Page images
PDF
EPUB

having made these unsuccessful attempts, gave them over for many years; and the Dutch growing powerful at sea, resolved to try their fortune, hoping the failures of the English might help to point out to them what course they were to avoid, and what to follow; and accordingly,

An. 1594. The states fitted out three ships, commanded by William Barentz, Cornelius Cornelissen, and John Hugens: they all sailed together, but Barentz ran further up to the northward than the others, till he came into seventy-eight degrees of latitude, and in August met with much ice and abundance of sea-monsters, at which the seamen being discouraged they resolved to return home. The other two ships discovered some islands, and at last a strait or passage capable of the greatest ships, and above five or six leagues in length : being passed it, they came into an open and warmer sea, and upon the coast of Tartary near the river Ob or Oby, a very fruitful country.

This they called the strait of Nassau, and might have gone further but for want of provisions. This done, they came back the same way very joyful to Holland. Meteren. Hist. of the Low Countries, lib. XVIII.

This we see positively delivered, but with how much of truth I dare not decide ; only must think it strange, that if such a strait had been once found, it should never be met with since, though often searched for, and once by the same persons that pretended to have been the first discoverers, as may be seen in the year 1596 ; yet we see this assertion repeated by the same author, who takes it from the relations of the sailors, and in the same place before quoted says, that

An. 1595. The states being much encouraged by the relation of these discoverers, fitted out seven ships, six of them to proceed on their voyage to China, Japan, &c. this way, and the seventh to bring back the news of their being passed the strait ; but they met with too much ice at strait Nassau, coming to it too late by reason of the contrary winds they had in their passage thither : yet the inhabitants of the place told them many

particulars more than they knew before : but they returned re infecta. Meteren. ubi sup.

An. 1596. The Dutch not discouraged by the former disappointment, fitted out two ships under the command of William Barentsen and John Cornelissen, who sailed on the eighteenth of May, and on the nineteenth of June found themselves in the latitude of 80 degrees, and eleven minutes, where they found a country they supposed to be Greenland, with grass, and beasts grazing like deer, &c. and less cold and ice than in 76 degrees : they turned back to an island they had before called the Island of Bears, because of the many bears they saw in it, and there parted company. Cornelissen went up again into 80 degrees of latitude, thinking to find a passage east of the land they had discovered, but returned home without doing any thing considerable. Barentsen made towards Nova Zembla, and coasted along it till he met with an island which he called Orange, in 77 degrees of latitude; thence he steered south and doubled a cape, but was stopped by ice, and making towards the land, on the last of August, was so inclosed that there was no stirring. They landed and built a house with timber and planks, into which they put all their provisions and goods, where they continued suffering much hardship all the winter. On the twenty-second of June they set out from thence in two boats they had repaired, leaving their ship among the ice, and an account in writing of their being there. Thus with much difficulty, they arrived at Cola in Lapland on the second of October 1597, where they found Cornelissen, who had made a voyage to Holland in the meanwhile, and was returned thither. Barentsen died by the way, but the survivors arrived in Holland on the twenty-ninth of October. Meteren. lib. XIX.

An. 1676. Captain John Wood in his majesty's ship the Speedwell, with the Prosperous Pink to attend him, sailed from the buoy of the Nore to discover the north-east passage. June the fourth he anchored in the island of Shetland, and the tenth sailed out again, directing his course north-north-east, and north-east by east, till the twenty-second, when at noon he saw ice right a head about a league from him, and sailed close to it, as they did the next day, entering into many openings which they perceived to be bays. Sometimes the weather proved foggy, and then they made little way ; but as fast as the fog fell, it froze on their sails and rigging ; they perceived the ice here joined to the land of Nova Zembla, and run out five leagues to sea. They continued coasting the ice to find a passage, till on the twenty-ninth of June at near midnight the Prosperous Pink fired a gun and bore down upon the man of war, crying out, ice on the weatherbow; whereupon he clapped the helm hard a weather to come about, but before she could be brought upon the other tack struck upon a ledge of rocks that lay sunk. The Pink got clear, but the ship stuck fast, and there being no getting her off, the men got all ashore in their boats with what provision they could save, some arms and other necessaries; only two men were lost with the pinnace. Here they set up a tent, and saw no other inhabitants but white bears. The fol. lowing days the ship broke and much wreck drove ashore, which was a great help to them, there being wood for firing, some meal, oil, brandy and beer. They killed a white bear and eat her, which they said was very good meat. Thus they continued, contriving to build a deck to their long boat to carry off some of the men, and others to travel afoot towards the Weygats; till on the eighth of July to their great joy they discovered the Pink, and making a fire for a signal, she sent her boat to help bring them off, and by noon they all got aboard. They presently stood off to westward, and made the best of their way home, arriving on the twenty-third of August at the buoy of the Nore. Taken out of captain Wood's own journal.

