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Frobisher's Gold

Frobisher's Gold

26 October to 30 November 2006

Martin Frobisher

Martin Frobisher,
by Cornelius Kepel

Martin Frobisher (c1535-1594) was an English explorer who sailed in search of a North West Passage to Cathay and India. His discovery of "black earth" which was believed to contain gold, led to financial support from Queen Elizabeth I.

Born in Yorkshire, Frobisher went to sea in 1544 and rose to Captain in 1565. In June 1576, Frobisher sailed from England with three vessels, the Gabriel, the Michael and the Pinnace. The Pinnace was lost in a storm and the Michael was abandoned. Continuing alone, the Gabriel reached Resolution Island in July and named Queen Elizabeth's Foreland for their patron. Sailing onwards in search of a passage through to the Pacific, the Gabriel navigated Frobisher Bay, Baffin Island, where some "black earth" was discovered.

The rocks were returned to England, where assayers claimed they contained gold and silver. This claim led to the establishment of the Company of Cathay and two further expeditions to northern Canada in search of the gold and an attempt to establish new settlements there.

During the expeditions the men found the body of a narwhal on the beach at Baffin Island and decided it must be that of a unicorn.

The Scott Polar Research Institute has placed on display information on Frobisher's expeditions and examples of the "black earth" from the 1576 voyage.

The Museum and Archives of the Scott Polar Research Institute acknowledge the information provided by the Canadian Museum of Civilization Corporation (CMCC) in producing this exhibit. For further information on the Nanavut voyages of Martin Frobisher see