Certaine other reasons, or arguments to prooue a passage by the Northwest, learnedly written by M. Richard Willes, Gentleman.
Foure famous wayes there be spoken of to those fruitfull and wealthie Islands, which wee doe vsually call Moluccaes, continually haunted for gaine, and dayly trauelled for riches therein growing. These Islands, although they stand East from the Meridian, distant almost halfe the length of the worlde, in extreame heate, vnder the Equinoctiall line, possessed of Infidels and Barbarians: yet by our neighbours great abundance of wealth there is painefully sought in respect of the voyage deerely bought, and from thence dangerously brought home vnto vs. Our neighbours I call the Portugalls in comparison of the Molucchians for neerenesse vnto vs, for like situation Westward as we haue, for their vsuall trade with vs, for that the farre Southeasterlings doe knowe this part of Europe by no other name then Portugall, not greatly acquainted as yet with the other Nations thereof. 1 By the Southeast. Their voyage is very well vnderstood of all men, and the Southeasterne way round about Afrike by the Cape of Good hope more spoken of, better knowen and trauelled, then that it may seeme needefull to discourse thereof any further.
2 By the Southwest. The second way lyeth Southwest, betweene the West India or South America, and the South continent, through that narrow straight where Magellan first of all men that euer we doe read of, passed these latter yeeres, leauing therevnto therefore his name. This is an errour. This way no doubt the Spaniardes would commodiously take, for that it lyeth neere vnto their dominions there, could the Easterne current and leuant windes as easily suffer them to returne, as speedily therwith they may be carried thither: for the which difficultie, or rather impossibility of striuing against the force both of winde and streame, this passage is litle or nothing vsed, although it be very well knowen.
3 By the Northeast. The third way by the Northeast, beyond all Europe and Asia, that worthy and renowmed knight sir Hugh Willoughbie sought to his perill, enforced there to ende his life for colde, congealed and frozen to death. And truely this way consisteth rather in the imagination of Geographers, then allowable either in reason, or approued by Ortel. tab. Asiæ 3. experience, as well it may appeare by the dangerous trending of the Scythish Cape set by Ortelius vnder the 80 degree North, by the vnlikely sailing in that Northerne sea alwayes clad with yce and snow, or at the least continually pestred therewith, if happily it be at any time dissolued: besides bayes and shelfes, the water waxing more shallow toward the East, that we say nothing of the foule mists and darke fogs in the cold clime, of the litle power of the Sunne to cleare the aire, of the vncomfortable nights, so neere the Pole, fiue moneths long.
4 By the Northwest. A fourth way to go vnto these aforesaid happy Islands Moluccæ sir Humphrey Gilbert a learned and valiant knight discourseth of at large in his new passage to Cathayo. The enterprise of itselfe being vertuous, the fact must doubtlesse deserue high praise, and whensoeuer it shal be finished, the fruits thereof cannot be smal: where vertue is guide, there is fame a follower, and fortune a companion. But the way is dangerous, the passage doubtfull, the voiage not throughly knowen, and therefore gainesaid by many, after this maner.
Ob. 1. First, who can assure vs of any passage rather by the Northwest then by the Northeast? do not both waves lye in equall distance from the North Pole? Stand not the North Capes of eyther continent vnder like eleuation? Is not the Ocean sea beyond America farther distant from our Meridian by 30. or 40. degrees West, then the extreame poyntes of Cathayo Eastward, if Ortelius generall Carde of the world be true: In Theatro. In the Northeast that noble Knight Syr Hugh Willoughbie perished for colde: and can you then promise a passenger any better happe by the Northwest? Who hath gone for triall sake at any time this way out of Europe to Cathayo?
