Voyages in Search of The North-West Passage, by Richard Hakluyt

A Discourse Written by Sir Humphrey Gilbert, Knight. To prove a Passage by the North–West to Cathay and the East Indies.

Chapter I. — To Prove by Authority a Passage to Be on the North Side of America, to Go to Cathay and the East Indies.

When I gave myself to the study of geography, after I had perused and diligently scanned the descriptions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and conferred them with the maps and globes both antique and modern, I came in fine to the fourth part of the world, commonly called America, which by all descriptions I found to be an island environed round about with the sea, having on the south side of it the Strait of Magellan, on the west side the Mare de Sur, which sea runneth towards the north, separating it from the east parts of Asia, where the dominions of the Cathaians are. On the east part our west ocean, and on the north side the sea that severeth it from Greenland, through which northern seas the passage lieth, which I take now in hand to discover.

Plato in his Timaeus and in the dialogue called Critias, discourses of an incomparable great island then called Atlantis, being greater than all Africa and Asia, which lay westward from the Straits of Gibraltar, navigable round about: affirming, also, that the princes of Atlantis did as well enjoy the governance of all Africa and the most part of Europe as of Atlantis itself.

Also to prove Plato’s opinion of this island, and the inhabiting of it in ancient time by them of Europe, to be of the more credit: Marinaeus Siculus, in his Chronicle of Spain, reporteth that there hath been found by the Spaniards in the gold mines of America certain pieces of money, engraved with the image of Augustus Caesar; which pieces were sent to the Pope for a testimony of the matter by John Rufus, Archbishop of Constantinum.

Moreover, this was not only thought of Plato, but by Marsilius Ficinus, an excellent Florentine philosopher, Crantor the Grecian, Proclus, also Philo the famous Jew (as appeareth in his book De Mundo, and in the Commentaries upon Plato), to be overflown, and swallowed up with water, by reason of a mighty earthquake and streaming down of the heavenly flood gates. The like thereof happened unto some part of Italy, when by the forcibleness of the sea, called Superum, it cut off Sicily from the continent of Calabria, as appeareth in Justin in the beginning of his fourth book. Also there chanced the like in Zeeland, a part of Flanders.

And also the cities of Pyrrha and Antissa, about Palus Meotis; and also the city Burys, in the Corinthian Gulf, commonly called Sinus Corinthiacus, have been swallowed up with the sea, and are not at this day to be discerned: by which accident America grew to be unknown, of long time, unto us of the later ages, and was lately discovered again by Americus Vespucius, in the year of our Lord 1497, which some say to have been first discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, Anno 1492.

The same calamity happened unto this isle of Atlantis six hundred and odd years before Plato’s time, which some of the people of the south-east parts of the world accounted as nine thousand years; for the manner then was to reckon the moon’s period of the Zodiac for a year, which is our usual month, depending a Luminari minore.

So that in these our days there can no other main or island be found or judged to be parcel of this Atlantis than those western islands, which now bear the name of America; countervailing thereby the name of Atlantis in the knowledge of our age.

Then, if when no part of the said Atlantis was oppressed by water and earthquake, the coasts round about the same were navigable, a far greater hope now remaineth of the same by the north-west, seeing the most part of it was since that time swallowed up with water, which could not utterly take away the old deeps and channels, but, rather, be many occasion of the enlarging of the old, and also an enforcing of a great many new; why then should we now doubt of our North–West Passage and navigation from England to India, etc., seeing that Atlantis, now called America, was ever known to be an island, and in those days navigable round about, which by access of more water could not be diminished?

Also Aristotle in his book De Mundo, and the learned German, Simon Gryneus, in his annotations upon the same, saith that the whole earth (meaning thereby, as manifestly doth appear, Asia, Africa, and Europe, being all the countries then known) to be but one island, compassed about with the reach of the Atlantic sea; which likewise approveth America to be an island, and in no part adjoining to Asia or the rest.

Also many ancient writers, as Strabo and others, called both the ocean sea (which lieth east of India) Atlanticum Pelagus, and that sea also on the west coasts of Spain and Africa, Mare Atlanticum; the distance between the two coasts is almost half the compass of the earth.

So that it is incredible, as by Plato appeareth manifestly, that the East Indian Sea had the name of Atlanticum Pelagus, of the mountain Atlas in Africa, or yet the sea adjoining to Africa had name Oceanus Atlanticus, of the same mountain; but that those seas and the mountain Atlas were so called of this great island Atlantis, and that the one and the other had their names for a memorial of the mighty Prince Atlas, sometime king thereof, who was Japhet, youngest son to Noah, in whose time the whole earth was divided between the three brethren, Shem, Ham, and Japhet.

Wherefore I am of opinion that America by the north-west will be found favourable to this our enterprise, and am the rather emboldened to believe the same, for that I find it not only confirmed by Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers, but also by the best modern geographers, as Gemma Frisius, Munsterus, Appianus Hunterus, Gastaldus, Guyccardinus, Michael Tramesinus, Franciscus Demongenitus, Barnardus, Puteanus, Andreas Vavasor, Tramontanus, Petrus Martyr, and also Ortelius, who doth coast out in his general map (set out Anno 1569) all the countries and capes on the north-west side of America from Hochelega to Cape de Paramantia, describing likewise the sea-coasts of Cathay and Greenland, towards any part of America, making both Greenland and America islands disjoined by a great sea from any part of Asia.

All which learned men and painful travellers have affirmed with one consent and voice, that America was an island, and that there lieth a great sea between it, Cathay, and Greenland, by the which any man of our country that will give the attempt, may with small danger pass to Cathay, the Moluccas, India, and all other places in the east in much shorter time than either the Spaniard or Portuguese doth, or may do, from the nearest part of any of their countries within Europe.

