Luke Foxe & Thomas James


Luke Foxe had been wanting to try to find the northwest passage for 25 years, but he finally got the chance when he got some backing from influential and rich London merchants. In reaction to his expedition being fitted out, a similar expedition was organized by some Bristol merchants, to be lead by Thomas James. James left England on May 3, 1631, Foxe two days later. The next month they reached Baffin Island, and both sailed through Strait Hudson to Hudson Bay.

Foxe followed the southcoast of Southampton Island, then explored the westcoast of Hudson Bay from Roe's Welcome Sound southward. He stayed at the mouth of the Nelson for two weeks for repairs, then went on. At the same time James explored the same coast and discovered the Severn, and on 29 July they met at Cape Henrietta Maria, and dined together, but the next day they split up again. Foxe followed the coast till the entrance of James Bay, then turned north and traversed Hudson Bay.

He discovered Foxe Channel between Southampton Island and Baffin Island, and followed the westcoast of Baffinland until he was forced back by ice at 6647'N. Because the health of his men was getting worse, he decided to return to England, where he arrived in October, not having lost a single crewmember.

James in the meanwhile, had entered James Bay and was crisscrossing it, hoping to find an entrance further south to the Saint Lawrence, until the ice forced him to make winter quarters. He ordered the ship to be sunk to avoid it being destroyed by the tide. His men built a boat in case the ship could not be recovered the next year. In the meanwhile scurvy broke out. The next year the ship could be repaired, but it cost them all of the Spring.

He too went north and sailed through Foxe Channel. He followed the westcoast of the channel (where Foxe had followed the eastcoast), but the bad state of his ship did not allow him to go as far north as Foxe had gone. He returned to England, arriving one year after Foxe.

These voyages showed that there was no strait to the Pacific from Hudson Bay, and serious attempts to find the Northwest Passage would not be made again until the early nineteenth century.


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