The first voyage of M. Iohn Davis, undertaken in June 1585. for the discouerie of the Northwest passage, Written by M. Iohn Ianes Marchant, sometimes seruant to the worshipfull Master William Sanderson.
Certaine Honourable personages, and worthy Gentlemen of the Court and Countrey, with diuers worshipful Marchants of London and of the West Countrey, mooued with desire to aduance Gods glory and to seeke the good of their natiue Countrey, consulting together of the likelyhood of the Discouerie of the Northwest passage, which heretofore had bene attempted, but vnhappily giuen ouer by accidents vnlooked for, which turned the enterprisers from their principall purpose, resolued after good deliberation, to put downe their aduentures to prouide for necessarie shipping, and a fit man to be chiefe Conductor of this so hard an enterprise. The setting forth of this action was committed by the aduenturers, especially to the care of M. William Sanderson Marchant of London, who was so forward therein, that besides his trauaile which was not small, he became the greatest aduenturer with his purse, and commended vnto the rest of the companie one M. Iohn Davis, a man very well grounded in the principles of the Arte of Nauigation, for Captaine and chiefe Pilot of this exployt.
Thus therefore all things being put in a readines, wee departed from Dartmouth the seuenth of Iune, towards the discouerie of the aforesayd Northwest passage, with two Barkes, the one being of 50. tunnes, named the Sunneshine of London, and the other being 35. tunnes, named the Mooneshine of Dartmouth. In the Sunneshine we had 23. persons, whose names are these following, M. Iohn Dauis Captaine, William Eston Master, Richard Pope masters mate, Iohn Iane Marchant, Henry Dauie gunner, William Crosse boatswayne, Iohn Bagge, Walter Arthur, Luke Adams, Robert Coxworthie, Iohn Ellis, Iohn Kelley, Edward Helman, William Dicke, Andrew Maddocke, Thomas Hill, Robert Wats Carpenter, William Russel, Christopher Gorney boy: Musitians. Iames Cole, Francis Ridley, John Russell, Robert Cornish Musicians.
The Mooneshine had l9. persons, William Bruton Captaine Iohn Ellis Master, the rest Mariners.
The 7. of Iune the Captaine and the Master drewe out a proportion for the continuance of our victuals.
The 8. day the wind being at Southwest and West Southwest, we put in for Falmouth, where we remained vntill the 13.
The 13. the wind blew at North, and being faire weather we departed.
The 14. with contrary wind we were forced to put into Silley.
The 15. wee departed thence, hauing the wind North and by East moderate and faire weather.
The 16. wee were driuen backe againe, and were constrained to arriue at newe Grymsby in Silley: here the winde remained contrary 12. dayes, and in that space the Captaine, the Master and I went about all the Ilands, and the Captaine did plat out and describe the situation of all the Ilands, rocks and harboroughs to the exact vse of Nauigation, with lines and scale thereunto conuenient.
They depart from Silley. The 28. in Gods name we departed the wind being Easterly but calme.
Iuly. The first of Iuly wee sawe great store of Porposes; The Master called for an harping yron, and shot twise or thrise: sometimes he missed, and at last shot one and strooke him in the side, and wound him into the ship: when we had him aboord, the Master sayd it was a Darlie head.
The 2. we had some of the fish sodden, and it did eat as sweete as any mutton.
The 3. wee had more in sight, and the Master went to shoote at them, but they were so great, that they burst our yrons, and we lost both fish, yrons, pastime and all: yet neuerthelesse the Master shot at them with a pike, and had welnigh gotten one, but he was so strong that he burst off the barres of the pike and went away: then he tooke the boate-hook, and hit one with that, but all would not preuaile, so at length we let them alone.
The 6. we saw a very great Whale, and euery day we saw whales continually.
Great store of whales. The 16. and 17. we saw great store of Whales.
