This series has two easy 5 minute installments. This first installment: Frobisher Sails from England.
The Northwest Passage, that great dream to bypass the American continents through the north was prosecuted by determined explorers. Martin Frobisher was one of the first. His companion George Best wrote this account for him. Best was not on the first voyage but was on his second and third voyages.
This selection is from A True Discourse of the Late Voyages of Discoverie by George Best published in 1578. For works benefiting from the latest research see the “More information” section at the bottom of these pages.
Place: North Coast of Canada
Which thing being well considered and familiarly known to our General, Captain Frobisher, as well for that he is thoroughly furnished of the knowledge of the sphere and all other skills appertaining to the art of navigation, as also for the confirmation he hath of the same by many years’ experience both by sea and land; and being persuaded of a new and nearer passage to Cataya than by Cabo de Buona SperanÃ§a, which the Portugals yearly use, he began first with himself to devise, and then with his friends to confer, and laid a plain plot unto them that that voyage was not only possible by the northwest, but also, he could prove, easy to be performed. And further, he determined and resolved with himself to go make full proof thereof, and to accomplish or bring true certificate of the truth, or else never to return again; knowing this to be the only thing of the world that was left yet undone, whereby a notable mind might be made famous and fortunate.
 Cathay (China).
But although his will were great to perform this notable voyage, whereof he had conceived in his mind a great hope by sundry sure reasons and secret intelligence, which here, for sundry causes, I leave untouched; yet he wanted altogether means and ability to set forward and perform the same. Long time he conferred with his private friends of these secrets, and made also many offers for the performing of the same in effect unto sundry merchants of our country, above fifteen years before he attempted the same, as by good witness shall well appear, albeit some evil-willers, which challenge to themselves the fruits of other men’s labors, have greatly injured him in the reports of the same, saying that they have been the first authors of that action, and that they have learned him the way, which themselves as yet have never gone. But perceiving that hardly he was hearkened unto of the merchants, which never regard virtue without sure, certain, and present gains, he repaired to the court, from whence, as from the fountain of our common wealth, all good causes have their chief increase and maintenance, and there laid open to many great estates and learned men the plot and sum of his device. And among many honorable minds which favored his honest and commendable enterprise, he was specially bound and beholding to the Right Honorable Ambrose Dudley, Earl of Warwick, whose favorable mind and good disposition hath always been ready to countenance and advance all honest actions, with the authors and executers of the same. And so by means of my lord his honorable countenance he received some comfort of his cause, and by little and little, with no small expense and pain, brought his cause to some perfection, and had drawn together so many adventurers and such sums of money as might well defray a reasonable charge to furnish himself to sea withal.
 Further details of this voyage may be gathered from the log of Christopher Hall, master of the Gabriel, printed in Hakluyt. The present narrative, prefixed to Best’s accounts of the second and third voyages, was preceded by a treatise intended to prove all parts of the earth, even the poles, equally habitable.
He prepared two small barks of twenty and five-and-twenty ton apiece, wherein he intended to accomplish his pretended voyage. Wherefore, being furnished with the aforesaid two barks, and one small pinnace of ten ton burden, having therein victuals and other necessaries for twelve months’ provision, he departed upon the said voyage from Blackwall, the 15. of June, Anno Domini 1576.
 The date is incorrect. Hall quitted his moorings at Ratcliffe on the 7th, and left Deptford on the 8th. In passing the royal palace of Greenwich, says Hall, “we shot off our ordnance, and made the best show we could. Her majesty, beholding the same, commended it, and bade us farewell, with shaking her hand at us out of the window.” Gravesend was passed on the 12th.
One of the barks wherein he went was named the Gabriel, and the other the Michael; and, sailing northwest from England upon the 11. of July he had sight of an high and ragged land, which he judged to be Frisland, whereof some authors have made mention; but durst not approach the same by reason of the great store of ice that lay alongst the coast, and the great mists that troubled them not a little. Not far from thence he lost company of his small pinnace, which by means of the great storm he supposed to be swallowed up of the sea; wherein he lost only four men. Also the other bark, named the Michael, mistrusting the matter, conveyed themselves privily away from him, and returned home, with great report that he was cast away.
 The land was Greenland. Friesland was the name given to the Faroe Islands in the voyage of the brothers Zeni. Hall saw the rocky spires of the coast “rising like pinnacles of steeples” in the afternoon sun.
The worthy captain, notwithstanding these discomforts, although his mast was sprung and his topmast blown overboard with extreme foul weather, continued his course toward the northwest, knowing that the sea at length must needs have an ending and that some land should have a beginning that way; and determined therefore at the least to bring true proof what land and sea the same might be so far to the northwestward, beyond any that man hath heretofore discovered. And the 20. of July he had sight of an high land, which he called “Queen Elizabeth’s Foreland,” after her majesty’s name. And sailing more northerly alongst that coast, he descried another foreland, with a great gut, bay, or passage, dividing as it were two main lands or continents asunder. There he met with store of exceeding great ice all this coast along, and, coveting still to continue his course to the northward, was always by contrary wind detained overthwart these straits, and could not get beyond.
 The northeast corner of the island to the north of Resolution Island.
 The North Foreland, at the southeast corner of Hall’s Island.
Within few days after, he perceived the ice to be well consumed and gone, either there engulfed in by some swift currents or indrafts, carried more to the southward of the same straits, or else conveyed some other way; wherefore he determined to make proof of this place, to see how far that gut had continuance, and whether he might carry himself through the same into some open sea on the back side, whereof he conceived no small hope; and so entered the same the one-and-twentieth of July, and passed above fifty leagues therein, as he reported, having upon either hand a great main or continent. And that land upon his right hand as he sailed westward he judged to be the continent of Asia, and there to be divided from the firm of America, which lieth upon the left hand over against the same.
This place he named after his name, “Frobisher’s Straits,” like as Magellanus at the southwest end of the world, having discovered the passage to the South Sea, where America is divided from the continent of that land, which lieth under the south pole, and called the same straits “Magellan’s Straits.”
 Afterward called Frobisher Bay.
Next on Frobisher searches for the Northwest Passage.
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