« AnteriorContinuar »
from, Arctic research ; and lastly, to make a few remarks on the routes by which the Polar area is accessible.
The Phoenician mariners were probably the first recorded persons to enter the Arctic circle, the Ultima Thule of the ancients being apparently Iceland. The Irish may have again visited it in the sixth century. It was again discovered by a Norwegian named Naddodr in 860, and shortly after colonized by Norsemen. In 890 Ohther made a voyage round the northern part of Norway, and along a portion of the north coast of Russia. Soon after this an Icelandic fisherman, Gembiorn, got caught in a gale which drove him a long way to the west. The first land he sighted was Cape Farewell, or, as he called it, Hoidsaerk (white shirt), from its being clad in white snow. The land was called Gembiorn's Land. In or about 982 Erek the Red was banished from Iceland, upon which he resolved to explore Gembiorn's Land. He soon reached the east coast of Greenland, which he followed in a southerly direction, and doubled Cape Farewell. The west coast was then explored for about a day's journey beyond, or as far as Hvarf, which is probably the modern Cape Egede. He returned to Iceland, and induced many of his countrymen to colonize the west coast of Greenland. These colonists
chiefly maintained themselves by hunting for whales, seals, &c., and by fishing ; and in their pursuit of these occupations they frequented some hunting stations far to the north, one of which was called Northern Sæta. Their Bjarney, or Bear Island, is identified by Rofu with Disco Island. The region beyond Northern Sæta they called Furthern Stranda, of which Baffin's Bay was a part. How far north they advanced it is difficult to say, but a Runic inscription found on the
island of Kingitorsoak, and bearing date 1135, shows 72 that they had then reached at least as high as 12) 55' N.
These colonies flourished for a while, but owing to diseases, wars, and other misfortunes, they gradually declined and became extinct by about the beginning of the fifteenth century. In 1474 Columbus visited Iceland, and even sailed one hundred leagues beyond it; and it is not improbable he may have heard from the Icelanders traditions of their former occupation of Greenland and portions of the American continent.
John Cabot, a native of Venice, but established as a merchant at Bristol, may also have heard of the western lands from the same source, since it is well known the Bristol merchant traded both with Norway and with Iceland. In 1497 John Cabot and his son Sebastian discovered Newfoundland. In 1498 Sebastian commanded a small fleet destined for Newfoundland, and
discovered Labrador, as also the great abundance of cod-fish along this coast. He also entered some strait, which some have thought was Hudson's Strait, but which was in all probability the Strait of Belle Isle at the mouth of the St. Lawrence. In 1500 a Portuguese, Gasper Cortoreale, fitted out some ships at his own expense, and coasted all along Labrador, as far as 60°, where he saw a river or strait blocked with ice, which he named Rio Nevado, but which is doubtless Hudson's Strait. These voyages had the effect of developing the Newfoundland cod-fishery, which was already well established in 1504. In 1517 Sebastian Cabot entered Hudson's Strait. After this there was a pause in the progress of Arctic discovery, although Master Robert Thorne made a bold proposition for an expedition to be sent across the Polar area to the Moluccas, and two ships were sent, but nothing of importance was done. In 1553 Sir Hugh Willoughby and Richard Chancelor were sent out under the instructions of Sebastian Cabot, to proceed to China by a north-east route. Willoughby commanded the Bona Esperanza, Chancelor the Edward Bonaventure, and Durfoorth the Bona Confidentia. When off the Norwegian coast the ships got separated by a storm, Willoughby proceeded as far as Willoughby's Land, which is probably a portion of Nova Zembla, and
wintered on the Russian coast near the Dwina ; but the whole company were killed by frost and starvation. This disastrous result would have been prevented had the men been experienced in Arctic travelling, for they could have laid in a sufficient stock of turf and dwarf shrubs for fuel ; and could have secured plenty of food, since some of the papers that have been recovered state that while the sailors were searching in all directions for natives to help them, they saw many bears, deer, foxes, and other animals, while those in the ship saw seals and whales in abundance. Chancelor proceeded to St. Nichola in the White Sea, and returned home through Russia by way of Moscow. His success led to the establishment of the Muscovy or Russia Company, by which many of the subsequent expeditions in search of the North-East and North-West Passages were organized and supported. In 1556 they sent Stephen Burrough out in the Serchthrift, and Sebastian Cabot, then eighty-eight years of age, saw the vessel off, and bade the expedition “ God cheer.” Burrough passed the island of Kolguev on July 14th, and next day he reached the coast of the mouth of the Petchora. He saw the St. James's Islands, and on July 31st he anchored amongst the Waigats Islands. He was the first navigator to sail into the Sea of Kara by the Karagate. In 1576 the project of the North
West Passage was renewed by Sir Martin Frobisher, after having been neglected for nearly eighty years. Frobisher had been agitating his plans for fifteen years, and at last obtained support from the Earl of Warwick, and from Michael Lok, a man of wealth. Hence he christened Greenland, West England. On July 28 he saw Queen Elizabeth's Foreland, and went fifty leagues up Frobisher's Bay, which he considered to be a strait, and which he flattered himself would lead him to Cathay. He took home a piece of iron pyrites under the impression that it was an ore rich in gold. His second voyage was simply occupied in procuring three ship-loads of this ore, which was found to be worthless. On the third voyage (in 1578) he took out fifteen ships to be laden with this ore. When off the Queen Elizabeth's Foreland a storm blew him towards the straits, which he called Frobisher's Mistaken Straits, but which are commonly known as Hudson's Straits. He entered them, and found a fine open passage, through which, it is said, he “would and could have gone through to the South Sea.” There was plenty of ice at the entrance, but farther in the sea was free from ice. However, his duty was to get the ore, and it was only when he found he had mistaken his way that he returned by a cross channel into Frobisher's Bay. In 1585 the London merchants again