The 19. of Iuly we fell into a great whirling and brustling of a tyde, setting to the Northwards: and sayling about halfe a league wee came into a very calme Sea, which bent to the Southsouthwest. Here we heard a mighty great roaring of the Sea, as if it had bene the breach of some shoare, the ayre being so fogie and fulle of thicke mist, that we could not see the one ship from the other, being a very small distance asunder: so the Captaine and the Master being in distrust how the tyde might set them, caused the Mooneshine to hoyse out her boate and to sound, but they could not finde ground in 300 fathoms and better. Then the Captaine, Master, and I went towards the breach, to see what it should be, giuing the charge to our gunners that at euery glasse they should shoote off a musket shot, to the intent we might keepe ourselues from loosing them. The rouling of the yce together made a great roaring. Then coming nere to the breach, we met many Ilands of yce floting, which had quickly compassed vs about: then we went vpon some of them, and did perceiue that all the roaring which we heard, was caused onely by the rowling of this yce together: Yce turned into water. Our companie seeing vs not to returne according to our appoyntment, left off shooting muskets, and began to shoote falkonets, for they feared some mishap had befallen vs, but before night we came aboord againe with our boat laden with yce, which made very good fresh water. Then wee bent our course toward the North, hoping by that meanes to double the land.
The land of Desolation. The 20. as we sayled along the coast the fogge broke, and we discouered the land, which was the most deformed rockie and mountainous land that euer we saw: The first sight whereof did shew as if it had bene in forme of a sugar-loafe, standing to our sight aboue the cloudes, for that it did shew ouer the fogge like a white liste in the skie, the tops altogether covered with snow, and the shoare beset with yce a league off into the Sea, making such yrkesome noyse as that it seemed to be the true patterne of desolation, and after the same our Captaine named it, The land of Desolation.
The 21. the winde came Northerly and ouerblew, so that we were constrained to bend our course South againe, for we perceiued that we were runne into a very deepe Bay, where wee were almost compassed with yce, for we saw very much toward the Northnortheast, West, and Southwest: and this day and this night wee cleared our selues of the yce, running Southsouthwest along the shoare.
Vpon Thursday being the 22. of this moneth, about three of the clocke in the morning, wee hoysed out our boate, and the Captaine with sixe sayles went towards the shore, thinking to find a landing place, for the night before we did perceiue the coast to be voyde of yce to our iudgement, and the same night wee were all perswaded that we had seene a Canoa rowing along the shoare, but afterwards we fell in some doubt of it, but we had no great reason so to doe. The Captaine rowing towards the shoare, willed the Master to beare in with the land after him, and before he came neere the shoare by the space of a league, or about two miles, hee found so much yce, that hee could not get to land by any meanes. Here our mariners put to their lines to see if they could get any fish, because there were so many seales vpon the coast, and the birds did beate vpon the water, but all was in vaine: Very blacke water. The water about this place was very blacke and thicke like to a filthy standing poole, we sounded and had ground in 120. fathoms. Floting wood. While the Captaine was rowing to the shoare, our men sawe woods vpon the rocks like to the rocks of Newfoundland, but I could not discerne them, yet it might be so very well, for we had wood floting vpon the coast euery day, and the Moone-shine tooke vp a tree at Sea not farre from the coast being sixtie foote of length and fourteene handfuls about, hauing the roote vpon it: After this the Captaine came aboord, the weather being very calme and faire we bent our course toward the South, with intent to double the land.
The 23. we coasted the land which did lie Eastnortheast and Westsouthwest.
The 24. the winde being very faire at East, we coasted the land which did lie East and West, not being able to come neere the shoare by reason of the great quantitie of yce. Colde by reason of yce. At this place, because the weather was somewhat colde by reason of the yce, and the better to encourage our men, their allowance was increased: the captaine and the master tooke order that euery messe, being fiue persons, should haue halfe a pound of bread and a kan of beere euery morning to breakfast. The weather was not very colde, but the aire was moderate like to our April-weather in England: when the winde came from the land, or the ice, it was somewhat colde, but when it came off the sea it was very hote.
They saile Northwestward aboue foure dayes. The 25. of this moneth we departed from sight of this land at sixe of the clocke in the morning, directing our course to the Northwestward, hoping in Gods mercy to finde our desired passage, and so continued aboue foure dayes.
