Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

practice, as we have seen, was long familiar to the Spaniards. * While the ships lay at Greenwich, where the court at that time resided, the mariners received every mark of royal favour which could cheer and encourage men embarking on a dangerous and important enterprise. But the result of this voyage, which held out such flattering promises, was most disastrous to the gallant sir Hugh Willoughby and his brave associates, who, with the whole of the merchants, officers, and ship's company, as well as those of the Bona Confidentia, to the number of seventy persons, perished miserably, from the effects of cold and hunger, on a barren and uninhabited part of the eastern coast of Lapland, at the mouth of a river called Arzina, not far from the harbour of Kegor. The ships and the dead bodies of those that perished were discovered the following year by some Russian fishermen ; and from papers found in the admiral's ship, and especially by the date of his will, it appeared that most of the company of the two ships were alive in January, 1554. They had entered the river on the 18th of September preceding. No regular journals appear to have been kept in the ships. That of sir Hugh Willoughby is extremely meagre, and contains only the following brief reference to their distressed situation:— “Thus remaining in this haven the space of a weeke, seeing the yeere farre spent and also very evill wether, as frost, snowe, and haile, as though it had been the deepe of winter, we thought it best to winter there. Wherefore we sent out three men south-south-west, to search if they could find people; who went three dayes journey, but could find none. After that we sent out other three westward, four dayes journey, which also returned without finding any people. Then sent we three men south-east, three dayes journey, who in like sorte returned without finding of people or any similitude of habitation.” Richard Chancelor, the pilot of the fleet, was more fortunate in his voyage. He seems to have held a

* See page 100. Barrow's Chronological Hist, p. 66,

northerly course ; or, as he expresses it, “ he sailed so far towards that unknown part of the world, that he came at last to the place where he found no night at all, but a continual light and brightness of the sun shining clearly upon the huge and mighty sea.” At length he entered a great bay, where he found inhabitants, who first seemed alarmed at his arrival; but on becoming acquainted with “ the singular gentlenesse and courtisie of the strangers, they brought them provisions, and entered into familiar intercourse with them.” Our navigators learned that the country in which they had arrived was Russia or Muscovy, governed by a king named Juan Vasilovich. Chancelor managed his negotiations with address, and had the courage to undertake a journey of nearly 1500 miles to Moscow, where he was favourably entertained; and his able agency laid the foundation of that commercial intercourse which has since subsisted with little interruption between England and Russia. The account of his first interview with the czar of Moscow is extremely curious and entertaining. The English travellers were astonished beyond measure at the pomp and magnificence of the Russian court. The emperor at first observed towards the strangers a reserved and stately carriage; but, at the second interview, he conversed more familiarly with them. “ The prince called them to his table, to receive each a cup from his hand to drinke, and took into his hand master George Killingworthes beard, which reached over the table, and pleasantly delivered it to the metropolitan, who, seeming to bless it, said in Russ, ‘This is God's gift;’ as indeed at that time it was not only thick, broad, and yellow coulered, but in length five foot and two inches of assize.” In the following spring, Chancelor sailed from Archangel, and arrived safely in England, bringing with him a letter from the czar to Edward VI.” The fortunate result of Chancelor's voyage, and the prospect of establishing a trade with an extensive empire, appeared

[ocr errors]

to compensate the unhappy fate of Willoughby, and the failure of the expedition in its immediate object. A new charter was granted to the community of merchants adventurers; and Richard Chancelor, with two others, was commissioned to treat with the czar of Muscovy, with respect to the commercial privileges and immunities which he might be pleased to grant to the newly chartered company. The adventurers were instructed not merely to seek for commercial gain, but also to increase their information, and “ to use all wayes and meanes possible to learne howe men maye pass from Russia, either by land or by sea, to Cathaia.” But while preparations were made to despatch Chancelor a second time to Russia, towards which country the singular events of his first expedition invited his exertions, the project of a north-eastern passage was not wholly abandoned. Stephen Burrow, who had accompanied Chancelor in the preceding voyage, sailed in April, 1556, in a small vessel, to explore the northern seas. On the last day of July they reached the island of Waigatz, and learned from the Russians that the land ahead of them was called Nova Zembla, or the New Land, and that the people who inhabited the great islands were called Samoeds, and had no houses, but tents made of deer-skins. On landing they found a multitude of idols belonging to this people, rudely carved, and in some instances smeared with blood. The prevalence of the eastern winds prevented our adventurers from advancing beyond this point; and wintering at Colmagro, they returned to England the ensuing year. In the mean time Chancelor had proceeded on his embassy to Archangel and to Moscow, and is said to have made a profitable voyage. On his return home, in 1556, he was accompanied by Osep Neped, the ambassador of the czar. But the voyage was most calamitous; of four ships which composed the fleet, three suffered shipwreck. The vessel in which Chancelor and the ambassador had embarked was wrecked in Pitsligo Bay, on the eastern coast of Scotland; and Chancelor, with *701. IL. I,

