The Five Lost Sailors

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With no ship's boat, a crew of only 13 tired and sick men, and with snow having fallen on deck the previous night, he set sail for England. The Inuk and his kayak were to take on a new role: as proof to Queen Elizabeth that Frobisher had reached a far and strange land. Unfortunately, he died shortly after reaching England, "of colde which he had taken at Sea."

The English assumed that their sailors had been captured and probably murdered by the Inuit. But Inuit history, passed from generation to generation across the centuries, tells a much different story. The Frobisher expeditions are well remembered in the oral history of the Baffin Island Inuit. One of the stories tells of five sailors who were marooned in Baffin Bay, and cared for by the Inuit.

We shall likely never know what happened to the five lost sailors. Neither capture by the Inuit, nor marooning by Frobisher, sounds likely. Perhaps they merely took a temporary leave of absence from the cramped quarters and strict discipline which they had endured aboard the Gabriel for the past ten weeks. The allure of trading with the Inuit for personal profit, romancing Inuit girls, and fear of punishment on returning to the ship, may have kept the sailors ashore until it was too late.

Whatever the true story, the incident of the five lost sailors was the key event which determined relations between Inuit and Englishmen for the remainder of the Frobisher venture.

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