Frobisher, Sir Martin

, an enterprizing English navigator, was born near Doncaster, in Yorkshire, of low | parents, but it is not known in what year. Being brought up to navigation, he very early displayed the talents of an eminent sailor, and was the first Englishman that attempted to find out a north-west passage to China. He made offers of this to several English merchants for fifteen years together; but meeting with no encouragement from them, he at length obtained recommendations to Dudley earl of Warwick, and other persons of rank and fortune. Under their influence and protection he engaged a sufficient number of adventurers, and collected proper sums of money. The ships he provided were only three; namely, two barks of about twenty-five tons each, and a pinnace of ten tons. With these he sailed from Deptford June 8, 1576; and the court being then at Greenwich, the queen beheld them as they passed by, “commended them, and bade them farewell, with shaking her hand at them out of the window.

Bending their course northward, they came on the 24th within sight of Fara, one of the islands of Shetland; and on the llth of July discovered Friezeland r which stood high, and was all covered with snow. They could not land by reason of the ice and great depth of water near the shore; the east point of this island, however, they named “Queen Elizabeth’s Foreland.” On the 28th they had sight of Meta Incognita, being part of New Greenland; on which also they could not land, for the reasons just mentioned. August the 10th, he went on a desert island three miles from the continent, but staid there only a few hours. The next day he entered into a strait which he called “Frobisher’s Strait;” and the name is still retained. On the J2th, sailing to Gabriel’s Island, they came to a sound, which they named Prior’s Sound, and anchored in a sandy bay there. The 15th they sailed to Prior’s Bay, the 17th to Thomas Williams’s Island, and the 18th came to an anchor under Burcher’s Island. Here they went on shore, and had some communication with the natives; but he was so unfortunate as to have five of his men and a boat taken by those barbarians. They were like the Tartars, or Samoeids, with long black hair, broad faces, flat noses, and tawny; the garments both of men and women were made of seal-skins, and did not differ in fashion; but the women were marked in the face with blue streaks down the cheeks, and round the eyes. Having endeavoured in vain to recover hit men, he set sail again | for England the 26th of August; and, notwithstanding a terrible "storm on the 7th, arrived safe at Harwich on the 2d of October.

He took possession of that country in the queen of England’s name; and, in token of such possession, ordered his men to bring whatever they could first find. ( One among the rest brought a piece of black stone, much like seacoal, but very heavy. Having at his return distributed fragments of it among his friends, one of the adventurer’s wives threw a fragment into the fire; which being taken out again, and quenched in vinegar, glittered like gold; and, being tried by some refiners in London, was found to contain a portion of that rich metal. This circumstance raising prodigious expectations of gold, great numbers earnestly pressed Frobisher to undertake a second voyage the next spring. The queen lent him a ship of the royal navy of 200 tons; with which, and two barks of about 30 tons each, they fell down to Gravesend May 26, 1577, and there received the sacrament together; an act of religion not so frequently performed as it ought to be, among men exposed to so many perils, and more particularly under the protection of heaven. They sailed from Harwich on the 3 1st of May, and arrived in St. Magnus Sound at the Orkney Islands, upon the 7th of June; from whence they kept their course for the space of twenty-six days, without seeing any land. They met, however, with great drifts of wood, and whole bodies of trees; which were either blown off the cliffs of the nearest lands by violent storms, or rooted up and carried by floods into the sea. At length, on the 4th of July, they discovered Friezeland; along the coasts of which they found islands of ice of incredible bigness, some being 70 or 80 fathoms under water, besides the part that stood above water, and more than half a mile in circuit. Not having been able safely to land in this place, they proceeded for Frobisher’s Straits; and on the 17th of the same month made the North Foreland in them, otherwise called Hall’s Island; as also a smaller island of the same name, where they had in their last voyage found the ore, but could not now get a piece so large as a walnut. They met with some of it, however, in other adjacent islands, but not enough to merit their attention. They sailed about to make what discoveries they could, and gave names to several bays and isles; as Tackman’s Sound, Smith’s Island, Beare’s Sound, | Leicester’s Isle, Anne countess of Warwick’s Sound and Island, York Sound, &c.

The captain’s commission directed him in this voyage only to search for ore, and to leave the further discovery of the north-west passage till another time. Having, therefore, in the countess of Warwick’s Island, found a good quantity, he took a lading of it; intending the first opportunity to return home. He set sail the 23d of August, and arrived in England about the end of September. He was most graciously received by the queen; and, as the gold ore he brought had an appearance of riches and profit, and the hope of a north-west passage to China was greafcly increased by this second voyage, her majesty appointed commissioners to make trial of the ore, and examine thoroughly into the whole affair. The commissioners did so, and reported the great value of the undertaking, and the expediency of further carrying on the discovery of the north-west passage. Upon this, suitable preparations were made with all possible dispatch; and, because the mines newly found out were sufficient to defray the adventurers charges, it was thought necessary to send a select number of soldiers, to secure the places already discovered, to make further discoveries into the inland parts, and to search again for the passage to China. Besides three ships as before, twelve others were fitted out for this voyage, which were to return at the end of the summer with a lading of gold ore. They assembled at Harwich the 27th of May, and sailing thence the 31st, they came within sight of Friezeland on the 20th of June; when the general, going on shore, took possession of the country in the queen of England’s name, and called it West-England. They met with many storms and difficulties in this voyage, which retarded them so much, that the season was too far advanced to undertake discoveries; so that, after getting as much ore as they could, they sailed for England, where, after a stormy and dangerous voyage, they arrived about the beginning of October.

It does not appear how captain Frobisher employed himself from this time to 1585, when he commanded the Aid, in sir Francis Drake’s expedition to the West Indies. In 1588, he bravely exerted himself against the Spanish Armada, commanding the Triumph, one of the three largest ships in that service, and which had on board the greatest number pf men of any in the whole English fleet. July | 26th, he received the honour of knighthood, from the hand of the lord high admiral, at sea, on board his own ship and when afterwards the queen thought it necessary to keep a fleet on the- Spanish coast, he was employed in that service, particularly in 1590, when he commanded one squadron, as sir John Hawkins did another. In 1594, he was sent with four men of war, to assist Henry the Fourth of France, against a body of leaguers and Spaniards then in possession of part of Bretagne, who had fortified themselves very strongly at Croyzon near Brest. But in an assault upon that fort, Nov. 7, he was wounded with a ball in the hip, of which he died Soob after he had brought the fleet safely back to Plymouth; and was buried in that town. Stow tells us, the wound was not mortal in itself, but became so through the negligence of his surgeon, who only extracted the bullet, without duly searching the wound and taking out the wadding, which caused it to fester.

He was a man of great courage, experience, and conduct, but accused by some of having been harsh and violent. There is a good painting of him in the picture gallery at Oxford. 1

1 Biog. Brit. In Pennant’s Introduction to his Arctic Zoology, are some remarks on tile errors in the original map of Frobisher’s voyages.