Land in 64 degrees 15 min. The 29. of Iuly we discouered land in 64 degrees 15 minutes of latitude, bearing Northeast from vs. The winde being contrary to goe to the Northwestwards, we bare in with this land to take some view of it, being vtterly void of the pester yce and very temperate. Comming neere the coast, we found many faire sounds and good roads for shipping, and many great inlets into the land, whereby we iudged this land to be a great number of Islands standing together. Heere hauing mored our barke in good order, we went on shoare vpon a small Island to seeke for water and wood. The sound where our ships did ride was called Gilberts Sound. Vpon this Island we did perceiue that there had bene people: or we found a small shoo and pieces of leather sowed with sinewes, and a piece of furre, and wooll like to Beuer. Then we went vpon another Island on the other side of our shippes: and the Captaine, the master, and I, being got vp to the top of an high rocke, the people of the countrey hauing espied vs, made a lamentable noise, as we thought, with great outcries and skreechings: we hearing them, thought it had bene the howling of wolues. At last I hallowed againe, and they likewise cried. Then we perceiuing where they stood, some on the shoare, and one rowing in a Canoa about a small Island fast by them, we made a great noise, partly to allure them to vs, and partly to warne our company of them. Musicians. Whereupon M. Bruton and the Master of his shippe, with others of their company, made great haste towards vs, and brought our Musicians with them from our shippe, purposing either by force to rescue vs, if need should so require, or with courtesie to allure the people. When they came vnto vs, we caused our Musicians to play, our selues dancing, and making many signes of friendship. The people of the countrey came and conferred with our men. At length there came tenne Canoas from the other Islands, and two of them came so neere the shoare where we were, that they talked with vs, the other being in their boats a prety way off. Their pronunciation was very hollow thorow the throat, and their speech such as we could not vnderstand: onely we allured them by friendly imbracings and signes of courtesie. At length one of them pointing vp to the Sunne with his hand, would presently strike his breast so hard that we might heare the blow. This hee did many times before hee would any way trust vs. Then Iohn Ellis the Master of the Mooneshine was appointed to vse his best policie to gaine their friendship; who strooke his breast, and pointed to the Sunne after their order: which when he had diuers time done, they beganne to trust him, and one of them came on shoare, to whom we threw our cappes, stockings, and gloues, and such other things as then we had about vs, playing with our musicke, and making signes of ioy, and dauncing. So the night comming, we bade them farewell, and went aboord our barks.
Thirty seuen Canoas. Their musicke. The next morning being the 30. of Iuly there came 37 Canoas rowing by our ships, calling to vs to come on shoare: we not making any great haste vnto them, one of them went vp to the toppe of the rocke, and leapt and daunced as they had done the day before, shewing vs a seales skinne, and another thing made like a timbrell, which he did beat vpon with a sticke, making a noise like a small drumme. Whereupon we manned our boats and came to them, they all staying in their Canoas: we come to the water side where they were: and after we had sworne by the Sunne after their fashion, they did trust vs. Great familiarity with the Sauages. So I shooke hands with one of them, and he kissed my hand, and we were very familiar with them. We were in so great credit with them vpon this single acquaintance, that we could haue any thing they had. We bought fiue Canoas of them: we bought their clothes from their backs, which were all made of seales skinnes and birds skinnes; their buskins, their hose, their gloues, all being commonly sowed and well dressed: so that we were fully perswaded that they haue diuers artificers among them. We had a paire of buskins of them full of fine wool like beuer. Their apparell for heat was made of birds skinnes with their feathers on them. We saw among them leather dressed like Glouers leather, and thicke thongs like white leather of a good length. We had of their darts and oares, and found in them that they would by no meanes displease vs, but would giue vs whatsoeuer we asked of them, and would be satisfied with whatsoeuer we gaue them. They tooke great care of one another: for when we had bought their boats, then two other would come and cary him away betweene them that had solde vs his. They are very tractable people, void of craft or double dealing, and easie to be brought to any civility or good order: but we iudge them to be idolaters and to worship the Sunne.
Diuers sorts of wood. During the time of our abode among these Islands we found reasonable quantitie of wood, both firre, spruse and iuniper; which whether it came floating any great distance to these places where we found it, or whether it grew in some great Islands neere the same place by vs not yet discouered, we know not; but we iudge that it groweth there further into the land then we were, because the people had great store of darts and oares which they made none account of, but gaue them to vs for small trifles, as points and pieces of paper. They may make much traine, if they had meanes how to vse it. We saw about this coast marueilous great abundance of seales skulling together like skuls of small fish. We found no fresh water among these Islands, but onely snow water, whereof we found great pooles. The cliffes were all of such oare as M. Frobisher brought from Meta incognita. Moscouie glasse. We had diuers shewes of Study or Muscouy glasse shining not altogether vnlike to Christall. A fruit like corinths. We found an herbe growing vpon the rocks whose fruit was sweet, full of red iuice, and the ripe ones were like corinths. We found also birch and willow growing like shrubbes low to the ground. These people haue great store of furres as we iudge. They made shewes vnto vs the 30 of this present, which was the second time of our being with them, after they perceiued we would haue skinnes and furres, that they would go into the countrey and come againe the next day with such things as they had: but this night the winde comming faire, the captaine and the master would by no meanes detract the purpose of our discouery. And so the last of this moneth about foure of the clocke in the morning in God’s name we set saile, and were all that day becalmed vpon the coast.
