Martin Frobisher

Martin Frobisher

(Above) Martin Frobisher: Explorer, Naval Commander and Privateer. Click on the image to see more.

(Right) A map showing Martin Frobisher's voyage to find the Northwest Passage.

Martin Frobisher started his sailing career in 1553 on trading ships going to Africa. He then made his living as a privateer and a double-agent. He was arrested several times for piracy.

In 1574 Frobisher and a business partner made a plan to find the Northwest Passage and use the route to trade with Asia. On his voyage of 1576 Frobisher sailed as far as Baffin Island in Canada. He called the stretch of water that he reached Frobisher Strait. He thought that he could continue west through it. It is now known as Frobisher Bay.

Map of Frobisher's route from England to Baffin Island

Frobisher’s return to England caused excitement. People thought that Frobisher was going to make a discovery for England as important as the one that Magellan had made for Spain. Frobisher’s business partner was more interested in a sample of black ore that Frobisher had taken from an island where he had landed. He thought it contained valuable minerals.

Frobisher made no more attempts to find the Northwest Passage. Instead he made expeditions in 1577 and 1578 to gather more black ore. The ore turned out to be useless. Frobisher and his business partner were disgraced.

Frobisher later worked his way back into Royal favour. He commanded a ship when England fought against Spain in the Armada campaign. He was knighted for his work. He received a pistol wound whilst fighting the French and Spanish Catholic alliance in France and died from a gangrenous infection of his lower body.