Sir Martin Frobisher

Frobisher Bay One of many explorers looking for a Northwest Passage to the Orient, Sir Martin Frobisher was one of the first English explorers to sail the northeast North American coast.

Frobisher's travels began in the 1550s, when he explored Africa's northwest coast. A navigator by trade and an adventurer by nature, Frobisher gained a reputation for preying on French trading vessels in the waters off Guinea. He was arrested several times during the 1560s on piracy charges, but managed to avoid trial.

In 1576, Frobisher became commander of three small ships and set sail for North America in search of the fabled Northwest Passage. During his first trip, he reached Labrador and Baffin Island and sailed through the bay that now bears his name. Frobisher sensed North America was a land rich in gold, and his tales of treasure earned him royal backing for his next two voyages in 1577 and 1578. On those voyages, Frobisher attempted to start at least one ill-fated settlement, but spent most of his time looking for precious metals. When he returned empty-handed after a third try, Frobisher lost his financial backing.

Frobisher returned to the seas in 1585 as vice admiral for Sir Francis Drake's voyage to the West Indies. Three years later, he fought for the English against the Spanish Armada and was knighted for his efforts. For the next six years, Frobisher headed up several different English squadrons, including one that attempted to intercept Spanish treasure ships in the Azores. During a similar scuffle with Spanish forces in 1594, Frobisher was mortally wounded in battle and died at sea.

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