1578: Frobisher's Gold Mines

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The 1578 voyage had another objective: to establish the first English colony in the New World.

Frobisher was ordered to settle 100 men on the Countess of Warwick's Island, and was provided with prefabricated barracks and provisions for 18 months. These men were to mine and stockpile ore over the winter. More importantly, they were to establish commercial trade with the Inuit, and to support the English claim to ownership of the area.

Fortunately for the men who were to establish the colony, half of the prefabricated barracks had been on a ship that had been sunk by the ice. Many of their supplies had also been lost or spoiled, including much of the beer which was a staple food. Accordingly, at a council on August 9, it was decided that no colony would be established that year.

"We buryed the timber of our pretended forte, with manye barrels of meale, pease, griste, and sundrie other good things, which was of the prouision of those whych should inhabit, if occasion serued....Also here we sowed pease, corne, and other graine, to proue the fruitfulnesse of the soyle against the next yeare."

(George Best's account of the 1578 voyage)


Peas; CMC S2005-4815 These dried peas, which were probably stored in barrels, were excavated from an archaeological site on Kodlunarn Island.
Photograph: Steven Darby

Frobisher never returned to Baffin Island. It would be almost a decade before the English made their next attempt to establish a colony in the New World, at Roanoke in what is now North Carolina.

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