Essay about The Arctic Voyages of Martin Frobisher, 1576-1578

Essay about The Arctic Voyages of Martin Frobisher, 1576-1578

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On 17 June 1576 the thirty ton bark Gabriel, accompanied by the smaller bark Michael and a tiny pinnace, set sail from London to seek out a north-west sea passage to the treasures of the Orient. The three small vessels, whose total complement was only thirty four men, were commanded by Martin Frobisher. Although the purpose of the voyage was to find a alternate sea route to the east the two subsequent voyages that quickly followed were a prelude to the establishment of English sovereignty in North America. What were the factors that initiated the voyage? Who were the key players in the enterprise and what was the eventual outcome of these three voyages? This essay will attempt to answer those questions.

In 1576 Queen Elizabeth I had been on the throne of England for eighteen years. She, her Privy Council and the merchants of London were extremely jealous of the riches poring into the coffers of Spain and Portugal. Beginning in the 1420's Portugal, followed by Spain in the 1490's, had greatly expanded the known world through marine exploration. As result of this exploration those countries were reaping the financial benefits in trade and bullion. By the mid 1550's England had had some small success in expanding her trade horizons. Richard Chancellor, sailing north east from England, had reached the mouth of Russia's Dvina River in the White Sea and had traveled by sled to Moscow where he was able to establish trade relations with the Russians. This led to the establishment of "The Company of Merchant Adventurers of England." The Muscovy Company - as it was commonly called, was given exclusivity with regard to the right to explore and trade to all points northwest, north and northeast of England.

Michael Lok, a London merchant...

... middle of paper ...

... was no more fame or fortune to be had in being connected to the enterprise, Frobisher accepted employment in the Queen's service.

Although Frobisher's gold mines were soon forgotten his three voyages to the Arctic sparked not only interest in a north west passage to the Orient but also the idea of English sovereignty over northern North America. Over the next three hundred years British exploration and trade gradually penetrated Arctic Canada and Britain's right to possession of the vast area was accepted by other nations. In 1880 British sovereignty over the area was passed to Canada. In 1999 the Territory of Nunavut was established returning a measure of sovereignty to the descendents of the original inhabitants - the Inuit. In the very area that Frobisher had claimed for his Queen four hundred years before lies the capital of Nunavut - Iqaluit.

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