Hoping that she had access to a source of gold equal to that of Spain in South America, Queen Elizabeth authorized a third voyage, financed by investors of the Company of Cathy, to Baffin Island. Martin Frobisher would lead 15 ships, 300 Cornish miners, and 100 colonists to Frobisher Bay and the Countess of Warwick’s Island (
today) in Arctic
North America. Kodlunarn
They would start a colony. Prefabricated barracks and 18 months of provisions were to be transported. Large quantities of ore would be mined and stockpiled during the winter. The colonists would trade commercially with the Inuit. Their permanent presence and activity would support
claim of territorial ownership. Elizabeth
The fleet left
May 31, 1578. Sailing by way of the English Channel, it
reached the south of Plymouth Greenland, where
Frobisher and a boatload of men landed briefly June 20. Frobisher sighted the foreland of Frobisher Bay July 2. Stormy weather and dangerous
ice-sea conditions forced the ships to maneuver about Hudson Strait
(previously undiscovered) and the mouth of
for nearly a month. Ice sank the barque Dennis, carrying half of the colony’s lumber.
A ship returned to Frobisher Strait . The remaining ships rendezvoused eventually at
the Countess of Warwick's England Island. Much of the expedition’s supplies had been lost or
spoiled. That included beer, considered an
important food staple. Frobisher and his
officers decided not to found the colony.
The expedition’s miners quarried and loaded more than 1,100 tons of rock from several hastily opened mines, two of them on the Countess of Warwick's Island, where Frobisher’s headquarters, assayer shops, and tool repair huts were located.
Groups of Inuit appeared distantly, wary of the English but curious about the mining activity. This time Frobisher was unable to seize and transport a human curiosity for his countrymen’s and Queen’s entertainment.
Officer George Best wrote about the voyagers’ preparations for leaving.
"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."
A small stone house was built at the summit of the Countess of Warwick’s
as an experiment to see how English buildings survived Arctic winters and to
encourage the Inuit to engage in future, peaceful trade. Hung for the house’s walls were mirrors,
bells, whistles, toy figures, and other items of human interest. Bread was baked for the Inuit to taste.
All ships but the Emanuel -- wrecked on the west coast of
Ireland – returned to , the first week of October. The precious ore was taken to a specially constructed smelting plant at England Powder Mill Lane in
Dartford, where assayers declared it to be fool’s
gold – iron pyrite.
Much of the previous assays of the ore had been conducted by two men: Baptista Agnello, a Venetian, and Burchard Kranich, a German mining expert. Both men had cheated, perhaps to ensure future employment. Kranich died before Frobisher’s return. Agnello confessed that he had placed real gold into the smelting furnace to “coax nature.” Kranich had added several gold coins. Much of the Arctic ore would be used later to repair roads in the
county of Kent
Many of the expedition’s investors went bankrupt. A promoter was jailed. His reputation ruined, Frobisher returned to piracy. Subordinate to Francis Drake, he raided Spanish settlements in the
Caribbean. Eventually, he gave Queen Elizabeth 60,000
pounds worth of gold to attempt to win back her favor.
The Inuit valued the furnishings of the cottage, the remains of other buildings, and what the English had buried. A blacksmith's anvil was used for generations as the object of a weightlifting contest. Metal objects, ceramics, stove tiles, roofing tiles, and wood were widely traded. English oak meant to be used to house the planned colony had been buried in one of the mines on the Countess of Warwick'sFor three centuries the Inuit preserved information about Frobisher's expeditions. In 1861 the American journalist Charles Francis Hall traveled to the Arctic aboard a whaling ship to learn the fate of the Sir John Franklin Expedition, which had disappeared in the
Island. Seven years later, more than 200 kilometers
further north along the Baffin Island coast,
the English explorer John Davis found an Inuit sled built partially from sawed boards
of English oak. English materials
continue to be discovered in Inuit archaeological sites.
Martin Frobisher’s voyages were a prelude to Sir Humphrey Gilbert’s disastrous attempt to found a colony in
and Sir Walter Raleigh’s ambitious attempts immediately thereafter in North . Next month: Humphrey Gilbert’s hubris and