Martin Frobisher reaches Resolution Island (1576)

On today’s date in 1576, English explorer Martin Frobisher landed on Resolution Island in present-day Nunavut from his barque, Gabriel.

In the early 1560s, Frobisher decided to voyage in search of a Northwest Passage – a trade route to India and China from Europe – but it would take him about half a decade to raise the necessary funding. In 1576, he convinced the Muscovy Company, a group of English merchants that had previously funded several parties searching for the Northeast Passage, to license his voyage.

With the help of Michael Lok, director of the Muscovy Company, Frobisher was able to raise enough capital for three barques: Gabriel, Michael and another unnamed pinnace vessel with a total crew of 35 men. He set sail on June 7 of that year, leaving from the Shetland Islands; however, during a storm, the pinnace was lost and Michael was abandoned.

Then, July 28, 1576 – 439 years ago – the crew of the Gabriel sighted the coast of Labrador and sailed north, to Resolution Island. Soon after, they reached the mouth of what’s now known as Frobisher Bay, but because inclement weather prevented further travel north, Frobisher decided to sail westward up the passage, which he thought to be a strait that would lead to China. However, he would navigate the area without finding a westward route. He eventually sailed back to England with a prisoner and what he thought to be gold.

In 1963, Canada Post commemorated Frobisher on a five-cent ultramarine stamp (Scott #412) printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company.

Interestingly, in a June 1963 article in the Chicago Tribune, Richard Cabeen wrote in his column “The Stamp Collector” about the Frobisher stamp.

“Canada will issue a 5 cent commemorative stamp on July 29 to honor Sir Martin Frobisher, 16th century English mariner who explored the coast of Baffin Island.”

Also as an interesting aside, Maple Leaves, the journal of the Canadian Philatelic Society of Great Britain, wrote in August 1963: “A special commemorative postage stamp honouring Sir Martin Frobisher will he released for sale on August 21st instead of July 29th as previously announced. This was made public today by the Honourable Azellus Denis, Postmaster General. The issue dates of two other stamps will be affected by the change. A stamp to mark the Postal Bicentenniel [sic], originally scheduled for release on August 23rd, will now be released on September 25th. The new regular 15 cents air mail stamp which was to be released on September 30th will be issued on October 30th. Mr. Denis explained that he had set back the release date of the stamp to August 21st in order that the Frobisher stamp could be placed on sale at the time of ‘Passage 7,’ a proposed motor vessel trip which was to enter many areas opened originally by Frobisher’s explorations. The voyage has now been postponed until 1964. The Postmaster General explained that cancellation of the voyage came too late to let the stamp schedule stand as previously announced.”

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