What moved these learned men to affirm thus much I know not, or to what end so many and sundry travellers of both ages have allowed the same; but I conjecture that they would never have so constantly affirmed, or notified their opinions therein to the world, if they had not had great good cause, and many probable reasons to have led them thereunto.

Now lest you should make small account of ancient writers or of their experiences which travelled long before our times, reckoning their authority amongst fables of no importance, I have for the better assurance of those proofs set down some part of a discourse, written in the Saxon tongue, and translated into English by Master Noel, servant to Master Secretary Cecil, wherein there is described a navigation which one other made, in the time of King Alfred, King of Wessex, Anne 871, the words of which discourse were these: “He sailed right north, having always the desert land on the starboard, and on the larboard the main sea, continuing his course, until he perceived that the coast bowed directly towards the east or else the sea opened into the land he could not tell how far, where he was compelled to stay until he had a western wind or somewhat upon the north, and sailed thence directly east along the coast, so far as he was able in four days, where he was again enforced to tarry until he had a north wind, because the coast there bowed directly towards the south, or at least opened he knew not how far into the land, so that he sailed thence along the coast continually full south, so far as he could travel in the space of five days, where he discovered a mighty river which opened far into the land, and in the entry of this river he turned back again.”

Whereby it appeareth that he went the very way that we now do yearly trade by S. Nicholas into Muscovia, which way no man in our age knew for certainty to be sea, until it was since discovered by our Englishmen in the time of King Edward I., but thought before that time that Greenland had joined to Normoria Byarmia, and therefore was accounted a new discovery, being nothing so indeed, as by this discourse of Ochther’s it appeareth.

Nevertheless if any man should have taken this voyage in hand by the encouragement of this only author, he should have been thought but simple, considering that this navigation was written so many years past, in so barbarous a tongue by one only obscure author, and yet we in these our days find by our own experiences his former reports to be true.

How much more, then, ought we to believe this passage to Cathay to be, being verified by the opinions of all the best, both antique and modern geographers, and plainly set out in the best and most allowed maps, charts, globes, cosmographical tables, and discourses of this our age and by the rest not denied, but left as a matter doubtful.

Chapter II.

1. All seas are maintained by the abundance of water, so that the nearer the end any river, bay, or haven is, the shallower it waxeth (although by some accidental bar it is sometime found otherwise), but the farther you sail west from Iceland, towards the place where this strait is thought to be, the more deep are the seas, which giveth us good hope of continuance of the same sea, with Mare del Sur, by some strait that lieth between America, Greenland, and Cathay.

2. Also, if that America were not an island, but a part of the continent adjoining to Asia, either the people which inhabit Mangia, Anian, and Quinzay, etc., being borderers upon it, would before this time have made some road into it, hoping to have found some like commodities to their own.

3. Or else the Syrians and Tartars (which oftentimes heretofore have sought far and near for new seats, driven thereunto through the necessity of their cold and miserable countries) would in all this time have found the way to America and entered the same had the passages been never so strait or difficult, the country being so temperate, pleasant, and fruitful in comparison of their own. But there was never any such people found there by any of the Spaniards, Portuguese, or Frenchmen, who first discovered the inland of that country, which Spaniards or Frenchmen must then of necessity have seen some one civilised man in America, considering how full of civilised people Asia is; but they never saw so much as one token or sign that ever any man of the known part of the world had been there.

4. Furthermore, it is to be thought, that if by reason of mountains or other craggy places the people neither of Cathay or Tartary could enter the country of America, or they of America have entered Asia if it were so joined, yet some one savage or wandering-beast would in so many years have passed into it; but there hath not any time been found any of the beasts proper to Cathay or Tartary, etc., in America; nor of those proper to America in Tartary, Cathay, etc., or in any part of Asia, which thing proveth America not only to be one island, and in no part adjoining to Asia, but also that the people of those countries have not had any traffic with each other.

5. Moreover at the least some one of those painful travellers which of purpose have passed the confines of both countries, with intent only to discover, would, as it is most likely, have gone from the one to the other, if there had been any piece of land, or isthmus, to have joined them together, or else have declared some cause to the contrary.

6. But neither Paulus Venetus, who lived and dwelt a long time in Cathay, ever came into America, and yet was at the sea coasts of Mangia over against it, where he was embarked and performed a great navigation along those seas; neither yet Veratzanus or Franciscus Vasquez de Coronado, who travelled the north part of America by land, ever found entry from thence by land to Cathay, or any part of Asia.

7. Also it appeareth to be an island, insomuch as the sea runneth by nature circularly from the east to the west, following the diurnal motion of the Primum Mobile, and carrieth with it all inferior bodies movable, as well celestial as elemental; which motion of the waters is most evidently seen in the sea, which lieth on the south side of Africa, where the current that runneth from the east to the west is so strong (by reason of such motion) that the Portuguese in their voyages eastward to Calicut, in passing by the Cape of Good Hope, are enforced to make divers courses, the current there being so swift, as it striketh from thence, all along westward, upon the straits of Magellan, being distant from thence near the fourth part of the longitude of the earth: and not having free passage and entrance through that frith towards the west, by reason of the narrowness of the said strait of Magellan, it runneth to salve this wrong (Nature not yielding to accidental restraints) all along the eastern coasts of America northwards so far as Cape Frido, being the farthest known place of the same continent towards the north, which is about four thousand eight-hundred leagues, reckoning therewithal the trending of the land.

8. So that this current, being continually maintained with such force as Jacques Cartier affirmeth it to be, who met with the same, being at Baccalaos as he sailed along the coasts of America, then, either it must of necessity have way to pass from Cape Frido through this frith, westward towards Cathay, being known to come so far only to salve his former wrongs by the authority before named; or else it must needs strike over upon the coast of Iceland, Lapland, Finmark, and Norway (which are east from the said place about three hundred and sixty leagues) with greater force than it did from the Cape of Good Hope upon the strait of Magellan, or from the strait of Magellan to Cape Frido; upon which coasts Jacques Cartier met with the same, considering the shortness of the cut from the said Cape Frido to Iceland, Lapland, etc. And so the cause efficient remaining, it would have continually followed along our coasts through the narrow seas, which it doeth not, but is digested about the north of Labrador by some through passage there through this frith.

