Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Jacques Cartier's Second Voyage to Canada, 1535-1536

Jacques Cartier set sail for a second voyage on May 19 of the following year with three ships, 110 men, and the two Iroquoian young men. When Cartier reached the St. Lawrence, he sailed up-river for the first time, and reached the Iroquoian village of Stadacona, near present day Quebec City, where Chief Donnacona was reunited with his two sons.

From there Cartier traveled inland, leaving his main ships in a harbour close to Stadacona, and used his smallest ship to continue up river and visit Hochelaga (now Montreal) where he arrived October 2, 1535. Hochelaga was a more impressive sight than the village of Stadacona, where over 1,000 Iroquoians came to greet them. The site of their arrival was identified as the beginning of the Sainte-Marie Sault—where the Jacques Cartier Bridge now stands. The expedition could proceed no further, as the river was blocked by rapids. There he talked through sign language with the Hochelagans and concluded that beyond the rapids at Montreal, the rivers led inland to several large lakes including a land called Saguenay, the source of gold, silver and copper. Cartier was certain the river was the Northwest Passage and that the rapids were the only thing preventing him from sailing to China that the rapids were named for China (La Chine).

[La Chine Rapids]

During his visit at Hochelaga, Cartier and his men were taken up the steep hill later named Mount Royal. A few of his men were dressed in full fighting armour, tired themselves out during the climb; and when it came time for their trip down, the Hochelagans generously picked them up and carried the heavy men on their shoulders to Cartier’s boats.*

After spending two days among the St. Lawrence Iroquoians of Hochelaga, Cartier returned to Stadacona on October 11. It is not known exactly when Cartier decided to spend the winter of 1535-1536 in Stadacona, and it was by then too late to return to France. Cartier and his men prepared for the winter by strengthening their fort, stacking firewood, and salting down game and fish.

During this winter, Cartier compiled in his journal several pages on the manners of the natives -- in particular, their habit of wearing only leggings and loinclothes even in the dead of winter: “They go quite naked, except for a small skin, with which they cover their privy parts, and for a few old furs which they throw over their shoulders…”**

From mid-November 1535 to mid-April 1536, the French fleet lay frozen solid at the mouth of the St. Charles River, under the Rock of Quebec. Ice was over a fathom (1.8 m) thick on the river, with snow four feet (1.2 m) deep ashore. To add to the discomfort, scurvy broke out -- first among the Iroquoians, and then among the French. In his journal, Cartier states that by mid-February, "out of 110 that we were, not ten were well enough to help the others, a pitiful thing to see". Cartier estimated the number of natives dead at 50.

[Arbor vitae, white cedar]

It was a cold winter even by Canadian standards. From mid-November until mid-April Cartier's ships were icebound. Worse still was scurvy, brought on by absence of fresh fruit and vegetables-basically the lack of vitamin C. Of Cartier's 110 men, only 10 were still well by February 1536, and 25 men eventually died. The native peoples had a remedy for scurvy which Cartier learned about just in time: an infusion made from the bark of white cedar which produced massive quantities of vitamin C and by which the men were quickly restored.

When Cartier was ready to return to France in early May 1536, he decided to take Chief Donnacona to France, so that he might personally tell the tale of a country further north, called the "Kingdom of Saguenay", said to be full of gold, rubies and other treasures. After an arduous trip down the St. Lawrence and a three-week Atlantic crossing, Cartier and his men arrived in Saint-Malo on July 15, 1536, concluding the second, 14 month voyage, which was to be Cartier's most profitable.

*McFarlane, Peter and Wayne Haimila. Ancient Land, & Ancient Sky: Following Canada's Native Canoe Routes. Toronto: Alfred A. Knopf Canada, ©1999, p. 54.
The Illustrated History of Canada, Edited by Craig Brown, Key Porter, p. 61-62, **p.61

Photo Credits: wikipedia


RuneE said...

This must have been during the so-called "little ice-age" when the the global temperature went down for a few centuries. Among other things, it contributed to the demise of the Norse settlements on Greenland. Impressed by the clothing of the native Americans!

Thank you for the interesting information and a Happy New Year to you and your dear ones!

Reader Wil said...

Cartier sailed in the same century when the Dutch Willem Barentz try to find a sea passage around the north of Europe. He was later than Cartier. He made three voyages by the end of the century and got stuck in the ice off the coast of Nova Zembla. Very interesting to read these historical events.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I haven't heard some of these names since fourth grade. Thanks for reminding me of their voyages.

Tess Kincaid said...

Another interesting post, Barbara!

Happy New Year to you and yours!

CindaChima said...

Barbara, I love your site!! It's gorgeous, all the things I love.

Cinda Williams Chima

Charles Gramlich said...

So many great stories of the early explorers. What tough folks they were. And brave. I wonder if I would have had the courage.

Barbara Martin said...

RuneE, the lack of clothing on the Iroquoians astounded me when I read it. Of course, they could have been doing it for effect upon their strange visitors.

Barbara Martin said...

Wil, I find this early 16th century history quite interesting as sailors were entering "unchartered seas" to find exotic spices and riches.

Your account of Willem Barentz has intrigued me, so I'm off soon to look.

Barbara Martin said...

Patti, I will be posting about Canada's early history before continuing with the War of 1812 to provide a proper foundation.

Barbara Martin said...

Willow, for a faithful reader I'm pleased to provide these different topics.

Barbara Martin said...

Cinda, welcome and thank you for stopping by.

I find with multiple interests it keeps the creativity fresh, providing an alternative idea when one doesn't quite work.

Barbara Martin said...

Charles, you would be fine, as would most others today. It's a case of doing what has to be done. Cartier was known as a good captain whose sailors would follow his guidance.