish the fore and aft cabins of the ship; the roof was put on, on the 2nd October, and a piece of frozen snow was set up like a May pole. On the 31st September, there was a strong wind from the north-west, and as far as the eye could reach, the sea was entirely open and without ice. "But we remained as though taken and arrested in the ice, and the ship was raised full two or three feet upon the ice, and we could imagine nothing else but that the water must be frozen quite to the bottom, although it was three fathoms and a half in depth."
On the 12th October, they began to sleep in the house, although it was not completed. On the 21st, the greater part of the provisions, furniture, and everything which might be wanted was withdrawn from the ship, for they felt certain that the sun was about to disappear. A chimney was fixed in the centre of the roof, inside a Dutch clock was hung up, bed-places were formed along the walls, and a wine-cask was converted into a bath, for the surgeon had wisely prescribed to the men frequent bathing as a preservative of health. The quantity of snow which fell during this winter, was really marvellous. The house disappeared entirely beneath this thick covering, which, however, sensibly raised the temperature within. Every time that they wished to go forth, the Dutchmen were obliged to hollow out a long corridor beneath the snow. Each night they first heard the bears, and then the foxes, which walked upon the top of the dwelling, and tried to tear off some planks from the roof, that they might get into the house. So the sailors were accustomed to climb into the chimney, whence, as from a watch-tower they could shoot the animals and drive them off. They had manufactured a great number of snares, into which fell numbers of blue foxes, the valuable fur of which served as a protection against cold, while their flesh enabled the sailors to economize their provisions. Always cheerful and good tempered, they bore equally well the ennui of the long polar night, and the severity of the cold, which was so extreme, that during two of three days, when they had not been able to keep so large a fire as usual, on account of the smoke being driven back again by the wind, it froze so hard in the house, that the walls and the floor were covered with ice to the depth of two fingers, even in the cots where these poor people were sleeping. It was necessary to thaw the sherry, when it was served out, as was done every two days, at the rate of half a pint.
"On the 7th of December, the rough weather continued, with a violent storm coming from the north-east, which produced horrible cold. We knew no means of guarding ourselves against it, and while we were consulting together, what we could do for the best, one of our men in this extreme necessity proposed to make use of the coal which we had brought from the ship into our house, and to make a fire of it, because it burns with great heat and lasts a long time. In the evening we lighted a large fire of this coal, which threw out a great heat, but we did not provide against what might happen, for as the heat revived us completely, we tried to retain it for a long time. To this end we thought it well to stop up all the doors and the chimney, to keep in the delightful warmth. And thus, each went to repose in his cot, and animated by the acquired warmth, we discoursed long together. But in the end, we were seized with a giddiness in the head, some however, more than others; this was first perceived to be the case with one of our men who was ill, and who for this reason, had less power of resistance. And we also ourselves were sensible of a great pain which attacked us, so that several of the bravest came out of their cots and began by unstopping the chimney, and afterwards opening the door. But the man who opened the door fainted, and fell senseless upon the snow, on perceiving which, I ran to him and found him lying on the ground in a fainting fit. I went in haste to seek for some vinegar, and with it I rubbed his face until he recovered from his swoon. Afterwards, when we were somewhat restored, the captain gave to each a little wine, in order to comfort our hearts...."
"On the 11th, the weather continued fine, but so extremely cold, that no one who had not felt it could imagine it; even our shoes, frozen to our feet, were as hard as horn, and inside they were covered with ice in such a manner that we could no longer use them. The garments which we wore were quite white with frost and ice."
On Christmas Day, the 25th December, the weather was as rough as on the preceding days. The foxes made havoc upon the house, which one of the sailors declared to be a bad omen, and upon being asked why he said so, answered, "Because we cannot put them in a pot, or on the spit, which would have been a good omen."
If the year 1596, had closed with excessive cold, the commencement of 1597 was not more agreeable. Most violent storms of snow, and hard frost prevented the Dutchmen from leaving the house. They celebrated Twelfth Night with gaiety, as is related in the simple and touching narrative of Gerrit de Veer. "For this purpose, we besought the captain to allow us a little diversion in the midst of our sufferings, and to let us use a part of the wine which was destined to be served out to us every other day. Having two pounds of flour we made some pancakes with oil, and each one brought a white biscuit, which we soaked in the wine and eat. And it seemed to us that we were in our own country, and amongst our relations and friends; and we were as much diverted as if a banquet had been given in our honour, so much did we relish our entertainment. We also made a Twelfth-Night king, by means of paper, and our master gunner was king of Nova Zembla, which is a country enclosed between two seas, and of the great length of six hundred miles."
After the 21st January, the foxes became less numerous, the bears reappeared, and daylight began to increase, which enabled the Dutchmen, who had been so long confined to the house, to go out a little. On the 24th, one of the sailors, who had been long ill, died, and was buried in the snow at some distance from the house. On the 28th, the weather being very fine, the men all went out, walking about, running for exercise, and playing at bowls, to take off the stiffness of their limbs, for they were extremely weak, and nearly all suffering from scurvy. They were so much enfeebled that they were obliged to go to work several times before they could carry to their house the wood which was needful. At length in the first days of March, after several tempests and driving snowstorms, they were able to verify the fact that there was no ice in the sea. Nevertheless, the weather was still rough and the cold glacial. It was not feasible as yet to put to sea again, the rather because the ship was still embedded in the ice. On the 15th of April, the sailors paid a visit to her and found her in fairly good condition.
