Frobisher, Sir Martin

Frobisher, Sir Martin frōˈbĭshər [key], 1535?–1594, English mariner. He went to sea as a boy, and spent much of his youth in the African trade. He later gained the friendship of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, through whom he became interested in the Northwest Passage. Licensed by Queen Elizabeth I and backed by a group of merchant adventurers, Frobisher made three voyages (1576, 1577, and 1578) to the Arctic in search of the passage. On his first voyage he sailed into Frobisher Bay to S Baffin Island, and from its shores brought back some black ore thought to contain gold and an Eskimo to prove his belief that he had actually reached fabled Cathay. Returning to Baffin Island on his next two journeys, he explored Frobisher Bay to its head and penetrated a short distance up Hudson Strait. Since his geographical discovery was slight and no gold was revealed in his cargoes of ore, Frobisher's name was discredited for a time. In 1585, however, he won glory as commander of a ship in Sir Francis Drake's expedition to the West Indies and was knighted for his services with Drake and Sir John Hawkins in the defeat of the Spanish Armada (see Armada, Spanish) in 1588. He died as the result of wounds received at Brest during an English campaign against the Spanish. The narratives of his voyages, first published in 1578, have passed through several editions. The Three Voyages of Martin Frobisher by George Best was edited from the original 1578 text by Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1937).

See biography by J. McDermott (2001); study by R. Ruby (2001).

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