August. The first of August we had a faire winde, and so proceeded towards the Northwest for our discouery.
Land in 66 degrees 40 min. The sixt of August we discouered land in 66 degrees 40 minuts of latitude, altogether void from the pester of ice: we ankered in a very faire rode vnder a braue mount, the cliffes whereof were as orient as golde. This Mount was named Mount Raleigh. The rode where our ships lay at anker was called Totnes rode. The sound which did compasse the mount was named Exeter sound. The foreland towards the North was called Diers cape. The foreland towards the South was named Cape Walsingham. Foure white beares. So soone as we were come to an anker in Totnes rode vnder Mount Raleigh, we espied foure white beares at the foot of the mount: we supposing them to be goats or wolues, manned our boats and went towards them: but when we came neere the shore, we found them to be white beares of a monstrous bignesse: we being desirous of fresh victuall and the sport, began to assault them, and I being on land, one of them came downe the hill right against me: my piece was charged with hailshot and a bullet: I discharged my piece and shot him in the necke; he roared a litle, and tooke the water straight, making small account of his hurt. Then we followed him with our boat, and killed him with boare-speares, and two more that night. We found nothing in their mawes: but we iudged by their dung that they fed vpon grasse, because it appeared in all respects like the dung of an horse, wherein we might very plainly see the very strawes.
The 7 we went on shore to another beare which lay all night vpon the top of an Island vnder Mount Raleigh, and when we came vp to him he lay fast asleep. A large white beare. I leuelled at his head, and the stone of my piece gaue no fire: with that he looked vp, and layed downe his head againe: then I shot being charged with two bullets, and strooke him in the head: he being but amazed fell backwards: wherevpon we ran all vpon him with boare-speares, and thrust him in the body: yet for that he gript away our boare-speares, and went towards the water; and as he was going downe, he came backe againe. Then our Master shot his boare-spear, and strooke him in the head, and made him to take the water, and swimme into a coue fast by, where we killed him, and brought him aboord. The breadth of his forefoot from one side to the other was fourteene inches ouer. They were very fat, so as we were constrained to cast the fat away. We saw a rauen vpon Mount Raleigh. We found withies also growing like low shrubs and flowers like Primroses in the sayd place. The coast is very mountainous, altogether without wood, grasse, or earth, and is onely huge mountaines of stone; but the brauest stone that euer we saw. The aire was very moderate in this countrey.
The 8 we departed from Mount Raleigh, coasting along the shoare, which lieth Southsouthwest, and Eastnortheast.
The 9 our men fell in dislike of their allowance, because it was too small as they thought: whereupon we made a new proportion; euery messe being fiue to a messe should haue foure pound of bread a day, twelue wine quarts of beere, six Newland fishes; and the flesh dayes a gill of pease more: so we restrained them from their butter and cheese.
The 11 we came to the most Southerly cape of this land, which we named The Cape of Gods mercy, as being the place of our first entrance for the discouery. The weather being very foggy we coasted this North land; at length when it brake vp, we perceiued that we were shot into a very faire entrance or passage, being in some places twenty leagues broad, and in some thirty, altogether void of any pester of ice, the weather very tolerable, and the water of the very colour, nature and quality of the maine ocean, which gaue vs the greater hope of our passage. Hauing sailed Northwest sixty leagues in this entrance we discouered certaine Islands standing in the midst thereof, hauing open passage on both sides. Wherupon our ships diuided themselues, the one sailing on the North side, the other on the South side of the sayd Isles, where we stayed fiue dayes, hauing the winde at Southeast, very foggy and foule weather.
The 14 we went on shoare and found signes of people, for we found stones layed vp together like a wall, and saw the skull of a man or a woman.