Ob. 2. If you seeke the aduise herein of such as make profession in Cosmographie, Ptolome the father of Geographie, and his eldest children, will answere by their mappes with a negatiue, concluding most of the Sea within the land, and making an end of the world Northward, neere the 63. degree. The same opinion, when learning chiefly florished, was receiued in the Romanes time, as by their Poets writings it may appeare: tibi seruiat vltima Thyle, said Virgil, being of opinion, that Island was the extreme part of the world habitable toward the North. Ioseph Moletius an Italian, and Mercator a Germaine, for knowledge men able to be compared with the best Geographers of our time, the one in his halfe Spheres of the whole world, the other in some of his great globes, haue continued the West Indies land, euen to the North Pole, and consequently, cut off all passage by sea that way.
The same doctors, Mercator in other of his globes and mappes, Moletius in his sea Carde, neuerthelesse doubting of so great continuance of the former continent, haue opened a gulfe betwixt the West Indies and the extreame Northerne land: but such a one, that either is not to be trauelled for the causes in the first obiection alledged, or cleane shut vp from vs in Europe by Groenland: the South ende whereof Moletius maketh firme land with America, the North part continent with Lappeland and Norway.
Ob. 3. Thirdly, the greatest fauourers of this voyage can not denie, but that if any such passage be, it lieth subiect vnto yce and snow for the most part of the yeere, whereas it standeth in the edge of the frostie Zone. Before the Sunne hath warmed the ayre, and dissolued the yce, eche one well knoweth that there can be no sailing: the yce once broken through the continuall abode the sunne maketh a certaine season in those parts, how shall it be possible for so weake a vessel as a shippe is, to holde out amid whole Ilands, as it were of yce continually beating on eche side, and at the mouth of that gulfe, issuing downe furiously from the north, and safely to passe, when whole mountaines of yce and snow shall be tumbled downe vpon her?
Ob. 4. Well, graunt the West Indies not to continue continent vnto the Pole, grant there be a passage betweene these two lands, let the gulfe lie neerer vs then commonly in cardes we finde it set, namely, betweene the 61. and 64. degrees north, as Gemma Frisius in his mappes and globes imagineth it, and so left by our countryman Sebastian Cabot in his table which the Earle of Bedford hath at Cheinies: Let the way be voyde of all difficulties, yet doeth it not follow that wee haue free passage to Cathayo. For examples sake: You may trend all Norway, Finmarke, and Lappeland, and then bowe Southward to Saint Nicholas in Moscouia: you may likewise in the Mediterranean Sea fetch Constantinople, and the mouth of Tanais: yet is there no passage by Sea through Moscouia into Pont Euxine, now called Mare Maggiore. Againe, in the aforesaid Mediterranean sea, we saile to Alexandria in Egypt, the Barbarians bring their pearle and spices from the Moluccaes vp the Red sea or Arabian gulph to Sues, scarcely three dayes iourney from the aforesayd hauen: yet haue wee no way by sea from Alexandria to the Moluccaes, for that Isthmos or litle straight of land betweene the two seas. In like maner although the Northerne passage be free at 61 degrees of latitude, and the West Ocean beyond America, vsually called Mar del Zur, knowen to be open at 40. degrees eleuation from the Island Iapan, yea, three hundred leagues Northerly aboue Iapan: yet may there be land to hinder the thorow passage that way by Sea, as in the examples aforesaid it falleth out, Asia and America there being ioyned together in one continent. Ne can this opinion seeme altogether friuolous vnto any one that diligently peruseth our Cosmographers doings. Iosephus Moletius is of that minde, not onely in his plaine Hemispheres of the world, but also in his Sea card. The French Geographers in like maner be of the same opinion, as by their Mappe cut out in forme of a Hart you may perceiue: as though the West Indies were part of Asia. Which sentence well agreeth with that old conclusion in the Schooles. Quicquid præter Africam et Europam est, Asia est, Whatsoeuer land doeth neither apperteine vnto Afrike nor to Europe, is part of Asia.
