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THE SAILOR BENT ON DISCOVERY;
HORE'S ADVENTURES ON THE COAST OF NORTH AMERICA
n the sixteenth century it was the all-absorbing
desire of many of the noblest minds of England to explore the seas and bring home reports of newly-discovered lands. Then was beheld the
spectacle of gentlemen leaving their quiet estates for the agitations of the ocean, lawyers exchanging the contentions of the courts for the strife of tempests, whilst divines and philosophers compiled with zeal the maritime exploits of their countrymen. The voyage of an Englishman named Hore will illustrate these remarks. He was a gentleman residing in London, whither the thickly increasing reports of new and wonderful countries, far to the west, were constantly brought by Spanish and Portuguese mariners. Thousands of eager spirits looked to that point of the horizon whence such wondrous visions of new lands rose from the once dark regions of the west. These exciting discoveries induced Hore to study geography with minute attention and untiring zeal. Whilst thus engaged, it was natural that his desire to visit distant coasts, of which he read and heard, should grow with each hour of his life. Perhaps there were moments when, with his maps before him, hope depicted some region discovered by himself, which should bear his name down to the adventurous spirits of after ages. By such studies and meditations desire at length grew into resolution ; he gazed
It does not appear
on the broad Thames, and resolved to make its waters a highway to fame.
A ship was purchased, and named the “ Trinity," upon which numerous shipwrights were quickly employed to put her into a state for speedy departure. But Hore was not surrounded by idle admirers ; there were many gentlemen amongst his acquaintance whose imaginations had been fired by his enthusiasm. These resolved to accompany their friend, and share, perhaps, in the bright renown attendant on the founders of new regions. Such was their ardour that two ships were prepared instead of one. that the enterprise sprung from a desire for gain ; many who thus chivalrously joined were men of fortune, gentlemen of landed estates, and members of the bar.
A strange crew, certainly, in our estimation, for a discovery ship; though not so strange in that age.
The day came at length, the ships dropped down the river to Gravesend, when the deep and earnest spirit then animating men was apparent, in the last act of Hore's company before leaving England—all received the sacrament ; and then setting sail, looked not weakly back or timidly forward. Such calm and deep enthusiasm frequently meets the eye, as it gazes on that past world in which our heroic ancestors lived and moved.
This band of adventurers sailed along a silent sea : not then, as now, cut by a thousand sails from east and west. Not fifty years had passed since the panic-stricken crew of Columbus had gazed upon the western ocean, as the home of supernatural powers ; and a solemn mystery still hovered over the distant west. Hore pressed onwards for two months without seeing land. Cape Breton* then rose in sight. Sailing forward, they touched the shores of Newfoundlandt, when the fate common to so many of the early navigators befell them—that of a failure in provisions. Hore's naval readings had not sufficiently prepared him for the exigencies of a long voyage in barbarous regions ; hence due
precautions were not taken against the visitations of famine. This
* Cape Breton is sometimes said to have been discovered in 1584, but Hore may be called its discoverer.
+ Discovered by John and Sebastian Cabot in 1496, who called it “ prima vistva,'' the first seen land.
frequently rendered unavailing the high courage of these maritime pioneers. Important advantages were hastily abandoned ; and the ships steered from newly-found coasts, on which the starving crews could gain no supplies.
IIore did not, however, retreat ; he seems to have hoped that provisions would be procured at some point on the coast, and long cheered the spirits of his companions. But at length the crews were compelled to visit the shore to collect the wild roots and sea-weed for food. This terrible want of food reduced the expedition to total inactivity ; as the only chance of supporting life was the use of the wild vegetation on the beach. To put out to sea was to run into the jaws of famine: to remain on the coast promised, indeed, but a slower death. For how could the vessels hope for sufficient provisions for the voyage homewards ; or how was life to be supported on these barren rocks? Most of the crew submitted to their privations in the same noble spirit with which they had begun ; but there were demons amongst these highhearted men.
The officers could not fail to notice that, from time to time, various persons were missed from the crew ; and naturally feared that they had been destroyed whilst wandering in search of food by wild beasts. It happened one day that an officer, wandering in a thicket, came upon a fire, where meat seemed to have been roasted ; and near which he found one of the crew.
The man confessed, both that he had meat, and had used the fire to dress it. The officer, indignant at this selfishness, when so many were starving ; and, supposing the meat had been purloined from secret stores in the ship, upbraided the man for his vile conduct. Upon which the other, rendered desperate by suffering or crime, plainly told him that he had roasted the dead body of one of the crew, whom he then named. The horrified superior saw at once what had become of the missing men, and reported the dreadful affair to Hore.
It was no time for vengeance ; and the leader, fearing the recurrence of such deeds yet unable to prevent them, called his company together, and besought each, by every solemn consideration, to submit to whatever God should lay upon them, or yield to death by famine if that must be ; but to die as men, and not become monsters by such crimes.
In spite of Hore's energetic appeal, the deed could not be wiped from the memories of the crew. It was regarded as a something which might be done again.
The condition of Hore was now desperate : to remain on the barren coast must lead to death under the horrors of famine ; to sail homewards was but to meet the same death upon the ocean.
He feared to see the crew he had proudly led from England sink into a herd of cannibals, and die accursed by each other. The things he dreaded seemed at hand. No more secret murders happened, for the men were now above concealment; and it was resolved that, unless some relief should be obtained by a set day, lots must be drawn for one of them to die for the support of the rest. Gladly would Hore have hailed as a blessing some sudden catastrophe, or fatal pestilence, by which the days of all might be ended. But the poble-minded leader and his companions were saved from the dreaded calamity by the commission of another, though less evil.
Before the arrival of the day on which the dreadful lot was to be drawn, a French ship entered the bay where the two English ships were at anchor. Hore's crew resolved at once to rescue themselves from starvation by attacking the stranger, and taking from her provisions sufficient for their passage to England. The attack was made, abundance of stores were found ; and, dreading delay, it was resolved to depart at once in their prize, leaving their own ship, with a supply of food, for the Frenchmen.
All the great designs of Hore were thus relinquished ; his men dreaded famine more than they desired discoveries, and sail was eagerly set for England, where they arrived in October ; coming first to anchor at St. Ives, Cornwall.
Thus in a short space were a thousand generous impulses and much noble daring rendered useless by want of due forethought ; for to this the calamities of Hore's crew, and the ruin of his own hopes, must be ascribed.
The vessels were clearly unprovided with sufficient provisions ; wanting which the most heroic-hearted navigators become powerless. What modern discovery-ship would exhaust her stores in half a year?
About seventeen years after the events recorded in this chapter, Sir Hugh Willoughby departed on his voyage of
discovery, and he took care to have at least sufficient provisions for eighteen months in his ships ; and though this brave man with all his crew perished by frost in an ice-bound bay of Lapland, no part of this calamity could be traced to a want of food.
Hore might have become the famed founder of an American colony, had he been as prudent as he was brave, enthusiastic, and religious. Some trouble was likely to befall this adventurous gentleman after his arrival in England, as the owners of the ship which his crow had seized made a formal complaint to the king. The deed might have been deemed an act of piracy ; but the terrible circumstances under which it was committed, induced the monarch to pardon the aggressors, whilst he ordered compensation to be made to the French for the loss of their ship.