These are the principal discoveries attempted and performed at the north-east, which have proved unsuccessful, as failing of the main design of finding a passage that way to the East Indies.

Let us now leave the barren frozen north, where so many have miserably perished, and yet so little been

discovered of what was intended ; ice, shoals, rocks, darkness, and many other obstacles having disappointed the bold undertakings of so many daring sailors, and for so many losses made us no return but the bare trade of Russia, whilst our intentions were levelled at that of the mighty kingdom of Cathay, and a passage to China, Japan, and all the other eastern regions. Let us, I say, quit these unfortunate attempts, and come now to speak of those so successful, made towards the south and south-east, along the coast of Afric first, and then to those of the more frequented, as more profitable Asia. The first we find in this order, if the authority we have for it be good, is of an En. glishman, by name Macham, who,

An. 1344. having stolen a woman, with whom he was in love, and intending to fly with her into Spain, was by a storm cast upon the island Madeira in 32 degrees of north-latitude. Going ashore there with his mistress to refresh her after the toils of the sea, the ship taking the opportunity of a favourable gale sailed away, leaving them behind. The lady soon died for grief of being left in that desolate island ; and Macham with what companions he had, erected a little chapel and hermitage under the invocation of the name of Jesus, to bury her. This done, they contrived a boat made of one single tree, in which they got over to the coast of Afric, where they were taken by the Moors, and presented to their king for the rarity of the accident. He for the same reason sent them to the king of Castile, where giving an account of what had befallen them, it moved many to venture out in search of this island. This story we find in Hakluyt, vol. II. part 2. p. 1, where he quotes Anthony Galvao, a Portuguese author, for it'; and D. Antonio Manoel, in his works, among his Epanaforas, has one on this particular subject, which he calls Epanafora amorosa. Upon this information, as was said, several adventurers went out, but to no effect that we can hear of, till,

An. 1348. John Betancourt, a Frenchman, obtained a grant of king John the second of Castile, and went to conquer the Canary islands long before discovered, and

made himself master of five of them, but could not subdue the two greatest, as most populous and best defended. These were afterwards subdued by king Ferdinand, as may be seen in Mariana, lib. XVI. p. 29. These were small beginnings, and out of regular course; next follow the gradual discoveries made by the Portuguese, which may be said to have been the groundwork of all the ensuing navigations, which happened in this manner. King John of Portugal enjoying peace at home after his wars with Castile, was persuaded by his sons to undertake the conquest of Ceuta on the African shore. Prince Henry, his fifth son, accompanied him in this expedition, and at his return home brought with him a strong inclination to discover new seas and lands, and the more on account of the information he had received from several Moors concerning the coasts of Afric to the southward, which were as yet unknown to Europeans, who never pretended to venture beyond Cape Nao, which had therefore this name given it, signifying in Portuguese, No, to imply there was no sailing further; and the reason was, because the cape running far out into sea, caused it to break and appear dangerous; and they as yet not daring to venture too far from land, were ignorant that by keeping off to sea they should avoid that danger. Prince Henry resolving to overcome all difficulties, fitted out two small vessels,

An. 1417: commanding them to coast along Afric, and doubling that cape to discover further towards the equinoctial. They ventured to run sixty leagues beyond Cape Nao, as far as Cape Bojador, so called because it stretches itself out almost forty leagues to the westward, which in Spanish they call Bojar. Here finding the difficulty of passing further greater than at Cape Nao, for the same reason of the sea's breaking upon the cape, they returned home satisfied with what they had done. The following year,

An. 1418, the prince sent John Gonzalez Zarco and Tristan Vaz, with orders to pass that cape; but before they could come upon the coast of Afric they were carried away by a storm, and not knowing where,

VOL. X.

сс

« PreviousContinue »