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Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage By Richard Hakluyt Characters: 9698

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03


1. All seas are maintained by the abundance of water, so that the nearer the end any river, bay, or haven is, the shallower it waxeth (although by some accidental bar it is sometime found otherwise), but the farther you sail west from Iceland, towards the place where this strait is thought to be, the more deep are the seas, which giveth us good hope of continuance of the same sea, with Mare del Sur, by some strait that lieth between America, Greenland, and Cathay.

2. Also, if that America were not an island, but a part of the continent adjoining to Asia, either the people which inhabit Mangia, Anian, and Quinzay, etc., being borderers upon it, would before this time have made some road into it, hoping to have found some like commodities to their own.

3. Or else the Syrians and Tartars (which oftentimes heretofore have sought far and near for new seats, driven thereunto through the necessity of their cold and miserable countries) would in all this time have found the way to America and entered the same had the passages been never so strait or difficult, the country being so temperate, pleasant, and fruitful in comparison of their own. But there was never any such people found there by any of the Spaniards, Portuguese, or Frenchmen, who first discovered the inland of that country, which Spaniards or Frenchmen must then of necessity have seen some one civilised man in America, considering how full of civilised people Asia is; but they never saw so much as one token or sign that ever any man of the known part of the world had been there.

4. Furthermore, it is to be thought, that if by reason of mountains or other craggy places the people neither of Cathay or Tartary could enter the country of America, or they of America have entered Asia if it were so joined, yet some one savage or wandering-beast would in so many years have passed into it; but there hath not any time been found any of the beasts proper to Cathay or Tartary, etc., in America; nor of those proper to America in Tartary, Cathay, etc., or in any part of Asia, which thing proveth America not only to be one island, and in no part adjoining to Asia, but also that the people of those countries have not had any traffic with each other.

5. Moreover at the least some one of those painful travellers which of purpose have passed the confines of both countries, with intent only to discover, would, as it is most likely, have gone from the one to the other, if there had been any piece of land, or isthmus, to have joined them together, or else have declared some cause to the contrary.

6. But neither Paulus Venetus, who lived and dwelt a long time in Cathay, ever came into America, and yet was at the sea coasts of Mangia over against it, where he was embarked and performed a great navigation along those seas; neither yet Veratzanus or Franciscus Vasquez de Coronado, who travelled the north part of America by land, ever found entry from thence by land to Cathay, or any part of Asia.

7. Also it appeareth to be an island, insomuch as the sea runneth by nature circularly from the east to the west, following the diurnal motion of the Primum Mobile, and carrieth with it all inferior bodies movable, as well celestial as elemental; which motion of the waters is most evidently seen in the sea, which lieth on the south side of Africa, where the current that runneth from the east to the west is so strong (by reason of such motion) that the Portuguese in their voyages eastward to Calicut, in passing by the Cape of Good Hope, are enforced to make divers courses, the current there being so swift, as it striketh from thence, all along westward, upon the straits of Magellan, being distant from thence near the fourth part of the longitude of the earth: and not having free passage and entrance through that frith towards the west, by reason of the narrowness of the said strait of Magellan, it runneth to salve this wrong (Nature not yielding to accidental restraints) all along the eastern coasts of America northwards so far as Cape Frido, being the farthest known place of the same continent towards the north, which is about four thousand eight-hundred leagues, reckoning therewithal the trending of the land.

8. So that this current, being continually maintained with such force as Jacques Cartier affirmeth it to be, who met with the same, being at Baccalaos as he sailed along the coasts of America, then, either it must of necessity have way to pass from Cape Frido through this frith, westward towards Cathay, being known to come so far only to salve his former wrongs by the authority before named; or else it must needs strike over upon the coast of Iceland, Lapland, Finmark, and Norway (which are east from the said place about three hundred and sixty leagues) with greater force than it did from the Cape of Good Hope

upon the strait of Magellan, or from the strait of Magellan to Cape Frido; upon which coasts Jacques Cartier met with the same, considering the shortness of the cut from the said Cape Frido to Iceland, Lapland, etc. And so the cause efficient remaining, it would have continually followed along our coasts through the narrow seas, which it doeth not, but is digested about the north of Labrador by some through passage there through this frith.

The like course of the water, in some respect, happeneth in the Mediterranean Sea (as affirmeth Contorenus), where, as the current which cometh from Tanais and the Euxine, running along all the coasts of Greece, Italy, France, and Spain, and not finding sufficient way out through Gibraltar by means of the straitness of the frith, it runneth back again along the coasts of Barbary by Alexandria, Natolia, etc.

It may, peradventure, be thought that this course of the sea doth sometime surcease and thereby impugn this principle, because it is not discerned all along the coast of America in such sort as Jacques Cartier found it, whereunto I answer this: That albeit in every part of the coast of America or elsewhere this current is not sensibly perceived, yet it hath evermore such like motion, either the uppermost or nethermost part of the sea; as it may be proved true, if you sink a sail by a couple of ropes near the ground, fastening to the nethermost corners two gun chambers or other weights, by the driving whereof you shall plainly perceive the course of the water and current running with such like course in the bottom. By the like experiment you may find the ordinary motion of the sea in the ocean, how far soever you be off the land.

9. Also, there cometh another current from out the north-east from the Scythian Sea (as Master Jenkinson, a man of rare virtue, great travel, and experience, told me), which runneth westward towards Labrador, as the other did which cometh from the south; so that both these currents must have way through this our strait, or else encounter together and run contrary courses in one line, but no such conflicts of streams or contrary courses are found about any part of Labrador or Newfoundland, as witness our yearly fishers and other sailors that way, but is there separated as aforesaid, and found by the experience of Barnarde de la Torre to fall into Mare del Sur.

10. Furthermore, the current in the great ocean could not have been maintained to run continually one way from the beginning of the world unto this day, had there not been some through passage by the strait aforesaid, and so by circular motion be brought again to maintain itself, for the tides and courses of the sea are maintained by their interchangeable motions, as fresh rivers are by springs, by ebbing and flowing, by rarefaction and condensation.

So that it resteth not possible (so far as my simple reason can comprehend) that this perpetual current can by any means be maintained, but only by a continual reaccess of the same water, which passeth through the strait, and is brought about thither again by such circular motion as aforesaid, and the certain falling thereof by this strait into Mare del Sur is proved by the testimony and experience of Barnarde de la Torre, who was sent from P. de la Natividad to the Moluccas, 1542, by commandment of Anthony Mendoza, then Viceroy of Nova Hispania, which Barnarde sailed 750 leagues on the north side of the Equator, and there met with a current which came from the north-east, the which drove him back again to Tidore.

Wherefore this current being proved to come from the Cape of Good Hope to the strait of Magellan, and wanting sufficient entrance there, is by the necessity of Nature's force brought to Terra de Labrador, where Jacques Cartier met the same, and thence certainly known not to strike over upon Iceland, Lapland, etc., and found by Barnarde de la Torre, in Mare del Sur, on the backside of America, therefore this current, having none other passage, must of necessity fall out through this strait into Mare del Sur, and so trending by the Moluccas, China, and the Cape of Good Hope, maintaineth itself by circular motion, which is all one in Nature with motus ab oriente in occidentem.

So that it seemeth we have now more occasion to doubt of our return than whether there be a passage that way, yea or no: which doubt hereafter shall be sufficiently removed; wherefore, in my opinion reason itself grounded upon experience assureth us of this passage if there were nothing else to put us in hope thereof. But lest these might not suffice, I have added in this chapter following some further proof thereof, by the experience of such as have passed some part of this discovery, and in the next adjoining to that the authority of those which have sailed wholly through every part thereof.

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