The 15 we heard dogs houle on the shoare, which we thought had bene wolues, and therefore we went on shoare to kill them. When we came on land the dogges came presently to our boat very gently, yet we thought they came to pray vpon vs, and therefore we shot at them, and killed two: and about the necke of one of them we found a leatherne coller, whereupon we thought them to be tame dogs. There were twenty dogs like mastiues with prickt eares and long bush tailes: we found a bone in the pizels of their dogs. Timber sawen. Then we went farther, and found two sleads made like ours in England: the one was made of firre, spruse and oken boords sawen like inch boords: the other was made all of whale bone, and there hung on the tops of the sleads three heads of beasts which they had killed. Fowle. We saw here larks, rauens, and partridges.
An image. The 17 we went on shoare, and in a little thing made like an ouen with stones I found many small trifles, as a small canoa made of wood, a piece of wood made like an image, a bird made of bone, beads hauing small holes in one end of them to hang about their necks, and other small things. The coast was very barren without wood or grasse: the rocks were very faire like marble, full of vaines of divers colours. We found a seale which was killed not long before, being fleane, and hid vnder stones.
Probabilities for the passage. Our Captaine and Master searched for probabilities of the passage, and first found, that this place was all Islands, with great sounds passing betweene them.
Wee neuer came into any bay before or after, but the waters colour was altered very blackish. Secondly the water remained of one colour with the maine ocean without altering.
Thirdly we saw to the West of those Isles three or foure whales in a skull, which they iudged to come from a Westerly sea, because to the Eastward we saw not any whale.
Also as we were rowing into a very great sound lying Southwest, from whence these whales came, vpon the sudden there came a violent counter-checke of a tide from the Southwest against the flood which we came with, not knowing from whence it was mainteined.
Fiftly, in sailing twenty leagues within the mouth of this entrance we had sounding in 90 fadoms, faire grey osie sand, and the further we ran into the Westwards the deeper was the water; so that hard aboord the shoare among these Isles we could not haue ground in 330 fadoms.
Lastly, it did ebbe and flow sixe or seuen fadome vp and downe, the flood comming from diuers parts, so as we could not perceiue the chiefe maintenance thereof.
The 18 and 19 our Captaine and Master determined what was best to doe, both for the safegard of their credits, and satisfying of the aduenturers, and resolued, if the weather brake vp, to make further search.
The 20 the winde came directly against vs: so they altered their purpose, and reasoned both for proceeding and returning.
The 21 the winde being Northwest, we departed from these Islands; and as we coasted the South shoare we saw many faire sounds, whereby we were perswaded that it was no firme land but Islands.
The 23 of this moneth the wind came Southeast, with very stormy and foule weather: so we were constrained to seeke harborow vpon the South coast of this entrance, where we fell into a very faire sound, and ankered in 25 fadoms greene osie sand. Faulcons. Here we went on shore, where we had manifest signes of people where they had made their fire, and layed stone like a wall. In this place we saw foure very faire faulcons; and M. Bruton tooke from one of them his prey, which we iudged by the wings and legs to be a snite, for the head was eaten off.
The 24 in the afternoone, the winde comming somewhat faire, we departed from this road, purposing by Gods grace to returne for England.
Their returne. The 26 we departed from sight of the North land of this entrance, directing our course homewards vntill the tenth of the next moneth.
September. The 10. of September wee fell with The land of desolation, thinking to goe on shoare, but we could get neuer a good harborough. That night wee put to sea againe, thinking to search it the next day: but this night arose a very great storme, and separated our ships, so that we lost the sight of the Mooneshine.
They saile from The land of desolation to England in 14. dayes. The 13. about noone (hauing tried all the night before with a goose wing) we set saile, and within two houres after we had sight of the Mooneshine againe: this day we departed from this land.
The 27. of this moneth we fell with sight of England. This night we had a marueilous storme and lost the Mooneshine.
The 30. of September wee came into Dartmouth, where wee found the Mooneshine being come in not two houres before.89
89 Thus the only result of Davis’s Voyage was the discovery of the broad piece of water since known as Davis’s Straits, extending between Greenland on the East and Cumberland Island on the West. It connects the Atlantic with Baffin’s Bay. In the next voyage, Davis seems to have crossed the mouth of Hudson’s Straits, without entering them.
Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55