most of the crew, were drowned : the ambassador was saved with much difficulty. He was conducted to London with great pomp ; treated with much kindness and distinction; and the commercial relations of the two countries were established on a closer and more solid basis.” The efforts thus made for the discovery of a northeastern passage to the Indies, though failing in their specific object, yet, like every other exertion of human energy and industry, were crowned, as we have seen, with positive though unexpected advantages. Perhaps the flattering results as well as the disappointments of those voyages had a tendency to stimulate the vigour of discovery in another direction, and to revive the question of a north-west passage round America to Cathay and the East Indies. Many sound observations, and not a few questionable or even fabulous relations, were adduced to countenance the opinion of the possibility of such a passage. Martin Frobisher, a mariner of great experience and ability, had persuaded himself that the voyage was not only feasible, but of easy execution; and “as it was the only thing of the world that was left yet undone whereby a notable mind might be made famous and fortunate,” he persisted, for fifteen years, in endeavouring to procure the equipment of the expedition which was the constant object of his hopes and speculations. At length, in 1576, by the patronage of Dudley earl of Warwick, he was enabled to fit out two small vessels, one of thirty-five and the other of thirty tons. As our adventurers passed Greenwich, where the court then resided, queen Elizabeth gave them an encouraging farewell, by waving her hand to them from the window. On the 11th of July Frobisher discovered land, which he supposed to be the Friezeland of Zeno; but the land which he believed to be an island, is evidently the southern part of Greenland. He was compelled by the floating ice to direct his course to the south-west, till he reached * Hakluyt, vol. i.

Labrador. Sailing to the northward along this coast, he entered a strait in latitude 63° 8', which was afterwards named Lumley’s Inlet. The Esquimaux in their boats or kajaks were mistaken by our voyagers for porpoises, or some kind of strange fish. With one of these “ strange infideles, whose like was never seen, read, nor heard of before,” Frobisher set sail for England, where he arrived on the 2d of October, “highly commended of all men for his great and notable attempt, but specially famous for the great hope he brought of the passage to Cathaia.” One of his seamen chanced to bring home with him a stone, as a memorial of his voyage to those distant countries; but his wife throwing it into the fire, it “glistered with a bright marquesset of gold.” This accident was soon noised abroad; and the gold-finers of London, being called upon to assay the stone, reported that it contained a considerable quantity of gold. Thus the hope of finding gold again became the incentive to distant voyages and geographical researches. The queen now openly favoured the enterprise; and Frobisher again departed, in May, 1577, with three ships, one of which was equipped by her majesty. He sagaciously observed, that the ice which encumbers the northern seas must be formed in the sounds, or inland near the pole, and that the main sea never freezes. He steered for the strait where his preceding voyage had terminated, and sought the spot where the supposed gold ore had been picked up, but could not find on the whole island “a piece so big as a walnut.” On the neighbouring islands, however, the ore was found in large quantities. In their examination of Frobisher's Strait, they were unable to establish a pacific intercourse with the natives. Two women were seized; of whom one, being old and ugly

was thought to be a devil or a witch, and was consequently dismissed. As gold, and not discovery, was the avowed object of this voyage, our adventurers occupied themselves in providing a cargo, and actually got on board almost 200 tons of the glittering mineral which they believed to be ore. When the lading was com

« ForrigeFortsett »