The like course of the water, in some respect, happeneth in the Mediterranean Sea (as affirmeth Contorenus), where, as the current which cometh from Tanais and the Euxine, running along all the coasts of Greece, Italy, France, and Spain, and not finding sufficient way out through Gibraltar by means of the straitness of the frith, it runneth back again along the coasts of Barbary by Alexandria, Natolia, etc.

It may, peradventure, be thought that this course of the sea doth sometime surcease and thereby impugn this principle, because it is not discerned all along the coast of America in such sort as Jacques Cartier found it, whereunto I answer this: That albeit in every part of the coast of America or elsewhere this current is not sensibly perceived, yet it hath evermore such like motion, either the uppermost or nethermost part of the sea; as it may be proved true, if you sink a sail by a couple of ropes near the ground, fastening to the nethermost corners two gun chambers or other weights, by the driving whereof you shall plainly perceive the course of the water and current running with such like course in the bottom. By the like experiment you may find the ordinary motion of the sea in the ocean, how far soever you be off the land.

9. Also, there cometh another current from out the north-east from the Scythian Sea (as Master Jenkinson, a man of rare virtue, great travel, and experience, told me), which runneth westward towards Labrador, as the other did which cometh from the south; so that both these currents must have way through this our strait, or else encounter together and run contrary courses in one line, but no such conflicts of streams or contrary courses are found about any part of Labrador or Newfoundland, as witness our yearly fishers and other sailors that way, but is there separated as aforesaid, and found by the experience of Barnarde de la Torre to fall into Mare del Sur.

10. Furthermore, the current in the great ocean could not have been maintained to run continually one way from the beginning of the world unto this day, had there not been some through passage by the strait aforesaid, and so by circular motion be brought again to maintain itself, for the tides and courses of the sea are maintained by their interchangeable motions, as fresh rivers are by springs, by ebbing and flowing, by rarefaction and condensation.

So that it resteth not possible (so far as my simple reason can comprehend) that this perpetual current can by any means be maintained, but only by a continual reaccess of the same water, which passeth through the strait, and is brought about thither again by such circular motion as aforesaid, and the certain falling thereof by this strait into Mare del Sur is proved by the testimony and experience of Barnarde de la Torre, who was sent from P. de la Natividad to the Moluccas, 1542, by commandment of Anthony Mendoza, then Viceroy of Nova Hispania, which Barnarde sailed 750 leagues on the north side of the Equator, and there met with a current which came from the north-east, the which drove him back again to Tidore.

Wherefore this current being proved to come from the Cape of Good Hope to the strait of Magellan, and wanting sufficient entrance there, is by the necessity of Nature’s force brought to Terra de Labrador, where Jacques Cartier met the same, and thence certainly known not to strike over upon Iceland, Lapland, etc., and found by Barnarde de la Torre, in Mare del Sur, on the backside of America, therefore this current, having none other passage, must of necessity fall out through this strait into Mare del Sur, and so trending by the Moluccas, China, and the Cape of Good Hope, maintaineth itself by circular motion, which is all one in Nature with motus ab oriente in occidentem.

So that it seemeth we have now more occasion to doubt of our return than whether there be a passage that way, yea or no: which doubt hereafter shall be sufficiently removed; wherefore, in my opinion reason itself grounded upon experience assureth us of this passage if there were nothing else to put us in hope thereof. But lest these might not suffice, I have added in this chapter following some further proof thereof, by the experience of such as have passed some part of this discovery, and in the next adjoining to that the authority of those which have sailed wholly through every part thereof.

Chapter III. TO PROVE By Experience OF SUNDRY MEN’S TRAVELS THE OPENING OF SOME PART OF THIS NORTH-West Passage, Whereby Good Hope Remaineth of the Rest.

1. Paulus Venetus, who dwelt many years in Cathay, affirmed that he had sailed 1,500 miles upon the coast of Mangia and Anian, towards the north-east, always finding the seas open before him, not only as far as he went, but also as far as he could discern.

2. Also Franciscus Vasquez de Coronado, passing from Mexico by Cevola, through the country of Quiver to Sierra Nevada, found there a great sea, where were certain ships laden with merchandise, the mariners wearing on their heads the pictures of certain birds called Alcatrarzi, part whereof were made of gold and part of silver; who signified by signs that they were thirty days coming thither, which likewise proveth America by experience to be disjoined from Cathay, on that part, by a great sea, because they could not come from any part of America as natives thereof; for that, so far as is discovered, there hath not been found there any one ship of that country.

3. In like manner, Johann Baros testifieth that the cosmographers of China (where he himself had been) affirm that the sea coast trendeth from thence north-east to fifty degrees of septentrional latitude, being the farthest part that way, which the Portuguese had then knowledge of; and that the said cosmographers knew no cause to the contrary, but that it might continue farther.

By whose experiences America is proved to be separate from those parts of Asia, directly against the same. And not contented with the judgments of these learned men only, I have searched what might be further said for the confirmation hereof.

4. And I found that Franciscus Lopez de Gomara affirmeth America to be an island, and likewise Greenland; and that Greenland is distant from Lapland forty leagues, and from Terra de Labrador fifty.

5. Moreover Alvarez Nunmius, a Spaniard, and learned cosmographer, and Jacques Cartier, who made two voyages into those parts, and sailed five hundred miles upon the north-east coasts of America.

