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cene Four
         1583 PANEL

Up to now the total number of men involved in the expedition has been approximately 260 and consists of shipwrights, masons, carpenters, smiths  and such like tradesmen needed for such an operation. Mineral men too and refiners, in case gold or other precious metals are discovered. Also, for the morale of the adventurers and to impress the natives they encounter, musicians are on board. Trinkets are available as well for trading with the savages. These include toys fashioned as Morris dancers, hobby hosses and “Maylike Conceits” to delight and win over their trust “by all faire means possible”.


However the best of plans often go awry through unforeseen circumstances, as is the case with Sir Humphrey’s scheme for further exploration. Sickness again strikes the fleet so he is forced to send the Swallow  home for the men to recuperate.


Now Gilbert is left with only three vessels. They leave St John’s Harbour on 20 August with him in the tiny frigate Squirrel  ‘leading’ the way to Cap Raz and then towards the Isle of Sablon, the Isle of Sand, which he wants to explore. But he has a violent argument with Captain Clarke of the Delight as to which course to navigate to reach it. Naturally Gilbert’s decision prevails but his arrogance in not listening to Clarke’s advice is disastrous for on 29 August the bigger Delight  is wrecked off Cape Breton. 100 lives are lost.


Sixteen men survive, including Clarke by hauling themselves out of the water into the ship’s boat but find that it has only one oar and of course, no food. Without sustenance and with foul weather swamping and tossing the tiny craft around and about, the survivors begin to panic, demanding to draw sixteen lots then cast overboard those four with the four shortest lots but preserving Clarke. Clarke however has none of it, saying that they will live or die together and to “take heart” as he knows they are not far from land and will be safe within three or four days.


Miraculously the Captain is proved right. A week later the exhausted, near starving survivors crawl ashore in Southern Newfoundland and find fresh water and peas and berries for nourishment. They’re saved.


More days pass as, regaining strength, they move along the coast by boat until, with further luck they’re picked up by a ship of St John de Luz and taken to Spain. Questioned on board offshore by Spanish officials they fool them as being “but poor shipwrecked fishermen”, then slip ashore that night, make for nearby France, then England and safety.

tapestry photo 1583 scene four panel

THRIFT  Armeria maritima.  ‘Their use in Phsysicke as yet is not knowne, neither doth any seeke into the Nature thereof, but esteeme them only for their beautie and pleasure’. Gerard.

HEARTSEASE  Viola tricolor.   In a Midsummer Nights Dream Shakespeare had Oberon, king of the fairies, squeeze the juice of Heartsease into Titania’s eyes in order to induce her to fall in love with Bottom in his guise as an ass.

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