Ob. 5. Furthermore it were to small purpose to make so long, so painefull, so doubtfull a voyage by such a new found way, if in Cathayo you should neither bee suffered to land for silkes and siluer, nor able to fetch the Molucca spices and pearle for piracie in those Seas. Of a law denying all Aliens to enter into China, and forbidding all the inhabiters vnder a great penaltie to let in any stranger into those countreys, shall you reade in the report of Galeotto Perera there imprisoned with other Portugals: as also in the Iaponish letters, how for that cause the worthy traueller Xauierus bargained with a Barbarian Merchant for a great summe of pepper to be brought into Canton, a port in China. The great and dangerous piracie vsed in those Seas no man can be ignorant of, that listeth to reade the Iaponish and East Indian historie.
Ob. 6. Finally, all this great labour would be lost, all these charges spent in vaine, if in the ende our trauellers might not be able to returne againe, and bring safely home into their owne natiue countrey that wealth and riches, which they in forrein regions with aduenture of goods, and danger of their liues haue sought for. By the Northeast there is no way, the Southeast passage the Portugals doe hold as the Lords of those Seas. At the Southwest Magellans experience hath partly taught vs, and partly we are persuaded by reason, how the Easterne current striketh so furiously on that straight, and falleth with such force into that narrow gulph, that hardly any ship can returne that way into our West Ocean out of Mar del Zur. The which if it be true, as truly it is, then wee may say that the aforesayd Easterne current or leuant course of waters continually following after the heauenly motions, loseth not altogether his force, but is doubled rather by an other current from out the Northeast, in the passage betweene America and the North land, whither it is of necessity caryed: hauing none other way to maintaine it selfe in circular motion, and consequently the force and fury thereof to be no lesse in the straight of Anian, where it striketh South into Mar del Zur, beyond America (if any such straight of Sea there be) then in Magellans fret, both straights being of like bredth: as in Belognine Zalterius table of new France, and in Don Diego Hermano de Toledo his Card for nauigation in that region we doe finde precisely set downe.
Neuerthelesse to approue that there lyeth a way to Cathayo at the Northwest from out of Europe, we haue experience, namely of three brethren that went that iourney, as Gemma Frisius recordeth, and left a name vnto that straight, whereby now it is called Fretum trium fratrum. We doe reade againe of a Portugall that passed this straight, of whom Master Frobisher speaketh, that was imprisoned therefore many yeeres in Lisbone, to verifie the olde Spanish prouerbe, I suffer for doing well. Likewise Andrew Vrdaneta a Fryer of Mexico came out of Mar del Zur this way into Germanie: his Carde (for he was a great discouerer) made by his owne experience and trauell in that voyage, hath bene seene by Gentlemen of good credite.
Cic. 1. de orat. Arist, pri. Metaph. Now if the obseruation and remembrance of things breedeth experience, and of experience proceedeth arte, and the certaine knowledge we haue in all faculties, as the best Philosophers that euer were doe affirme: truely the voyage of these aforesayd trauellers that haue gone out of Europe into Mar del Zur, and returned thence at the Northwest, do most euidently conclude that way to be nauigable, and that passage free. Lib. 1. Geog. Cap. 2. So much the more we are so to thinke for that the first principle and chiefe ground in all Geographie, as Ptolome saith, is the history of trauell, that is, reports made by trauellers skilful in Geometrie and Astronomie, of all such things in their iourney as to Geographie doe belong. It onely then remaineth, that we now answere to those arguments that seemed to make against this former conclusion.