At the beginning of May the men became somewhat impatient, and asked Barentz if he were not soon intending to make the necessary preparations for departure. But Barentz answered that he must wait until the end of the month, and then, if it should be impossible to set the ship free, he would take measures to prepare the long-boats and the launch, and to render them fit for a sea voyage. On the 20th of the month the preparations for departure commenced; with what joy and ardour it is easy to imagine. The launch was repaired, the sails were mended, and both boats were dragged to the sea, and provisions put on board. Then, seeing that the water was free, and that a strong wind was blowing, Heemskerke went to seek Barentz, who had been long ill, and declared to him "that it seemed good to him to set out from thence, and in God's name to commence the voyage and abandon Nova Zembla."
"William Barentz had before this written a paper setting forth how we had started from Holland to go towards the kingdom of China, and all that had happened, in order that, if by chance, some one should come after us, it might be known what had befallen us. This note he enclosed in the case of a musket which he hung up in the chimney."
On the 13th June, 1597, the Dutchmen abandoned the ship, which had not stirred from her icy prison, and commending themselves to the protection of God, the two open boats put to sea. They reached the Orange Islands, and again descended the western coast of Nova Zembla in the midst of ceaselessly recurring dangers.
"On the 20th of June Nicholas Andrieu became very weak, and we saw clearly that he would soon expire. The lieutenant of the governor came on board our launch, and told us that Nicholas Andrieu was very much indisposed, and that it was very evident that his days would soon end. Upon which, William Barentz said, 'It appears to me that my life also will be very short.' We did not imagine that Barentz was so ill, for we were chatting together, and William Barentz was looking at the little chart which I had made of our voyage, and we had various discourses together. Finally, he laid down the chart, and said to me, 'Gerard, give me something to drink.' After he had drunk, such weakness supervened that his eyes turned in his head, and he died so suddenly that we had not time to call the captain, who was in the other boat. This death of William Barentz saddened us greatly, seeing that he was our principal leader, and our sole pilot, in whom we had placed our whole trust. But we could not oppose the will of God, and this thought quieted us a little." Thus died the illustrious Barentz, like his successors Franklin and Hall, in the midst of his discoveries. In the measured and sober words of the short funeral oration of Gerrit de Veer may be perceived the affection, sympathy, and confidence which this brave sailor had been able to inspire in his unfortunate companions. Barentz is one of the glories of Holland, so prolific in brave and skilful navigators. We shall mention presently what has been done to honour his memory.
After having been forced several times to haul the boats out of the water when they were on the point of being crushed between the blocks of ice; after having seen on various occasions the sea open, and again close before them; after having suffered both from thirst and hunger, the Dutchmen reached Cape Nassau. One day, being obliged to draw up the long-boat, which was in danger of being stove in upon an iceberg, the sailors lost a part of their provisions and were all deluged with water, for the ice broke away under their feet. In the midst of so much misery they sometimes met with good windfalls. Thus, when they were upon the ice on the Island of Crosses they found there seventy eggs of the mountain-duck. "But they did not know what they should put them in to carry them. At length one man took off his breeches, tying them together by the ends, and having put the eggs into them, they carried them on a pike between two, while the third man carried the musket. The eggs were very welcome, and we eat them like lords." From the 19th July, the Dutchmen sailed over a sea, which, if not altogether free from ice, was at least clear of those great fields of ice which had given them so much trouble to avoid. On the 28th July, when entering the Gulf of St. Lawrence, they met with two Russian vessels, which at first they dared not approach. But when they saw the sailors come to them unarmed and with friendly demonstrations, they put aside all fear, the rather as they recognized in the Russians some people whom they had met with the year before in the neighbourhood of Waigatz. The Dutchmen received some assistance from them, and then continued their voyage, still keeping along the coast of Nova Zembla, and as close in shore as the ice would allow. Upon one occasion when they landed, they discovered the cochlearia (scurvy-grass), a plant of which the leaves and seeds form one of the most powerful of known anti-scorbutics. They eat them, therefore, by handfuls, and immediately experienced great relief. Their provisions were, however, nearly exhausted; they had only a little bread remaining and scarcely any meat. They decided therefore to take to the open sea, in order to shorten the distance which separated them from the coast of Russia, where they hoped to fall in with some fishermen's boats, from which they might obtain assistance. In this hope they were not deceived, although they had still many trials to undergo. The Russians were much touched by their misfortunes, and consented on several occasions to bestow provisions upon them, which prevented the Dutch sailors from dying of hunger. In consequence of a thick fog the two boats were separated from each other, and did not come together again until some distance beyond Cape Kanin on the further side of the White Sea, at Kildyn Island, where some fishermen informed the Dutchmen that at Kola there were three ships belonging to their nation, which were ready to put to sea on their return to their own country. They therefore despatched thither one of their men accompanied by a Laplander, who returned three days afterwards with a letter signed Jan Rijp. Great was the astonishment of the Dutch at the sight of this signature. It was only on comparing the letter just received with several others which Heemskerke had in his possession, that they were convinced that it really came from the captain who had accompanied them the preceding year. Some days later, on the 30th September, Rijp himself arrived with a boat laden with provisions, to seek them out and take them to the Kola River, in which his ship was at anchor.
