Meta Incognita: A Discourse of Discovery

Paper Abstracts


Frobisher's Ships:
the Ships of the North-Western Atlantic Voyages, 1576-1578

By Ian Friel

This paper examines the evidence for the fifteen ships used on the English voyages to north-eastern Canada between 1576 and 1578, mainly from the point of view of documentary evidence. The shipping aspects of the three voyages are considered in turn, followed by a detailed study of the size, construction, internal features, rig, equipment and armament of the Gabriel, Michael, Aid and Judith. The evidence is in the form of references from the Lok financial accounts, from the descriptions of the voyages and from detailed inventories made of the four vessels in 1578 (the latter summarized in the appendices). There is also a discussion of the small boats and pinnaces used, pointing out how important such craft were on exploratory voyages as ship-to-shore ferries and for coastal exploration. The paper points out that the crews and ships of the Frobisher voyages were taken to the limits of their capabilities by the very hostile conditions encountered in the Arctic: only one ship was lost, and casualties were generally low, saying much for the construction of the ships and the skills and ingenuity of the crews.


Back AbstractContents Continue