Sol. 1. The first obiection is of no force, that generall table of the world set forth by Ortelius or Mercator, for it greatly skilleth not, being vnskilfully drawen for that point: as manifestly it may appeare vnto any one that conferreth the same with Gemma Frisius his vniuersall Mappe, with his round quartered carde, with his globe, with Sebastian Cabota his table, and Ortelius his generall mappe alone, worthily preferred in this case before all Mercator and Ortelius other doings: for that Cabota was not onely a skilful Sea man, but a long traueller, and such a one as entred personally that straight, sent by king Henry the seuenth to make this aforesayd Discouerie, as in his owne discourse of nauigation you may reade in his carde drawen with his owne hand, that the mouth of the Northwesterne straight lyeth neere the 318. Meridian, betweene 61. and 64. degrees in the eleuation, continuing the same bredth about 10 degrees West, where it openeth Southerly more and more, vntill it come vnder the tropicke of Cancer, and so runneth into Mar del Zur, at the least 18 degrees more in bredth there, then it was where it first began: otherwise I could as well imagine this passage to be more vnlikely then the voyage to Moscouia, and more impossible then it for the farre situation and continuance thereof in the frostie clime: as now I can affirme it to be very possible and most likely in comparison thereof, for that it neither coasteth so farre North as the Moscouian passage doeth, neither is this straight so long as that, before it bow downe Southerly towardes the Sunne againe.
Sol. 2. The second argument concludeth nothing. Ptolome knew not what was aboue sixteene degrees South beyond the Equinoctiall line, he was ignorant of all passages Northward from the eleuation of 63. degrees: he knewe no Ocean sea beyond Asia, yet haue the Portugals trended the Cape of Good hope at the South point of Afrike, and trauelled to Iapan an Island in the East Ocean, betweene Asia and America: our merchants in the time of king Edward the sixt discouered the Moscouian passage farther North than Thyle, and shewed Groenland not to be continent with Lappeland and Norway: the like our Northwesterne trauellers haue done, declaring by their nauigation that way, the ignorance of all Cosmographers that either doe ioyne Groenland with America, or continue the West Indies with that frosty region vnder the north pole. As for Virgil he sang according to the knowledge of men in his time, as an other poet did of the hot Zone.
Ouid. 1. Meta. Quarum quæ media est, non est habitabilis æstu. Imagining, as most men then did, Zonam torridam, the hot Zone to be altogether dishabited for heat, though presently wee know many famous and worthy kingdomes and cities in that part of the earth, and the Island of S. Thomas neere Æthiopia, and the wealthy Islands for the which chiefly all these voyages are taken in hand, to be inhabited euen vnder the Equinoctiall line.
Sol. 3. To answere the third obiection, besides Cabota and all other trauellers nauigations, the onely credit of M. Frobisher46 may suffice, who lately through all these Islands of ice, and mountaines of snow, passed that way, euen beyond the gulfe that tumbleth downe from the North, and in some places though he drewe one inch thicke ice, as he returning in August did, yet came he home safely againe.
Sol. 4. The fourth argument is altogether friuolous and vaine, for neither is there any isthmos or strait of land betweene America and Asia, ne can these two landes ioyntly be one continent. Lib. Geog. The first part of my answere is manifestly allowed of by Homer, whom that excellent Geographer Strabo followeth, yeelding him in this facultie the price. The author of that booke likewise [Greek: perì kosmou] to Alexander, attributed vnto Aristotle, is of the same opinion that Homer and Strabo be of, in two or three places. Dionisius in [Greek: oikoumenaes periaegaesi] hath this verse [Greek: otos hokeanos peridedrome gaian hapasan.] So doth the Ocean Sea runne round about the worlde: speaking onely of Europe, Afrike and Asia, as then Asia was trauelled and knowen. Note. With these Doctours may you ioyne Pomponius Mela. cap. 2. lib 1. Plinius lib. 2. cap. 67. and Pius 2. cap 2. in his description of Asia. Richard Eden. All the which writers doe no lesse confirme the whole Easterne side of Asia to be compassed about with the sea, then Plato doeth affirme in Timæo, vnder the name Atlantis, the West indies to be an Island, as in a special discoure thereof R. Eden writeth, agreeable vnto the sentence of Proclus, Marsilius Ficinus, and others. Out of Plato it is gathered that America is an island. Homer, Strabo, Aristotle, Dionysius, Mela, Plinie, Pius 2. affirme the continent of Asia, Afrike, and Europe to be enuironed with the Ocean. I may therefore boldly say (though later intelligences thereof had we none at all) that Asia and the West Indies be not tied together by any Isthmos or straight of land, contrary to the opinion of some new Cosmographers, by whom doubtfully this matter hath bin brought in controuersie. And thus much for the first part of my answere vnto the fourth obiection.
