History of American Exploration from 1575 to 1585

About the history of American exploration from 1575 to 1585 including voyages of Sir Francis Drake and Sir Humphrey Gilbert.

A CHRONOLOGY OF THE EXPLORATION OF THE AMERICAS

1577 On Frobisher's second voyage to the Arctic, he took possession of Baffin Island and his men mined 200 tons of ore. When he and a group tried to capture some Eskimos, the Eskimos turned the tables and chased them, wounding Frobisher in the buttock with an arrow. The English could not discover what had happened to the five sailors kidnapped in 1576. (Nearly 300 years later, explorer Charles F. Hall heard a word-of-mouth story from Arctic Eskimos about five men who had been kidnapped. Later turned loose, they built a boat and froze to death trying to sail away.) On board ship coming home were two Eskimos, an unrelated man and woman, whom the crew watched to observe what form their intercourse took. Although the Eskimos were assigned one bed, they did not have sex, much to the crew's disappointment. In Bristol Harbor, the Eskimo man put on a show in his kayak, spearing ducks on the wing. Frobisher presented a 2-yd.-long narwhal horn (actually a tusk) to Queen Elizabeth, who kept it as a bawdy conversation piece.

1577-1580 Short, ruddy Sir Francis Drake, who was fond of pirating and painting, explored the islands south of Tierra del Fuego and part of the west coast of North America on his circumnavigation of the globe. After passing through the Strait of Magellan, blown south, his fleet reached Henderson Island, where he lay on a grassy slope among wild currants at the edge of the cape, "grovelled on his belly," and stretched his arms toward the South Pole so that no one could claim closer proximity to the bottom of the earth. The shops sailed as far north as Vancouver Island, landed on the coast of North America, perhaps somewhere around San Francisco, and then sailed backed to England via the Philippines.

1578 On his third voyage, with 15 ships, Frobisher sailed up "Mistaken Straits" (Hudson Strait) for 20 days before turning back. Warned by "many straunge Meteors" (the aurora borealis), he decided not to winter in the Arctic and headed home, carrying 1,300 tons of worthless ore. The Emmanuel, a small ship called a buss, spotted a phantom island southeast of Greenland, which for nearly a century was located on maps as "Island of Buss," but finally was shown as sunken. Except for his discoveries, Frobisher had returned empty-handed, and the Cathay Company, which had backed him to the tune of more than pound 20,000, went broke.

1583 Sir Humphrey Gilbert (1539?-1583), half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh, left England with 5 ships, 260 men, and a dream--to set up a utopian colony, with free homesteads for the poor, in the Americas. His declared object was to take possession of the coast from Labrador to Florida. On board the flagship Golden Hind, according to its captain, Edward Hayes, "for solace of our people and allurement of the Savages, we were provided of Musike in good variety, not omitting the least toyes, as Morris dancers, Hobby horses ... to delight the Savage people, whom we intended to winne by all faire means possible." Gilbert's men took possession of Newfoundland, where they met men of many nations. Near Sable Island, warned by "strange voyces," one ship the Delight struck shoals in a fog, and many aboard drowned. Fifteen sailors then rowed a pinnace, a small boat, with one oar for seven days and were reduced to drinking their own urine to stay alive. Twelve men survived. On the way back to England, Gilbert traveled in the small ship Squirrel. In a storm north of the Azores, he was seen with a book in his hand, perhaps Sir Thomas More's Utopia. Crew members on board the Golden Hind heard him say, "We are as neere to heaven by sea as by land." Shortly thereafter the Squirrel was lost at sea.

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