6. Likewise Hieronimus Fracastorius, a learned Italian, and traveller in the north parts of the same land.

7. Also Jacques Cartier, having done the like, heard say at Hochelaga, in Nova Francia, how that there was a great sea at Saguinay, whereof the end was not known: which they presupposed to be the passage to Cathay. Furthermore, Sebastian Cabot, by his personal experience and travel, has set forth and described this passage in his charts which are yet to be seen in the Queen’s Majesty’s Privy Gallery at Whitehall, who was sent to make this discovery by King Henry VII. and entered the same straits, affirming that he sailed very far westward with a quarter of the north, on the north side of Terra de Labrador, the 11th of June, until he came to the septentrional latitude of sixty-seven and a half degrees, and finding the seas still open, said, that he might and would have gone to Cathay if the mutiny of the master and mariners had not been.

Now, as these men’s experience have proved some part of this passage, so the chapter following shall put you in full assurance of the rest by their experiences which have passed through every part thereof.

Chapter IV. To Prove by Circumstance that the North-West Passage Hath Been Sailed Throughout.

The diversity between brute beasts and men, or between the wise and the simple, is, that the one judgeth by sense only, and gathereth no surety of anything that he hath not seen, felt, heard, tasted, or smelled: and the other not so only, but also findeth the certainty of things, by reason, before they happen to be tried, wherefore I have added proofs of both sorts, that the one and the other might thereby be satisfied.

1. First, as Gemma Frisius reciteth, there went from Europe three brethren though this passage: whereof it took the name of Fretum trium fratrum.

2. Also Pliny affirmeth out of Cornelius Nepos (who wrote fifty-seven years before Christ) that there were certain Indians driven by tempest upon the coast of Germany which were presented by the King of Suevia unto Quintus Metellus Celer, then Pro–Consul of France.

3. And Pliny upon the same saith that it is no marvel, though there be sea by the north, where there is such abundance of moisture; which argueth, that he doubted not of a navigable passage that way, through which those Indians came.

4. And for the better proof that the same authority of Cornelius Nepos is not by me wrested to prove my opinion of the North–West Passage, you shall find the same affirmed more plainly in that behalf by the excellent geographer Dominicus Marius Niger, who showeth how many ways the Indian sea stretcheth itself, making in that place recital of certain Indians that were likewise driven through the north seas from India, upon the coasts of Germany, by great tempest, as they were sailing in trade of merchandise.

5. Also, whiles Frederick Barbarossa reigned Emperor, A.D. 1160, there came certain other Indians upon the coast of Germany.

6. Likewise Othon, in the story of the Goths, affirmeth that in the time of the German Emperors there were also certain Indians cast by force of weather upon the coast of the said country, which foresaid Indians could not possibly have come by the south-east, south-west, nor from any part of Africa or America, nor yet by the north-east: therefore they came of necessity by this our North–West Passage.

Chapter V. — To Prove that These Indians, Aforenamed, Came Not by the South-East, South-West, Nor from Any Other Part of Africa or America.

1. They could not come from the south-east by the Cape of Good Hope, because the roughness of the seas there is such — occasioned by the currents and great winds in that part — that the greatest armadas the King of Portugal hath cannot without great difficulty pass that way, much less, then, a canoe of India could live in those outrageous seas without shipwreck, being a vessel but of very small burden, and the Indians have conducted themselves to the place aforesaid, being men unexpert in the art of navigation.

2. Also, it appeareth plainly that they were not able to come from along the coast of Africa aforesaid to those parts of Europe, because the winds do, for the most part, blow there easterly or from the shore, and the current running that way in like sort, would have driven them westward upon some part of America, for such winds and tides could never have led them from thence to the said place where they were found, nor yet could they have come from any of the countries aforesaid, keeping the seas always, without skilful mariners to have conducted them such like courses as were necessary to perform such a voyage.

3. Presupposing also, if they had been driven to the west, as they must have been, coming that way, then they should have perished, wanting supply of victuals, not having any place — once leaving the coast of Africa — until they came to America, north of America, until they arrived upon some part of Europe or the islands adjoining to it to have refreshed themselves.

4. Also, if, notwithstanding such impossibilities, they might have recovered Germany by coming from India by the south-east, yet must they without all doubt have struck upon some other part of Europe before their arrival there, as the isles of Madeira, Portugal, Spain, France, England, Ireland, etc., which, if they had done, it is not credible that they should or would have departed undiscovered of the inhabitants; but there was never found in those days any such ship or men, but only upon the coasts of Germany, where they have been sundry times and in sundry ages cast ashore; neither is it like that they would have committed themselves again to sea, if they had so arrived, not knowing where they were, nor whither to have gone.

5. And by the south-west it is impossible, because the current aforesaid, which cometh from the east, striketh with such force upon the Straits of Magellan, and falleth with such swiftness and fury into Mare de Sur, that hardly any ship — but not possibly a canoe, with such unskilful mariners — can come into our western ocean through that strait from the west seas of America, as Magellan’s experience hath partly taught us.

6. And further, to prove that these people so arriving upon the coast of Germany were Indians, and not inhabiters of any part either of Africa or America, it is manifest, because the natives, both of Africa and America, neither had, or have at this day, as is reported, other kind of boats than such as do bear neither masts nor sails, except only upon the coasts of Barbary and the Turks’ ships, but do carry themselves from place to place near the shore by the oar only.

Chapter VI. — To Prove that Those Indians Came Not by the North-East, and that There is No Through Navigable Passage that Way.

1. It is likely that there should be no through passage by the north-east whereby to go round about the world, because all seas, as aforesaid, are maintained by the abundance of water, waxing more shallow and shelving towards the end, as we find it doth, by experience, in the Frozen Sea, towards the east, which breedeth small hope of any great continuance of that sea to be navigable towards the east, sufficient to sail thereby round about the world.