Lib. 2. Meteor. cap 1. The second part, namely that America and Asia cannot be one continent, may thus be prooued, [Greek: kata taen taes gaes koilotaeta rhei kai ton potamon to plaethos.] The most Riuers take downe that way their course, where the earth is most hollow and deepe, writeth Aristotle: and the Sea (sayeth he in the same place) as it goeth further, so it is found deeper. Into what gulfe doe the Moscouian riuers Onega, Duina, Ob, powre out their streames Northward out of Moscouia into the sea? Which way doeth that sea strike: The South is maine land, the Easterne coast waxeth more and more shalow: from the North, either naturally, because that part of the earth is higher Aristot. 2. Met. cap. 1. or of necessitie, for that the forcible influence of some Northerne starres causeth the earth there to shake off the Sea, as some Philosophers doe thinke: or finally for the great store of waters engendered in that frostie and colde climate, that the bankes are not able to holde them. Alber, in 2. Meteor. cap. 6. From the North, I say, continually falleth downe great abundance of water. So that this Northeasterne currant must at the length abruptly bow towards vs South on the West side of Finmarke and Norway: or else strike downe Southwest aboue Groneland and Iseland, into the Northwest straight we speake of, as of congruence it doeth, if you marke the situation of that Region, and by the report of M. Frobisher experience teacheth vs. And M. Frobisher the further he trauailed in the former passage, as he tolde me, the deeper always he found the Sea. Lay you now the summe hereof together. The riuers runne where the chanels are most hollow, the Sea in taking his course waxeth deeper, the Sea waters fall continually from the North Southward, the Northeasterne current striketh downe into the straight we speak of, and is there augmented with whole mointaines of yce and snowe falling downe furiously out from the land vnder the North pole. Plin. lib. 2. cap. 67 Where store of water is, there is it a thing impossible to want Sea, where Sea not onely doeth not want, but waxeth deeper, there can be discouered no land, finally, whence I pray you came the contrary tide, that M. Frobisher mette withall after he had sailed no small way in that passage, if there be any Isthmos or straight of land betwixt the aforesayd Northwesterne gulfe, and Mar del Zur, to ioyne Asia and America together? That conclusion frequented in scholes Quicquid præter, &c. was meant of the partes of the world then knowen, and so it is of right to be vnderstood.
Sol. 5. The fift obiection requireth for answere wisdome and policie in the trauailer to winne the Barbarians fauour by some good meanes: and so to arme and strengthen himselfe, that when he shal haue the repulse in one coast, he may safely trauaile to an other, commodiously taking his conuenient times, and discreetely making choise of them with whom hee will throughly deale. To force a violent entry, would for vs Englishmen be very hard, considering the strength and valour of so great a Nation, farre distant from vs, and the attempt thereof might be most perilous vnto the doers, vnlesse their part were very good.
Touching their lawes against strangers, you shall reade neuerthelesse in the same relations of Galeotto Perera, that the Cathaian king is woont to graunt free accesse vnto all foreiners that trade into his Countrey for Marchandise, and a place of libertie for them to remaine in: as the Moores had, vntill such time as they had brought the Loutea or Lieutenant of that coast to be a circumcised Saracene: wherefore some of them were put to the sword, the rest were scattered abroad: at Fuquien a great citie in China, certaine of them are yet this day to be seene. As for the Iapans they be most desirous to be acquainted with strangers. The Portingals though they were straitly handled there at the first, yet in the ende they found great fauor at the Prince his hands, insomuch that the Loutea or president that misused them was therefore put to death. The rude Indian Canoa halleth those seas, the Portingals, the Saracens, and Moores trauaile continually vp and downe that reach from Iapan to China, from China to Malacca, from Malacca to the Moluccaes: and shall an Englishman, better appointed then any of them all (that I say no more of our Nauie) feare to saile in that ocean? What seas at all doe want piracie? what Nauigation is there voyde of perill?
