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Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage   By: (1552-1616)

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Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage by Richard Hakluyt is a fascinating exploration of the attempts made by various European nations to discover a northern sea route to Asia. Hakluyt's extensive collection of accounts provides a comprehensive overview of the numerous voyages undertaken during the 16th century.

The book begins with an insightful introduction by the author, where he outlines his purpose for compiling these narratives. Hakluyt's main goal is to persuade the English government to support further expeditions in search of a viable passage to the East Indies. This introductory section sets the stage for the subsequent tales of exploration and discovery.

Hakluyt's meticulous attention to detail allows readers to immerse themselves in the experiences of the explorers. Every voyage is accompanied by a plethora of maps, drawings, and illustrations, providing additional context and enhancing the understanding of the various expeditions. These visual aids prove invaluable in grasping the challenges faced by the navigators and the importance of their discoveries.

The book's structure is well-organized, with each chapter dedicated to a particular voyage or group of voyages. Hakluyt ensures that no significant expedition is omitted, offering readers a comprehensive account of the search for the North-West Passage. From Martin Frobisher's early explorations to Henry Hudson's ill-fated final journey, the author presents a panorama of both successful and failed attempts, allowing the reader to appreciate the immense risks undertaken by these brave explorers.

One of the book's primary strengths lies in Hakluyt's ability to convey the excitement and danger that accompanied each expedition. The various narratives are filled with vivid descriptions of the treacherous Arctic conditions, encounters with indigenous peoples, and thrilling moments of discovery. Through these accounts, Hakluyt successfully captures the spirit of adventure that drove these explorers to push past the boundaries of known territories.

Despite its many strengths, Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage does have a few minor weaknesses. Hakluyt's narrative occasionally becomes bogged down by technical details and lengthy descriptions of geographical features, which may deter some readers seeking a more fluid storytelling style. Additionally, the absence of a conclusive assessment of the viability of a North-West Passage by the author might leave some readers desiring a clearer conclusion to the book.

Overall, Voyages in Search of the North-West Passage is an essential read for those interested in the history of exploration and the quest for new trade routes. Richard Hakluyt's meticulous research, coupled with evocative descriptions and extensive visual aids, creates an immersive experience that allows readers to relive the perils and triumphs of these intrepid explorers. Despite its occasional digressions into technical details, this book provides a comprehensive and valuable resource for understanding the challenges faced in centuries past.

First Page:


Transcribed from the 1892 Cassell & Co. edition by David Price, email



From the Collection of RICHARD HAKLUYT.



Thirty five years ago I made a voyage to the Arctic Seas in what Chaucer calls

A little bote No bigger than a manne's thought;

it was a Phantom Ship that made some voyages to different parts of the world which were recorded in early numbers of Charles Dickens's "Household Words." As preface to Richard Hakluyt's records of the first endeavour of our bold Elizabethan mariners to find North West Passage to the East, let me repeat here that old voyage of mine from No. 55 of "Household Words," dated the 12th of April, 1851: The Phantom is fitted out for Arctic exploration, with instructions to find her way, by the north west, to Behring Straits, and take the South Pole on her passage home. Just now we steer due north, and yonder is the coast of Norway. From that coast parted Hugh Willoughby, three hundred years ago; the first of our countrymen who wrought an ice bound highway to Cathay... Continue reading book >>

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