The Northwest Passage as a Voyage to Myth and Adventure

The myth of the Northwest Passage is part of the northern romance of the conflict between men and nature. Myth Not many people have long stories—only short stories. Little stories, here and there. We don’t know much at all. – Quoted in Dorothy Harley Eber, Encounters on the Passage: Inuit Meet the Explorers. Toronto: University of[…]

Avast, Ye Scurvy Dogs! The Dreaded Maritime Disease in the Early Modern World

Scurvy killed more than two million sailors between the time of Columbus’s transatlantic voyage and the rise of steam engines in the mid-19th century. By Catherine PriceSociété de Chimie Industrielle Fellow One summer evening in 1808, while on a stroll through London with his wife and sister-in-law, sailor Thomas Urquhart was accosted by a stranger[…]

Pirates in the Ancient Mediterranean

Piracy was engaged in by governments and was often considered a legitimate act of war. Introduction Piracy, defined as the act of attacking and robbing a ship or port by sea, had a long history in the ancient Mediterranean stretching from the time of the Egyptian pharaoh Akhenaten (r. 1353-1336 BCE) and throughout the Middle Ages (c. 476-1500 CE). Piracy in[…]

The Pirate-y Life of Ferdinand Magellan

Magellan’s voyage in search of the “Spice Islands” was marked by storms, sharks, and scurvy—plus multiple attempts at mutiny. By Lorraine Boissoneault From the start, it was hard to know whose side Ferdinand Magellan was on. Born in northern Portugal around 1480, Magellan, an orphaned son of lesser nobles, spent decades serving the Portuguese crown[…]

How the Bloodiest Mutiny in British Naval History Helped Create American Political Asylum

Outrage over the revolt that spurred the U.S. to deliver on a promise of the Revolution. The United States has a special history, and thus bears a unique stake, when it comes to the flight of foreign refugees, particularly those seeking sanctuary from oppression and violence. Political asylum has long been a defining element of[…]

Where Be Monsters? The Daedalus Sea Serpent and the War for Credibility

Just what was it that the crew of the HMS Daedalus saw? By Matthew Willis On 6 August 1848, Midshipman Sartoris of the Royal Navy corvette HMS Daedalus alerted the officers on the ship’s quarterdeck to an unusual sight. The captain, first lieutenant, and sailing master were all present to see the approach of a large creature[…]

Terrestriality: A History of Exploration and Its Effects on Health

Is the human body innately terrestrial, unsuited to a prolonged time away from its earthly element? On December 1, 2006, just past 18:30 GMT, Michael D. Griffin, Administrator of NASA, took the podium at the Royal Society of London. A physicist and engineer, Griffin nevertheless chose, at this event, to consider the history of the[…]

Death by Chamomile? The Alimentary End of Henry Granville Naimbana in 1793

For Freetown colony’s whites, and Henry’s friends and family in Sierra Leone, his story quickly boiled over. On a ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, Henry Granville Naimbana lay dying. It was July of 1793, and the vessel the Naimbana was wending its way from London to Sierra Leone. By the time it made landfall,[…]

Spectral Passages: John Knight and the Voyage of the ‘Hopewell’ in 1606

The vanishing of John Knight and his three companions. Introduction On June 19, 1606, John Knight ran out of options. Several days of jousting with contrary winds, waves and shifting ice floes in the Labrador Sea in his little ship, the Hopewell, had forced him onto the Labrador shore, somewhere north of present-day Nain. Anchored in an[…]

The Many Lives of Ned Coxere: Were British Sailors Really British?

How to get away with smuggling in the Early Modern world? Be someone else! By Alexis Harasemovitch-TruaxPhD Candidate in HistoryThe University of Texas at Austin The Spanish Man-of-War is bearing down on the English merchant ship and Ned is in the cabin, stuffing Barbary Ducats into his hat and shoes. After escaping from Spanish captivity,[…]