Charged by François I to look for gold in the New World and a passage to Asia, Cartier set off from St-Malo 20 Apr 1534 with 2 ships and 61 men. He arrived off Newfoundland 20 days later. Searching for a passage through the continent, he explored areas that were already known, freely assigning names to the N coast of the Gulf of ST LAWRENCE. He sailed along the W coast of Newfoundland and reached Cabot Str. On June 26 he reached the Îles de la Madeleine and on June 29 discovered Prince Edward Island. He searched vainly for a passage, entering Baie de Chaleur and Baie de Gaspé, where he made contact with a group of Iroquoians who had come there to hunt seal. He raised a cross on July 24, bearing the arms of France. The meaning was clear to the Iroquoian chief DONNACONA, who protested but later relented and allowed Cartier to leave with 2 of his sons. Cartier sailed N to Île d'Anticosti (missing the opening to the river), thence to Newfoundland, and on Aug 15 headed home, arriving at St-Malo 5 Sept 1534.
The larger 1535 expedition had 3 ships, Grande Hermine, Petite Hermine and Émérillon, and a crew of 110. Cartier left St-Malo 19 May 1535 and reached the Gulf after a long 50-day crossing and on Aug 13, led by his 2 Indian guides, entered the river which was called Rivière du Canada, and which was renamed St Lawrence early in the 1600s. He sailed upriver to STADACONA [Québec], which he reached on Sept 7.
Against Donnacona's wishes, Cartier set out Sept 19 to explore the river farther, reaching HOCHELAGA [Montréal] on Oct 2. On his return to Stadacona he found that relations with the natives were strained. The effect of a severe winter was made more tragic by SCURVY, which claimed 25 lives among the French. On 6 May 1536 he left for France with some captured Iroquoians, including Donnacona, arriving July 16. Cartier's reports, supported by Donnacona, of a golden "Kingdom of Saguenay," led to a third voyage.
Cartier made ready, but on 15 Jan 1541 Jean-François de la Rocque, sieur de ROBERVAL received a commission placing him, not Cartier, at the head of the expedition to colonize the St Lawrence. Cartier put to sea first, on May 23, with 5 ships and a crew of some 1500. He reappeared before Stadacona on 23 Aug 1541, announced Donnacona's death, and set up at the western tip of Cap Diamant [Cap Rouge]. He made another trip to Hochelaga and again found himself at odds with the inhabitants of Stadacona, who kept the French under constant siege. Convinced that he had found diamonds and gold among the rocks, Cartier struck camp in June 1542. He met Roberval in the harbour of St John's, Nfld, and was ordered to return to Stadacona, but slipped away under cover of darkness and headed for France. The "gold" proved to be only iron pyrite and the "diamonds," worthless quartz. It is not known if Cartier was reprimanded but he was not entrusted with another long-range expedition. He retired to his manor at Limoilu and died at age 66. Cartier deserves mention among the great explorers of the 16th century. He discovered one of the world's great rivers, which was to become the axis of French power in N America.
Author MARCEL TRUDEL
Links to Other Sites
The website for the Historica-Dominion Institute, parent organization of The Canadian Encyclopedia and the Encyclopedia of Music in Canada. Check out their extensive online feature about the War of 1812, the "Heritage Minutes" video collection, and many other interactive resources concerning Canadian history, culture, and heritage.
Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge
The website for the Canadian Aboriginal Writing and Arts Challenge, which features Canada's largest essay writing competition for Aboriginal youth (ages 14-29) and a companion program for those who prefer to work through painting, drawing and photography. See their guidelines, teacher resources, profiles of winners, and more. From the Historica-Dominion Institute.
Watch the Heritage Minute about French explorer Jacques Cartier from the Historica-Dominion Institute. See also related online learning resources.
This extensive Canadian Museum of Civilization resource details the exploits of Canada’s early explorers from the 16th to the 18th century. With many maps and illustrations.
Explorers and Northern Exploration
This site chronicles the exploration of Canada's North. Illustrated with photographs and related archival material. From the Northern Research Portal, Saskatchewan Council for Archives and Archivists.
Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site of Canada
The Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site of Canada commemorates the period in 1535-1536 when Jacques Cartier and his shipmates wintered near the Iroquoian village of Stadacona. This National Historic Site also recalls the establishment of the first residence of the Jesuit missionaries in Québec, in 1625-1626.
Four Directions Teachings
Elders and traditional teachers representing the Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwe, Mohawk, and Mi’kmaq share teachings about their history and culture. Animated graphics visualize each of the oral teachings. This website also provides biographies of participants, transcripts, and an extensive array of learning resources for students and their teachers. In English with French subtitles.
Healing Power of Plants
Learn about some of the plant-based tonics, traditional remedies, and patent medicines popular with Canadians in years past. See "Canadian Case Studies" in the "Past Remedies" section for related information about famous Canadian historical figures. From the Virtual Museum of Canada.
Scurvy and Canadian Exploration
An article about various historical remedies for the prevention and treatment of scurvy and the impact of scurvy on various exploratory expeditions in North America. From the Canadian Bulletin of Medical History (Wilfrid Laurier University Press).
The official website of the City of Gaspé.
Musée de la Gaspésie
The Musée de la Gaspésie is anchored at the spot overlooking Gaspé Bay where Jacques Cartier took possession of New France in 1534. The museum features an extensive exhibition about Jacques Cartier’s first voyage in the New World.
A Canadian Christmas
See an editorial about common themes that connect various Christmas traditions in Canada. From the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
An illustrated overview of Jacques Cartier's pioneering expeditions to North America. From the Encyclopedia of French Cultural Heritage in North America.
Shawnadithit grew anxious waiting for her uncle, Longnon, to return to camp at the junction of Badger Brook and the Exploits River, deep in the wilds of Newfoundland...