Rijp was greatly astonished at all that they related to him, and at the terrible voyage of nearly 1200 miles which they had made, and which had not taken less than 104 days--namely, from the 13th June to the 25th September. Some days of repose accompanied by wholesome and abundant food sufficed to clear off the last remains of scurvy, and to refresh the sailors after their fatigues. On the 17th September, Jan Rijp left the Kola River, and on the 1st November the Dutch crew arrived at Amsterdam. "We had on," says Gerrit de Veer, "the same garments which we wore in Nova Zembla, having on our heads caps of white fox-skin, and we repaired to the house of Peter Hasselaer, who had been one of the guardians of the town of Amsterdam charged with presiding over the fitting out of the two ships of Jan Rijp and of our own captain. Arrived at this house, in the midst of general astonishment, because that we had been long thought to be dead, and this report had been spread throughout the town, the news of our arrival reached the palace of the prince, where there were then at table the Chancellor, and the Ambassador of the high and mighty King of Denmark and Norway, of the Goths and the Vandals. We were then brought before them by M. l'Écoutets and two lords of the town, and we gave to the said lord Ambassador, and to their lordships the burgomasters, a narrative of our voyage. Afterwards each of us retired to his own house. Those who had not dwellings in the town, were lodged in an inn until such time as we had received our money, when each went his own way. These are the names of the men who returned from this voyage: Jacob Heemskerke, clerk and captain, Peter Peterson Vos, Gerrit de Veer, mate, Jan Vos, surgeon, Jacob Jansen Sterrenburg, Leonard Henry, Laurence William, Jan Hillebrants, Jacob Jansen Hoochwout, Peter Corneille, Jacob de Buisen, and Jacob Everts."
Of all these brave sailors we have nothing further to record except that De Veer published the following year the narrative of his voyage, and that Heemskerke after having made several cruises to India, received in 1607 the command of a fleet of twenty-six vessels, at the head of which, on the 25th of April, he had a severe battle with the Spaniards under the guns of Gibraltar, in which battle, although the Dutch were the conquerers, Heemskerke lost his life.
The spot where the unfortunate Barentz and his companions had wintered was not revisited until 1871, nearly three hundred years after their time. The first to double the northern point of Nova Zembla, Barentz had remained alone in the achievement until this period. On the 7th September, 1871, the Norwegian Captain, Elling Carlsen, well known by his numerous voyages in the North Sea and the Frozen Ocean, arrived at the ice haven of Barentz, and on the 9th he discovered the house which had sheltered the Dutchmen. It was in such a wonderful state of preservation that it seemed to have been built but a day, and everything was found in the same position as at the departure of the shipwrecked crew. Bears, foxes, and other creatures inhabiting these inhospitable regions had alone visited the spot. Around the house were standing some large puncheons and there were heaps of seal, bear, and walrus bones. Inside, everything was in its place. It was the faithful reproduction of the curious engraving of Gerrit de Veer. The bed-places were arranged along the partition as they are shown in the drawing, as well as the clock, the muskets, and the halberd. Amongst the household utensils, the arms, and the various objects brought away by Captain Carlsen, we may mention two copper cooking-pans, some goblets, gun-barrels, augers and chisels, a pair of boots, nineteen cartridge-cases, of which some were still filled with powder, the clock, a flute, some locks and padlocks, twenty-six pewter candlesticks, some fragments of engravings, and three books in Dutch, one of which, the last edition of Mendoza's "History of China" shows the goal which Barentz sought in this expedition, and a "Manual of Navigation" proves the care taken by the pilot to keep himself well up in all professional matters.
Upon his return to the port of Hammerfest, Captain Carlsen met with a Dutchman, Mr. Lister Kay, who purchased the Barentz relics, and forwarded them to the authorities of the Netherlands. These objects have been placed in the Naval Museum at the Hague, where a house, open in front, has been constructed precisely similar to the one represented in the drawing of Gerrit de Veer, and each object or instrument brought back has been placed in the very position which it occupied in the house in Nova Zembla. Surrounded by all the respect and affection which they merit, these precious witnesses of a maritime event so important as the first wintering in the Arctic regions, these touching reminiscences of Barentz, Heemskerke, and their rough companions, constitute one of the most interesting monuments in the Museum. Beside the clock is placed a copper dial, through the middle of which a meridian is drawn. This curious dial, invented by Plancius, which served without doubt to determine the variations of the compass, is now the only example extant of a nautical instrument which has never been in very general use. For this reason it is as precious as, from another point of view, are the flute used by Barentz, and the shoes of the poor sailor who died during the winter sojourn. It is impossible to behold this curious collection without experiencing poignant emotion.