The First Voyage: April 20th, 1534 / September 5th, 1534.
Voyages of Discovery, Part 1
In early January 1534, King Francis IV commissioned Jacques Cartier of St Malo to
explore the Western Seas to discover a short route to the Spice Islands and China.
Cartier, began his preparations immediately and on April 20th, 1534, he set out with
a crew of 61 able seamen on his two ships from Saint Malo, France, heading west
into the raging and wild North Atlantic Ocean. They had an uneventful crossing and
arrived only 20 days later on the shores of what is today Newfoundland at Cape
They replenished their water supplies and fished in the area for a few days before
continuing northwest and entered the Strait of Belle Isle between Newfoundland and
Labrador. They followed the west coast as far as Cape Race at the extreme south
western point of the Island of Newfoundland and then turned south to arrive off
today’s Prince Edward Island; which they explored and found it to have abundant
berries and seeds to eat and very fertile soils. A week or so later they were
exploring in the Bay of Chaleurs and into Gaspé Bay thinking it may be the entrance
of the passage to the mysterious East.
Throughout July of 1534, Cartier charted the northern coast of New Brunswick,
exploring the shores of Kouchibouguac, Miramichi, Shippagan, and proceeding
onward into a large bay which he later named "Baye de Chaleur".
The landing at Baie des Chaleurs with the Gaspe Rock in the background.
It is in the Bay of Chaleurs on July 24,
1534, that Cartier took possession of
these lands in the name of King
Francis IV. From the abundant timber
at hand he built, on the point at the
entrance to the harbour, a cross thirty
Under the cross bar he states "we
fixed a shield with three fleurs-de-lys
in relief and above it a wooden board
engraved in large Gothic characters
where was written Vive Le Roy De
Great ceremony attended the event and the on-looking Indians, who had come from
Stadacona (the site of present day Quebec City) to fish and hunt over the summer
months, realized instinctively that Cartier was claiming their land.
After the ceremony, Donnacona, the
local chief dressed in an old black,
bear-skin, arrived with his three sons
and his brother. The chief pointed to
the cross and the land all about and
with hand signs and a long harangue
attempted to make it clearly understood
that the country belonged to him and
Before long, however, he was pacified
by gifts and other goodies including
food and drink.
It is at this point that Cartier decided that he would like to bring some of the
natives back to France and asked for the Chief’s consent in allowing two of his
sons: Domagaya and Taignoagny, to accompany him on his return to France.
The Chief agreed and after the boys had been properly dressed to join the
expedition, the ships weighed anchor, the next day, and continued their voyage
of exploration into the mouth of the St Lawrence River.
It was the middle of August and getting late in the season and the weather was
turning colder. At that point just about few leagues west of Anticosti Island,
Cartier decided that it was time to turn for home.
Despite being tossed about by violent storms, the Frenchmen finally found fair
weather "and upon the 5th of September in the said year we came to the port of
St. Malo whence we departed." Apart from the two Native youths who created
quite a sensation at the Royal Court Cartier had little to show the king for the
Besides being a very accomplished and expert mariner, Cartier was a astute
observer. He kept a meticulous journal of his Voyages – a copy of a page of one of
his diaries is shown above. Not only that he was also an excellent cartographer who
mapped the early discoveries he made on the Canadian Frontier. A copy of an early
map of his Canada voyage of 1535 is also shown in the above slide.
The statue was erected in Limoilou, France just outside St Malo where Cartier lived with his family in their
rather large home. The statue’s inscription reads: The 24th of July, 1534, Jacques Cartier of Saint Malo,
landed on Canadian Shores and took possession of “New France” in the name of Francis IV.
Cartier Home at Limoilou, just outside St Malo
The Cartier Family property/estate in Limoilou just outside St Malo
Although the King was not overjoyed with the results of the Cartier’s first voyage, he
re-commissioned Cartier to prepare for a second trip and urged him to be ready to
leave by the beginning of April the following year with the objective of finding the
elusive northern route to China.
We want to thank the following for their contributions to this article:
Other materials and some photos provided by: www.wikipedia.org
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