2. Also, it standeth scarcely with reason that the Indians dwelling under the Torrid Zone could endure the injury of the cold air, about the northern latitude of 80 degrees, under which elevation the passage by the north-east cannot be, as the often experiences had of all the south part of it showeth, seeing that some of the inhabitants of this cold climate, whose summer is to them an extreme winter, have been stricken to death with the cold damps of the air, about 72 degrees, by an accidental mishap, and yet the air in such like elevation is always cold, and too cold for such as the Indians are.

3. Furthermore, the piercing cold of the gross thick air so near the Pole will so stiffen the sails and ship tackling, that no mariner can either hoist or strike them — as our experience, far nearer the south than this passage is presupposed to be, hath taught us — without the use whereof no voyage can be performed.

4. Also, the air is so darkened with continual mists and fogs so near the Pole, that no man can well see either to guide his ship or to direct his course.

5. Also the compass at such elevation doth very suddenly vary, which things must of force have been their destruction, although they had been men of much more skill than the Indians are.

6. Moreover, all bays, gulfs, and rivers do receive their increase upon the flood, sensibly to be discerned on the one side of the shore or the other, as many ways as they be open to any main sea, as the Mediterranean, the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, Sinus Bodicus, the Thames, and all other known havens or rivers in any part of the world, and each of them opening but on one part to the main sea, do likewise receive their increase upon the flood the same way, and none other, which the Frozen Sea doth, only by the west, as Master Jenkinson affirmed unto me, and therefore it followeth that this north-east sea, receiving increase only from the west, cannot possibly open to the main ocean by the east.

7. Moreover, the farther you pass into any sea towards the end of it, of that part which is shut up from the main sea, as in all those above-mentioned, the less and less the tides rise and fall. The like whereof also happeneth in the Frozen Sea, which proveth but small continuance of that sea toward the east.

8. Also, the farther ye go towards the east in the Frozen Sea the less soft the water is, which could not happen if it were open to the salt sea towards the east, as it is to the west only, seeing everything naturally engendereth his like, and then must it be like salt throughout, as all the seas are in such like climate and elevation. And therefore it seemeth that this north-east sea is maintained by the river Ob, and such like freshets as the Pontic Sea and Mediterranean Sea, in the uppermost parts thereof by the river Nile, the Danube, Dnieper, Tanais, etc.

9. Furthermore, if there were any such sea at that elevation, of like it should be always frozen throughout — there being no tides to hinder it — because the extreme coldness of the air in the uppermost part, and the extreme coldness of the earth in the bottom, the sea there being but of small depth, whereby the one accidental coldness doth meet with the other; and the sun, not having his reflection so near the Pole, but at very blunt angles, it can never be dissolved after it is frozen, notwithstanding the great length of their day: for that the sun hath no heat at all in his light or beams, but proceeding only by an accidental reflection which there wanteth in effect.

10. And yet if the sun were of sufficient force in that elevation to prevail against this ice, yet must it be broken before it can be dissolved, which cannot be but through the long continue of the sun above their horizon, and by that time the summer would be so far spent, and so great darkness and cold ensue, that no man could be able to endure so cold, dark, and discomfortable a navigation, if it were possible for him then and there to live.

11. Further, the ice being once broken, it must of force so drive with the winds and tides that no ship can sail in those seas, seeing our fishers of Iceland and Newfoundland are subject to danger through the great islands of ice which fleet in the seas, far to the south of that presupposed passage.

12. And it cannot be that this North–East Passage should be any nearer the south than before recited, for then it should cut off Ciremissi and Turbi, Tartarii, with Vzesucani, Chisani, and others from the continent of Asia, which are known to be adjoining to Scythia, Tartary, etc., with the other part of the same continent.

And if there were any through passage by the north-east, yet were it to small end and purpose for our traffic, because no ship of great burden can navigate in so shallow a sea, and ships of small burden are very unfit and unprofitable, especially towards the blustering north, to perform such a voyage.

Chapter VII. — To Prove that the Indians Aforenamed Came Only by the North-West, which Induceth a Certainty of Our Passage By Experience.

It is as likely that they came by the north-west as it is unlikely that they should come either by the south-east, south-west, north-east, or from any other part of Africa or America, and therefore this North–West Passage, having been already so many ways proved by disproving of the others, etc., I shall the less need in this place to use many words otherwise than to conclude in this sort, that they came only by the north-west from England, having these many reasons to lead me thereunto.

1. First, the one-half of the winds of the compass might bring them by the north-west, veering always between two sheets, with which kind of sailing the Indians are only acquainted, not having any use of a bow line or quarter wind, without the which no ship can possibly come, either by the south-east, south-west, or north-east, having so many sundry capes to double, whereunto are required such change and shifts of winds.

2. And it seemeth likely that they should come by the north-west, because the coast whereon they were driven lay east from this our passage, and all winds do naturally drive a ship to an opposite point from whence it bloweth, not being otherwise guided by art, which the Indians do utterly want, and therefore it seemeth that they came directly through this, our strait, which they might do with one wind.

3. For if they had come by the Cape of Good Hope, then must they, as aforesaid, have fallen upon the south parts of America.

4. And if by the Strait of Magellan, then upon the coasts of Africa, Spain, Portugal, France, Ireland, or England.

5. And if by the north-east, then upon the coasts of Ciremissi, Tartarii, Lapland, Iceland, Labrador, etc., and upon these coasts, as aforesaid, they have never been found.

So that by all likelihood they could never have come without shipwreck upon the coasts of Germany, if they had first struck upon the coasts of so many countries, wanting both art and shipping to make orderly discovery, and altogether ignorant both of the art of navigation and also of the rocks, flats, sands, or havens of those parts of the world, which in most of these places are plentiful.

