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   Chapter 1 TO PROVE BY AUTHORITY A PASSAGE TO BE ON THE NORTH SIDE OF AMERICA, TO GO TO CATHAY AND THE EAST INDIES.

Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage By Richard Hakluyt Characters: 9444

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


When I gave myself to the study of geography, after I had perused and diligently scanned the descriptions of Europe, Asia, and Africa, and conferred them with the maps and globes both antique and modern, I came in fine to the fourth part of the world, commonly called America, which by all descriptions I found to be an island environed round about with the sea, having on the south side of it the Strait of Magellan, on the west side the Mare de Sur, which sea runneth towards the north, separating it from the east parts of Asia, where the dominions of the Cathaians are. On the east part our west ocean, and on the north side the sea that severeth it from Greenland, through which northern seas the passage lieth, which I take now in hand to discover.

Plato in his Timaeus and in the dialogue called Critias, discourses of an incomparable great island then called Atlantis, being greater than all Africa and Asia, which lay westward from the Straits of Gibraltar, navigable round about: affirming, also, that the princes of Atlantis did as well enjoy the governance of all Africa and the most part of Europe as of Atlantis itself.

Also to prove Plato's opinion of this island, and the inhabiting of it in ancient time by them of Europe, to be of the more credit: Marin?us Siculus, in his Chronicle of Spain, reporteth that there hath been found by the Spaniards in the gold mines of America certain pieces of money, engraved with the image of Augustus C?sar; which pieces were sent to the Pope for a testimony of the matter by John Rufus, Archbishop of Constantinum.

Moreover, this was not only thought of Plato, but by Marsilius Ficinus, an excellent Florentine philosopher, Crantor the Grecian, Proclus, also Philo the famous Jew (as appeareth in his book De Mundo, and in the Commentaries upon Plato), to be overflown, and swallowed up with water, by reason of a mighty earthquake and streaming down of the heavenly flood gates. The like thereof happened unto some part of Italy, when by the forcibleness of the sea, called Superum, it cut off Sicily from the continent of Calabria, as appeareth in Justin in the beginning of his fourth book. Also there chanced the like in Zeeland, a part of Flanders.

And also the cities of Pyrrha and Antissa, about Palus Meotis; and also the city Burys, in the Corinthian Gulf, commonly called Sinus Corinthiacus, have been swallowed up with the sea, and are not at this day to be discerned: by which accident America grew to be unknown, of long time, unto us of the later ages, and was lately discovered again by Americus Vespucius, in the year of our Lord 1497, which some say to have been first discovered by Christopher Columbus, a Genoese, Anno 1492.

The same calamity happened unto this isle of Atlantis six hundred and odd years before Plato's time, which some of the people of the south-east parts of the world accounted as nine thousand years; for the manner then was to reckon the moon's period of the Zodiac for a year, which is our usual month, depending a Luminari minore.

So that in these our days there can no other main or island be found or judged to be parcel of this Atlantis than those western islands, which now bear the name of America; countervailing thereby the name of Atlantis in the knowledge of our age.

Then, if when no part of the said Atlantis was oppressed by water and earthquake, the coasts round about the same were navigable, a far greater hope now remaineth of the same by the north-west, seeing the most part of it was since that time swallowed up with water, which could not utterly take away the old deeps and channels, but, rather, be many occasion of the enlarging of the old, and also an enforcing of a great many new; why then should we now doubt of our North-West Passage and navigation from England to India, etc., seeing that Atlantis, now called America, was ever known to be an island, and in those days navigable round about, which by access of more water could not be diminished?

Also Aristotle in his book De Mundo, and the learned German, Simon Gryneus, in his annotations upon the same, saith that the whole earth (meaning thereby, as manifestly doth appear, Asia, Africa, and Europe, being all the countries then known) to be but one island, compassed about with the reach of the Atlantic sea; which likewise approveth America to be an island, and in no part adjoining to Asia or the rest.