Sol. 6. To the last argument. Our trauailers neede not to seeke their returne by the Northeast, neither shall they be constrained, except they list, either to attempt Magellans straight at the Southwest, or to be in danger of the Portingals for the Southeast: they may returne by the Northwest, that same way they doe goe foorth, as experience hath shewed.
The reason alleadged for proofe of the contrary may be disproued after this maner. And first it may be called in controuersie, whether any current continually be forced by the motion of Primum mobile, round about the world, or no: For learned men doe diuersly handle that question. Luc. lib. 1. Pharsal. The naturall course of all waters is downeward, wherefore of congruence they fall that way where they finde the earth most lowe and deepe: in respect whereof, it was erst sayd, the seas doe strike from the Northern landes Southerly. Violently the seas are tossed and troubled diuers wayes with the windes, encreased and diminished by the course of the Moone, hoised vp and downe through the sundry operations of the Sunne and the starres: finally, some be of opinion, that the seas be carried in part violently about the world, after the dayly motion of the highest moueable heauen, in like maner as the elements of ayre and fire, with the rest of the heauenly spheres, are from the East vnto the West. What the Easterne current is. And this they doe call their Easterne current, or leuant stream. Some such current may not be denied to be of great force in the hot Zone, for the neerenesse thereof vnto the centre of the Sunne, and blustering Easterne windes violently driuing the seas Westwards: howbeit, in the temperate climes, the Sunne being further off, and the windes more diuers, blowing as much from the North, the West and South, as from the East, this rule doeth not effectually withholde vs from trauailing Eastward, neither be we kept euer backe by the aforesaid Leuant windes and streame. But in the Magellans streight wee are violently driuen backe West: Ergo, through the Northwesterne straight or Annian frette shall we not be able to returne Eastward? It followeth not. The first, for that the northwesterne straight hath more sea roome at the least by one hundreth English myles, than Magellans frette hath, the onely want whereof causeth all narrow passages generally to be most violent. So would I say in the Anian gulfe, if it were so narrow as Don Diego and Zalterius haue painted it out, any returne that way to bee full of difficulties, in respect of such streightnesse thereof, not for the neerenesse of the Sunne, or Easterne windes violently forcing that way any leuant streame: But in that place there is more sea roome by many degrees, if the Cardes of Cabota, and Gemma Frisius, and that which Tramezine imprinted be true.
And hitherto reason see I none at all, but that I may as well giue credite vnto their doings, as to any of the rest. Lib. 1. Geog. Cap. 2. It must be Peregrinationis historia, that is, true reportes of skilfull trauailers, as Ptolome writeth, that in such controuersies of Geographie must put vs out of doubt. Ortelius in his vniuersall tables, in his particular Mappes of the West Indies, of all Asia, of the Northern kingdomes, of the East Indies, Mercator in some of his globes, and generall Mappes of the world, Moletius in his vniuersall table of the Globe diuided, in his sea Carde, and particuler tables of the East Indies, Zalterius, and Don Diego, with Ferdinando Bertely, and others, doe so much differ from Gemma Frisius and Cabota, among themselues, and in diuers places from themselues, concerning the diuers situation and sundry limits of America, that one may not so rashly, as timely surmise, these men either to be ignorant in those points touching the aforesaid region, or that the Mappes they haue giuen out vnto the world, were collected onely by them, and neuer of their owne drawing.
46 Born near Doncaster. He made several attempts to find the Northwest passage. (See post.) In 1585 he accompanied Drake to the West Indies; assisted in defeating the Spanish Armada, and was mortally wounded in 1594 at the attack on Fort Croyzan, near Brest. Some relics of his Arctic expedition were discovered by Captain F. C. Hall in 1860–62, and described in his delightful book, “Life with the Esquimaux.”
Last updated Monday, December 22, 2014 at 10:51