6. And further, it seemeth very likely that the inhabitants of the most part of those countries, by which they must have come any other way besides by the north-west, being for the most part anthropophagi, or men-eaters, would have devoured them, slain them, or, at the leastwise, kept them as wonders for the gaze.

So that it plainly appeareth that those Indians — which, as you have heard, in sundry ages were driven by tempest upon the shore of Germany — came only through our North–West Passage.

7. Moreover, the passage is certainly proved by a navigation that a Portuguese made, who passed through this strait, giving name to a promontory far within the same, calling it after his own name, Promontorium Corterialis, near adjoining unto Polisacus Fluvius.

8. Also one Scolmus, a Dane, entered and passed a great part thereof.

9. Also there was one Salva Terra, a gentleman of Victoria in Spain, that came by chance out of the West Indies into Ireland, Anno 1568, who affirmed the North–West Passage from us to Cathay, constantly to be believed in America navigable; and further said, in the presence of Sir Henry Sidney, then Lord Deputy of Ireland, in my hearing, that a friar of Mexico, called Andre Urdaneta, more than eight years before his then coming into Ireland, told him there that he came from Mare del Sur into Germany through this North–West Passage, and showed Salva Terra — at that time being then with him in Mexico — a sea-card made by his own experience and travel in that voyage, wherein was plainly set down and described this North–West Passage, agreeing in all points with Ortelius’ map.

And further this friar told the King of Portugal (as he returned by that country homeward) that there was of certainty such a passage north-west from England, and that he meant to publish the same; which done, the king most earnestly desired him not in any wise to disclose or make the passage known to any nation. For that (said the king) IF ENGLAND HAD KNOWLEDGE AND EXPERIENCE THEREOF, IT WOULD GREATLY HINDER BOTH THE KING OF SPAIN AND ME. This friar (as Salva Terra reported) was the greatest discoverer by sea that hath been in our age. Also Salva Terra, being persuaded of this passage by the friar Urdaneta, and by the common opinion of the Spaniards inhabiting America, offered most willingly to accompany me in this discovery, which of like he would not have done if he had stood in doubt thereof.

And now, as these modern experiences cannot be impugned, so, least it might be objected that these things (gathered out of ancient writers, which wrote so many years past) might serve little to prove this passage by the north of America, because both America and India were to them then utterly unknown; to remove this doubt, let this suffice, that Aristotle (who was 300 years before Christ) named the Indian Sea. Also Berosus (who lived 330 before Christ) hath these words, GANGES IN INDIA.

Also in the first chapter of Esther be these words: “In the days of Ahasuerus, which ruled from India to Ethiopia,” which Ahasuerus lived 580 years before Christ. Also Quintus Curtius, where he speaketh of the Conquest of Alexander, mentioneth India. Also Arianus Philostratus, and Sidrach, in his discourses of the wars of the King of Bactria, and of Garaab, who had the most part of India under his government. All which assumeth us that both India and Indians were known in those days.

These things considered, we may, in my opinion, not only assure ourselves of this passage by the north-west, but also that it is navigable both to come and go, as hath been proved in part and in all by the experience of divers as Sebastian Cabot, Corterialis, the three brethren above named, the Indians, and Urdaneta, the friar of Mexico, etc.

And yet, notwithstanding all which, there be some that have a better hope of this passage to Cathay by the north-east than by the west, whose reasons, with my several answers, ensue in the chapter following.

Chapter VIII. — Certain Reasons Alleged for the Proving of a Passage by the North-East Before the Queen’s Majesty, and Certain Lords of the Council, by Master Anthony Jenkinson, with My Several Answers then Used to the Same.

Because you may understand as well those things alleged against me as what doth serve for my purpose, I have here added the reasons of Master Anthony Jenkinson, a worthy gentleman, and a great traveller, who conceived a better hope of the passage to Cathay from us to be by the north-east than by the north-west.

He first said that he thought not to the contrary but that there was a passage by the north-west, according to mime opinion, but he was assured that there might be found a navigable passage by the north-east from England to go to all the east parts of the world, which he endeavoured to prove three ways.

The first was, that he heard a fisherman of Tartary say in hunting the morse, that he sailed very far towards the south-east, finding no end of the sea, whereby he hoped a through passage to be that way.

Whereunto I answered that the Tartars were a barbarous people, and utterly ignorant in the art of navigation, not knowing the use of the sea-card, compass, or star, which he confessed true; and therefore they could not (said I) certainly know the south-east from the north-east in a wide sea, and a place unknown from the sight of the land.

Or if he sailed anything near the shore, yet he, being ignorant, might be deceived by the doubling of many points and capes, and by the trending of the land, albeit he kept continually along the shore.

And further, it might be that the poor fisherman through simplicity thought that there was nothing that way but sea, because he saw mine land, which proof (under correction) giveth small assurance of a navigable sea by the north-east to go round about the world, for that he judged by the eye only, seeing we in this clear air do account twenty miles a ken at sea.

His second reason is, that there was an unicorn’s horn found upon the coast of Tartary, which could not come (said he) thither by any other means than with the tides, through some strait in the north-east of the Frozen Sea, there being no unicorns in any part of Asia, saving in India and Cathay, which reason, in my simple judgment, has as little force.

First, it is doubtful whether those barbarous Tartars do know an unicorn’s horn, yea or no; and if it were one, yet it is not credible that the sea could have driven it so far, it being of such nature that it cannot float.

Also the tides running to and fro would have driven it as far back with the ebb as it brought it forward with the flood.

There is also a beast called Asinus Indicus (whose horn most like it was), which hath but one horn like an unicorn in his forehead, whereof there is great plenty in all the north parts thereunto adjoining, as in Lapland, Norway, Finmark, etc., as Jocobus Zeiglerus writeth in his history of Scondia.

