History of American Exploration from 1585 to 1600

About the history of American exploration from 1585 to 1600 including voyages of Sir Walter Raleigh and John Davis.


1585 John Davis (1550?-1605), yeoman neighbor of Gilbert and Raleigh and inventor of Davis's quadrant (a navigational instrument for obtaining latitude), set out in the Sunshine and Mooneshine with a total crew of 27 on yet another search for the Northwest Passage. On one island, when the Eskimos made "a lamentable noyse . . . with great outcreyes and skreechings," two boat parties danced while the orchestra from the Sunshine played, but to no avail; finally a ship's master found the key to calming the Eskimos down when he struck his breast and pointed to the sun several times. The expedition traveled into what became known as Davis Strait (a discovery), then 180 mi. up Cumberland Sound. Because of its deep water and whales, the English thought it might be the Passage (it wasn't). On his second voyage in 1586, Davis found evidence (a cross) that Christian Norsemen had preceded them to the Arctic. The crew wrestled and played a primitive version of football with some Eskimos, fought others with bow and arrow. One ship was sent home because the crew was sick; another was barely saved from foundering during a storm by a single strand of mooring rope; and a third, the North Starre, sent to investigate territory "straight over the Pole," was lost.

1587 Davis came close to discovering the Passage on his third voyage when he traveled up Gilbert Sound. On Drum Island, the crew took their hunting dogs ashore for a fox hunt, but the dogs, fat from an easy shipboard life, could not get up any speed. Passing Hudson Strait, the men were awed by "the water whirling and roaring as it were the meeting of the tydes." It was Davis's last voyage to the North.

1587-1590 Sir Walter Raleigh (1552?-1618) set up his elaborate Second Virginia Colony on Roanoke Island. All that remained of it when the rescue party arrived in 1590 was the word Croatan carved on a tree.

1595 The dashing and handsome Raleigh, out of favor with Queen Elizabeth since his marriage to her lady-in-waiting Elizabeth Throck-morton in 1594, and having survived an imprisonment in the Tower of London, sailed with four ships and 150 men to the Orinoco on a search for the fabulous--El Dorado, Amazons, men with mouths on their chests and eyes on their shoulders. The river was raging during the rainy season, and though Raleigh brought some gold-bearing ore back to England, the voyage was essentially a failure.

1598-1600 The famous second edition of The Principal Navigations, Voyages, and Discoveries of the English Nation--some 1,700,000 words of it--was published. Its author was Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616), historian, geographer, and promoter of voyages.

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