Unknown Shore - the Lost History of Englands Arctic Colony
by Ruby, Robert
pub. by Henry Holt, NY 2001 isbn 0-8050-5215-1 - , 300 p. total - - Notes p. 261-282 - - Bibliogrraphy p. 283-290 - - Acknowledgements p. 291-292 - - index p. 293-300. -
This is the history of Martin Frobisher and his attempts to find the Northwest Passage (not mentioned as such in the book) - the way to Cathay (China) and the riches of the east by way of sailing West past Frisland (probably Greenland) and north of the North American continent. This effort was side tracked by the discovery of what they thought was gold.
Frobishers first voyage was frustrated by ice. On Baffin Island or a small outlaying island One of the crew picked up a black rock. This is generally between Greenland and Husdons Bay. Some time after they returned home the rock was assayed for mineral content. Depending on who did the assay some found a bit of gold, others nothing. The optimists financed a second voyage, which did not go well. A third voyage was financed with a number of boats, miners, and other tradesmen to built a fort and some dwellings. That flotilla was scattered by bad weather. Most of them did come together and although many of the parts for the buildings were lost, a building was built on Countess of Warwick Island (Kodlunarn Island) and the remaining ships were loaded with the black rock -ore-. Upon leaving a storm scattered the fleet. Most of the ships made it home to England. Later assays proved that the black rocks had no gold. Fortunes of the investors were lost. Queen Elizabeth herself lost some. The assetts of the Cathay Company were liquidated and some of the suppliers got some of their money.
Woven into the story is the story of Charles F. Hall of Cincinnati, Ohio. The English Franklin Expedition which departed England in 1845 had vanished in the Arctic somewhere north of Canada. Rescue expeditions found nothing. Charles Hall thought that some may be still alive, assisted by the Eskimo. He stumped about and got enough funding for a very bare bones expedition - mostly himself - with transport on a Whaling ship. He left in May 1860 and spent the better part of 2 years in the arctic. He befriended some eskimo and lived with them. He did what can only be described as quite good scientific anthropological work. He recorded stories of white men in sailing vessels from a long time ago, and linked those stories to Frobisher. He did discover the site of the site of the Frobisher building (constructed some 300 years previously) and brought home things from that site. He also brought an eskimo family he had befriended.
Hall did a round of public speaking and fund raising. His Eskimo friends were used as exhibits. (This all during the US Civil War.) He managed another and larger expedition seeking any survivors of the Franklin Expedition. He found tales of their starvaton and death.
The book returns to information on Frobisher. It discusses more modern archeological work on Countess of Warwick Island. There is a fair amoung of discussion of the financial mess left behind. There are ample documents extant which illustrate the problems.
It ends with a - rest of the story - part describing the remaining lives of the major players.
Throughout the book John Dee is given a fair amount of discussion. It is much more straght forward and clear than some books which are biographies of Dee.
This is a well thought out book. It presents the story on several levels. It fairly accurately portrays life in Elizabethan England. It is a good read, well crafted, well researched. It reads easily and quickly.
~ 2016-05-21 ~
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