And as Albertus saith, there is a fish which hath but one horn in his forehead like to an unicorn, and therefore it seemeth very doubtful both from whence it came, and whether it were an unicorn’s horn, yea or no.

His third and last reason was, that there came a continual stream or current through the Frozen Sea of such swiftness, as a Colmax told him, that if you cast anything therein, it would presently be carried out of sight towards the west.

Whereunto I answered, that there doth the like from Palus Maeotis, by the Euxine, the Bosphorus, and along the coast of Greece, etc., as it is affirmed by Contarenus, and divers others that have had experience of the same; and yet that sea lieth not open to any main sea that way, but is maintained by freshets, as by the Don, the Danube, etc.

In like manner is this current in the Frozen Sea increased and maintained by the Dwina, the river Ob, etc.

Now as I have here briefly recited the reasons alleged to prove a passage to Cathay by the north-east with my several answers thereunto, so will I leave it unto your judgment, to hope or despair of either at your pleasure.

Chapter IX. — How that the Passage by the North-West is More Commodious for Our Traffic than the Other by the East, If There Were Any Such.

1. By the north-east, if your winds do not give you a marvellous speedy and lucky passage, you are in danger (of being so near the Pole) to be benighted almost the one half of the year, and what danger that were, to live so long comfortless, void of light (if the cold killed you not), each man of reason or understanding may judge.

2. Also Mangia, Quinzai, and the Moluccas, are nearer unto us by the north-west than by the north-east more than two-fifths, which is almost by the half.

3. Also we may have by the rest a yearly return, it being at all times navigable, whereas you have but four months in the whole year to go by the north-east, the passage being at such elevation as it is formerly expressed, for it cannot be any nearer the south.

4. Furthermore, it cannot be finished without divers winterings by the way, having no havens in any temperate climate to harbour in there, for it is as much as we can well sail from hence to S. Nicholas, in the trade of Muscovy, and return in the navigable season of the year, and from S. Nicholas, Ciremissi, Tartarii, which standeth 80 degrees of the septentrional latitude, it is at the left 400 leagues, which amounteth scarce to the third part of the way, to the end of your voyage by the north-east.

5. And yet, after you have doubled this Cape, if then there might be found a navigable sea to carry you south-east according to your desire, yet can you not winter conveniently until you come to sixty degrees and to take up one degree running south-east you must sail twenty-four leagues and three four parts, which amounteth to four hundred and ninety-five leagues.

6. Furthermore, you may by the north-west sail thither, with all easterly winds, and return with any westerly winds, whereas you must have by the north-east sundry winds, and those proper, according to the lie of the coast and capes, you shall be enforced to double, which winds are not always to be had when they are looked for; whereby your journey should be greatly prolonged, and hardly endured so near the Pole, as we are taught by Sir Hugh Willoughbie, who was frozen to death far nearer the south.

7. Moreover, it is very doubtful whether we should long enjoy that trade by the north-east if there were any such passage that way, the commodities thereof once known to the Muscovite, what privilege soever he hath granted, seeing pollice with the maze of excessive gain, to the enriching of himself and all his dominions, would persuade him to presume the same, having so great opportunity, to distribute the commodities of those countries by the Naruc.

But by the north-west we may safely trade without danger or annoyance of any prince living, Christian or heathen, it being out of all their trades.

8. Also the Queen’s Majesty’s dominions are nearer the North–West Passage than any other great princes that might pass that way, and both in their going and return they must of necessity succour themselves and their ships upon some part of the same if any tempestuous weather should happen.

Further, no prince’s navy of the world is able to encounter the Queen’s Majesty’s navy as it is at this present; and yet it should be greatly increased by the traffic ensuing upon this discovery, for it is the long voyages that increase and maintain great shipping.

Now it seemeth unnecessary to declare what commodities would grow thereby if all these things were as we have heretofore presupposed and thought them to be; which next adjoining are briefly declared.

Chapter X. — What Commodities Would Ensue, this Passage Once Discovered.

1. It were the only way for our princes to possess the wealth of all the east parts (as they term them) of the world, which is infinite; as appeareth by the experience of Alexander the Great in the time of his conquest of India and the east parts of the world, alleged by Quintus Curtius, which would be a great advancement to our country, wonderful enriching to our prince, and unspeakable commodities to all the inhabitants of Europe.

2. For, through the shortness of the voyage, we should be able to sell all manner of merchandise brought from thence far better cheap than either the Portuguese or Spaniard doth or may do. And, further, share with the Portuguese in the east and the Spaniard in the west by trading to any part of America through Mare del Sur, where they can no manner of way offend us.

3. Also we sailed to divers marvellous rich countries, both civil and others, out of both their jurisdictions, trades and traffics, where there is to be found great abundance of gold, silver, precious stones, cloth of gold, silks, all manner of spices, grocery wares, and other kinds of merchandise of an inestimable price, which both the Spaniard and Portuguese, through the length of their journeys, cannot well attain unto.

4. Also, we might inhabit some part of those countries, and settle there such needy people of our country which now trouble the commonwealth, and through want here at home are enforced to commit outrageous offences, whereby they are daily consumed with the gallows.

5. Moreover, we might from all the aforesaid places have a yearly return, inhabiting for our staple some convenient place of America, about Sierra Nevada or some other part, whereas it shall seem best for the shortening of the voyage.

6. Beside the exporting of our country commodities, which the Indians, etc., much esteem, as appeareth in Esther, where the pomp is expressed of the great King of India, Ahasuerus, who matched the coloured clothes wherewith his houses and tents were apparelled with gold and silver, as part of his greatest treasure, not mentioning velvets, silks, cloth of gold, cloth of silver, or such like, being in those countries most plentiful, whereby it plainly appeareth in what great estimation they would have the cloths of this our country, so that there would be found a far better vent for them by this means than yet this realm ever had; and that without depending either upon France, Spain, Flanders, Portugal, Hamborough, Emden, or any other part of Europe.

