George Best


George Best was Martin Frobisher's second-in-command on the Aid during the 1577 voyage and captain of the Anne Frances during that of 1578. He published a narrative of all three of the expeditions, entitled A true discourse of the late voyages of discoverie, for the finding of a passage to Cathaya, by the Northweast, under the conduct of Martin Frobisher General which included crude maps of the regions explored, probably based on detailed charts which James Beare (master of the Anne Frances) had been commissioned to produce on the expedition. Best's intent was partly to advocate further colonising initiatives, including a return to Meta Incognita. Best is not known to have participated personally on the first voyage, but may have obtained his information from interviews with those who did.

Although Best's is the best known account today, it appears to have received little attention in the years immediately following its publication, in contrast to an account of the second voyage by Dionyse Settle which became a "best seller". It was Best who told the story of why the the belief arose that the Meta Incognita ore held gold:

"it fortuned, a gentlewoman, one of ye adventure[r]s wives, to have a peece thereof, which by chance she threw and burned in the fire, so lo[n]g, that at length being taken forth, and quenched in a little vinegre, it glistered with a bright marquesset of golde."

But we do not know how true this is.

Best was a servant of the household of Sir Christopher Hatton, a Privy Councillor, and dedicated his book to Hatton. He had no great technical training in navigation, but his written accounts (although not always trustworthy) demonstrate good observation skills. The narratives were published late in 1578, after the Privy Council had sent a letter instructing Frobisher and the captains, masters and pilots of that year's expedition to turn their written accounts over to the Council, and ordering that no one publish any information on the new found lands. Although Hatton edited out magnetic declinations, distances and bearings that might have allowed rivals to retrace Frobisher's route to Meta Incognita, publication against the Council's ban has made some historians wonder whether it may have been a deliberate attempt to leak information about the voyages.

Best was a partisan of Frobisher. He glossed over Frobisher's dubious activities in support of Catholic rebels prior to the voyages. Minimizing Lok's role, he argued that it was Frobisher who had first conceived the possibility of discovering a northwest passage, and who found investors among London's merchants. And, in the post-voyage disputes over blame for failure of the expeditions, he took Frobisher's side against Lok.