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Martin Frobisher (c.1535/1539-1594)

Frobisher, an English seaman, made three voyages looking for the Northwest Passage.

These three voyages took place in the years: 1576, 1577 and 1578. In 1576, Frobisher got as far as the lower part of Baffin Island, where lies a smaller one, Resolution Island. (See Map) On his second voyage, Frobisher did some mining in the same area and brought home with him ore thought to contain gold, which, once assayed, was thought that mining might be carried out in the area with profit. So in 1578, encouraged, Frobisher sailed once again with a fleet of 15 ships and established mines in and around Baffin Bay. "He carted 1,350 tons of the ore back, where, after years of smelting, it was realised that both that batch of ore and the earlier one he had taken were worthless iron pyrite."1

While after 1576 it would not appear that he went north again, he served his sovereign by other voyages made around the world. In 1594, while fighting the Spanish, he sustained a wound from which, upon returning to England in that year, he died.


1 Barrow, A Chronological History of Voyages ..., p. 91 and Wikipedia. Though the three voyages Frobisher made to the high north were thought not to contribute much to the knowledge of those parts, concerned, as he mostly was, with the business of finding gold, they are however important not only because they were made in the relative early days of polar explorations; but because, too, he had recorded one of the first (if not the first) meeting of the Europeans with the Inuit.


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Peter Landry