Also many ancient writers, as Strabo and others, called both the ocean sea (which lieth east of India) Atlanticum Pelagus, and that sea also on the west coasts of Spain and Africa, Mare Atlanticum; the distance between the two coasts is almost half the compass of the earth.

So that it is incredible, as

by Plato appeareth manifestly, that the East Indian Sea had the name of Atlanticum Pelagus, of the mountain Atlas in Africa, or yet the sea adjoining to Africa had name Oceanus Atlanticus, of the same mountain; but that those seas and the mountain Atlas were so called of this great island Atlantis, and that the one and the other had their names for a memorial of the mighty Prince Atlas, sometime king thereof, who was Japhet, youngest son to Noah, in whose time the whole earth was divided between the three brethren, Shem, Ham, and Japhet.

Wherefore I am of opinion that America by the north-west will be found favourable to this our enterprise, and am the rather emboldened to believe the same, for that I find it not only confirmed by Plato, Aristotle, and other ancient philosophers, but also by the best modern geographers, as Gemma Frisius, Munsterus, Appianus Hunterus, Gastaldus, Guyccardinus, Michael Tramesinus, Franciscus Demongenitus, Barnardus, Puteanus, Andreas Vavasor, Tramontanus, Petrus Martyr, and also Ortelius, who doth coast out in his general map (set out Anno 1569) all the countries and capes on the north-west side of America from Hochelega to Cape de Paramantia, describing likewise the sea-coasts of Cathay and Greenland, towards any part of America, making both Greenland and America islands disjoined by a great sea from any part of Asia.

All which learned men and painful travellers have affirmed with one consent and voice, that America was an island, and that there lieth a great sea between it, Cathay, and Greenland, by the which any man of our country that will give the attempt, may with small danger pass to Cathay, the Moluccas, India, and all other places in the east in much shorter time than either the Spaniard or Portuguese doth, or may do, from the nearest part of any of their countries within Europe.

What moved these learned men to affirm thus much I know not, or to what end so many and sundry travellers of both ages have allowed the same; but I conjecture that they would never have so constantly affirmed, or notified their opinions therein to the world, if they had not had great good cause, and many probable reasons to have led them thereunto.

Now lest you should make small account of ancient writers or of their experiences which travelled long before our times, reckoning their authority amongst fables of no importance, I have for the better assurance of those proofs set down some part of a discourse, written in the Saxon tongue, and translated into English by Master Noel, servant to Master Secretary Cecil, wherein there is described a navigation which one other made, in the time of King Alfred, King of Wessex, Anne 871, the words of which discourse were these: "He sailed right north, having always the desert land on the starboard, and on the larboard the main sea, continuing his course, until he perceived that the coast bowed directly towards the east or else the sea opened into the land he could not tell how far, where he was compelled to stay until he had a western wind or somewhat upon the north, and sailed thence directly east along the coast, so far as he was able in four days, where he was again enforced to tarry until he had a north wind, because the coast there bowed directly towards the south, or at least opened he knew not how far into the land, so that he sailed thence along the coast continually full south, so far as he could travel in the space of five days, where he discovered a mighty river which opened far into the land, and in the entry of this river he turned back again."

Whereby it appeareth that he went the very way that we now do yearly trade by S. Nicholas into Muscovia, which way no man in our age knew for certainty to be sea, until it was since discovered by our Englishmen in the time of King Edward I., but thought before that time that Greenland had joined to Normoria Byarmia, and therefore was accounted a new discovery, being nothing so indeed, as by this discourse of Ochther's it appeareth.

Nevertheless if any man should have taken this voyage in hand by the encouragement of this only author, he should have been thought but simple, considering that this navigation was written so many years past, in so barbarous a tongue by one only obscure author, and yet we in these our days find by our own experiences his former reports to be true.

How much more, then, ought we to believe this passage to Cathay to be, being verified by the opinions of all the best, both antique and modern geographers, and plainly set out in the best and most allowed maps, charts, globes, cosmographical tables, and discourses of this our age and by the rest not denied, but left as a matter doubtful.

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