7. Also here we shall increase both our ships and mariners without burdening of the State.

8. And also have occasion to set poor men’s children to learn handicrafts, and thereby to make trifles and such like, which the Indians and those people do much esteem; by reason whereof, there should be none occasion to have our country cumbered with loiterers, vagabonds, and such like idle persons.

All these commodities would grew by following this our discovery without injury done to any Christian prince by crossing them in any of their used trades, whereby they might take any just occasion of offence.

Thus have I briefly showed you some part of the grounds of my opinion, trusting that you will no longer judge me fantastic in this matter, seeing I have conceived no hope of this voyage, but am persuaded thereunto by the best cosmographers of our age, the same being confirmed both by reason and certain experiences.

Also this discovery hath been divers times heretofore by others both proposed, attempted, and performed.

It hath been proposed by Stephen Gomez unto Carolus, the fifth emperor in the year of our Lord 1527, as Alphonse Ullva testifieth in the story of Carolus’ life, who would have set him forth in it (as the story mentioneth) if the great want of money, by reason of his long wars, had not caused him to surcease the same.

And the King of Portugal, fearing lest the emperor would have persevered in this his enterprise, gave him, to leave the matter unattempted, the sum of 350,000 crowns; and it is to be supposed that the King of Portugal would not have given to the emperor such sums of money for eggs in moonshine.

It hath been attempted by Corterialis the Portuguese, Scolmus the Dane, and by Sebastian Cabot in the time of King Henry VII.

And it hath been performed by the three brethren, the Indians aforesaid, and by Urdaneta, the friar of Mexico.

Also divers have proposed the like unto the French king, who hath sent two or three times to have discovered the same; the discoverers spending and consuming their victuals in searching the gulfs and bays between Florida and Labrador, whereby the ice is broken to the after-comers.

So that the right way may now be easily found out in short time, and that with little jeopardy and less expenses.

For America is discovered so far towards the north as Cape Frido, which is at 62 degrees, and that part of Greenland next adjoining is known to stand but at 72 degrees; so that we have but 10 degrees to sail north and south to put the world out of doubt hereof; and it is likely that the King of Spain and the King of Portugal would not have sat out all this while but that they are sure to possess to themselves all that trade they now use, and fear to deal in this discovery lest the Queen’s Majesty, having so good opportunity, and finding the commodity which thereby might ensue to the commonwealth, would cut them off and enjoy the whole traffic to herself, and thereby the Spaniards and Portuguese with their great charges should beat the bush and other men catch the birds; which thing they foreseeing, have commanded that no pilot of theirs, upon pain of death, should seek to discover to the north-west, or plat out in any sea-card any through passage that way by the north-west.

Now, if you will impartially compare the hope that remaineth to animate me to this enterprise with those likelihoods which Columbus alleged before Ferdinando, the King of Castilia, to prove that there were such islands in the West Ocean as were after by him and others discovered, to the great commodity of Spain and all the world, you will think then that this North–West Passage to be most worthy travel therein.

For Columbus had none of the West Islands set forth unto him either in globe or card, neither yet once mentioned of any writer (Plato excepted, and the commentaries upon the same) from 942 years before Christ until that day.

Moreover, Columbus himself had neither seen America nor any other of the islands about it, neither understood he of them by the report of any other that had seen them, but only comforted himself with this hope, that the land had a beginning where the sea had an ending. For as touching that which the Spaniards do write of a Biscaine which should have taught him the way thither, it is thought to be imagined of them to deprive Columbus of his honour, being none of their countryman, but a stranger born.

And if it were true of the Biscaine, yet did he but hit upon the matter, or, at the least, gathered the knowledge of it by conjectures only.

And albeit myself have not seen this passage, or any part thereof, but am ignorant of it as touching experience as Columbus was before his attempt was made, yet have I both the report, relation, and authority of divers most credible men, which have both seen and passed through some and every part of this discovery, besides sundry reasons for my assurance thereof, all which Columbus wanted.

These things considered and impartially weighed together, with the wonderful commodities which this discovery may bring, especially to this realm of England, I must needs conclude with learned Baptista Ramusius, and divers other learned men, who said that this discovery hath been reserved for some noble prince or worthy man, thereby to make himself rich, and the world happy: desiring you to accept in good part this brief and simple discourse, written in haste, which, if I may perceive that it shall not sufficiently satisfy you in this behalf, I will then impart unto you a large discourse, which I have written only of this discovery.

And further, because it sufficeth not only to knew that such a thing there is, without ability to perform the same, I will at leisure make you partaker of another simple discourse of navigation, wherein I have not a little travelled, to make myself as sufficient to bring these things to effect as I have been ready to offer myself therein.

And therein I have devised to amend the errors of usual sea-cards, whose common fault is to make the degrees of longitude in every latitude of one like bigness.

And have also devised therein a spherical instrument, with a compass of variation for the perfect knowing of the longitude.

And a precise order to prick the sea-card, together with certain infallible rules for the shortening of any discovery, to know at the first entering of any strait whether it lies open to the ocean more ways than one, how far soever the sea stretcheth itself into the land.

Desiring you hereafter never to mislike with me for the taking in hand of any laudable and honest enterprise, for if, through pleasure and idleness, we purchase shame, the pleasure vanisheth, but the shame remaineth for ever.

And therefore, to give me leave without offence always to live and die in this mind, THAT HE IS NOT WORTHY TO LIVE AT ALL THAT FOR FEAR OR DANGER OF DEATH SHUNNETH HIS COUNTRY’S SERVICE AND HIS OWN HONOUR, seeing death is inevitable, and the fame of virtue immortal. Wherefore, in this behalf, Mutare vel timere sperno.

Last updated Saturday, March 1, 2014 at 20:38