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from Desmond of his island of Valentia, on the coast of Derry. *
Owing to some uncertainty as to the Earl's liberation, the affair did not come to any conclusion ; but no circumstances are stated that should have induced Frobisher to betray this affair to the government. Nothing more is heard of Frobisher till the
year 1576, when the subject of the north-west passage was revived, and false reports were spread abroad, that a passage had been effected round the northern coast of America to Cathaia and the East Indies. Frobisher, however, had no faith in such reports ; and, from all the information he could collect, was fully persuaded that the voyage was not only feasible, but of easy execution. The friends of Frobisher, however, were by no means so sanguine, nor prepared to enter into this scheme; but such was the conviction on his mind, on long reflection, that, as nature had made a communication between the Southern Atlantic and the Pacific, so the same would be found to exist between the Northern Atlantic and the Pacific. To enable him to establish this opinion, and thus to make his name renowned, he struggled for fifteen years, without being able to procure the means of setting forth an expedition for the purpose:
“ But about this time,” says Camden, some studious heads, moved with a commendable desire
* MSS., State Paper Office.
to discover the more remote regions of the world, and the secrets of the ocean, put forward some wellmoneyed men, no less desirous to reap profit by it than to find out whether there were any strait in the north part of America, through which men might sail to the rich country of Cathay, and so the wealth of the East and West might be conjoyned by a mutual commerce. Herewith,” he continues, “these moneyed men being persuaded, they fitted out and sent Martin Frobisher with two small barks, the Gabriel of 35, and the Michael of 30 tons, together with a pinnace of 10 tons, on this expedition, in addition to which he obtained the countenance and assistance of Dudley, Earl of Warwick."*
On the 8th of May, 1576, the little squadron made sail ; "and,” says the writer of the voyage, "at Deptford we bore down to the court, where we shotte off our ordinance, and made the best show we could. Her Majesty, beholding the same, commended it, and bade us farewell, by shaking her hand at us out of the window. The same night the Secretary Woolly came aborde of us, and declared to the company that her Majesty had appointed him to give them charge to be obedient and diligent to their captains and governors in all things, and wished us happy success.”+
On the 11th of July they came in sight of Friesland, in 61° lat., “rising like pinnacles of steeples, * Camden.
and all covered with snow.” Proceeding northerly among the ice, they entered a strait in lat. 63° 8', to which the geographers of that day very properly gave
the name of the first discoverer. Frobisher entered this "great gut, bay, or passage, three-score leagues,” and, stretching along to the westward, he supposed it to be the strait that connected the Atlantic Ocean with what was then called the South Sea, afterwards the Pacific. Here the party discovered at some distance certain things floating, which they took to be porpoises or seals, or some kind of strange fish, but which, on a nearer approach, they discovered, with great surprise, to be human beings in small boats covered with skins.
Well may they have been surprised to see, for the first time, creatures so totally different from any hitherto known, “ with long black hair, broad faces and flatte noses, and taunie in colour, wearing seale skins, the women marked in the face with blewe streaks downe the cheekes, and round about the eyes. To one man, who came on board, Frobisher
gave a bell and knife, and sent him in a boat with five of the crew, with directions to land him on a rock, and not to trust themselves with numbers that were on the shore; but they disobeyed his orders and her Majesty's instructions, were seized by the natives, and none of them heard of more. The people after this became shy; but Frobisher, by ringing and
holding out a bell, induced one man to come alongside, and as he stretched out his hand to receive it, he was caught fast by Frobisher, who “plucked him by main force, boat and all, into his barke.” On finding himself a prisoner, for very rage “he bit his tongue in twaine within his mouth : notwithstanding he died not thereof, but lived untill he came into England, and then he died of cold which he had taken at sea.” “With this strange infidele, whose like was never seene, read, nor heard of before, and whose language was neither knowen nor understood of any,” Frobisher set sail for England, and arrived at Harwich on the 21st of October; being, says his historian, “highly commended of all men for his greate and notable attempt, but specially famous for the great hope he brought of the passage to Cathaia.” The discovery of this strait, by the first navigator who had visited that part of the coast of America, was sufficient ground for coming to such a conclusion, and so thought the government.
At a council held at Westminster in March, 1577, present the Lord Treasurer, the Lord Chamberlain, the Earl of Leicester, Mr. Comptroller and Mr. Secretary Walsingham, a letter was written to the Lord President in the North, stating that “ last year a voyage was taken in hand by Master Furbussher for the discovery of some parts of the world unknowen, where there is great likelihood that the continuance thereof will be beneficial to the whole realme, and particularly to such as are venturous in the same; and for that some encouragement might be given for the following thereof, her Majestie is pleased to contribute largely towards such charges as are now to be employed; their Lordships think good to desire that seeing, by the success of the last year, such hope hath been conceived of the profits of that voyage, as both her Majestie and their Lordships have entered into some charges, and could wish that others would do the like, &c. : the Lord President would signifie to the inhabitants thereabouts, to the merchants of York, Newcastle, Hull, and other places under his jurisdiction, who shall be willing to contribute,” &c. &c.*
With such encouragement and the propagation of such opinions, it may readily be supposed that Frobisher was nothing backward in preparing for a second expedition. The Queen's name was alone sufficient to complete the number of adventurers. There was, besides, another temptation. A piece of black stone, “much like to a sea-cole in colour,” having been picked up by one Hall, and given to one of the seamen's wives, she happened to throw it into the fire, on which, while yet hot, she poured some vinegar, when "it glistened with a bright marqueset of gold.” This report being spread abroad, the gold-finers of London assayed the stone, and reported that it contained a considerable quantity of gold.
* Council Register, H. M. Council Office. † Hakluyt.