Jacques Cartier


     Jacques Cartier was born in St. Malo (France) in 1491. Not much is known of his
life before 1534, when he departed on his first voyage. He was looking for a
passage through or around North America to East Asia, as some had done before
him, and many would after him. Though he undoubtedly made a voyage to the New

World prior to 1534, probably in Brazil. In 1534, he was given a grant by King

Francis I of France to search for the north west passage. Cartier explored the
coast of Newfoundland, but found no passage leading westward. He made the
crossing of the Atlantic in only twenty days, and landed on an island near the
coast of Newfoundland, by then already much frequented by Breton fisherman. He
sailed north, and entered the Straight of Belle Isle. He sailed into and named
the gulf of St. Lawrence, sailed along the westcoast of Newfoundland, and
crossed the Bay to the Magdalen Islands and Prince Edward Island, both of which
he thought were part of the mainland. Then he went to Chaleur Bay and Gaspeó
peninsula which he claimed for the French crown. There he saw 50 canoes filled
with Micmac indians, who seemed friendly and greeted him with the words napeu
tondamen assurtah (we want to make friendship). The next day the French and the

Micmac traded and celebrated. Cartier explored the bay, being disappointed that
it was not the straight to China he had hoped it to be. He also met a fishing
party of 200 Hurons, led by their chief, Donnaconna. His sons, Domagaia and

Taignagny, went to France with Cartier to become interpreters. Cartier explored

Anticosti Islands and returned to France. As he had heared of a large river
further to the west, and hoped it to be the sought-for northeast passage,

Cartier departed on a second voyage in the next year. He sailed through the

Strait of Belle Isle again, but this time followed the coast westward, and
reached the St. Lawrence. He sailed upriver until the Huron village of Stadacona
(at the location of present-day Quebec). Donnacona first greeted him friendly
and solemnly, but refused to let him sail further west. Three medicin men
dressed up as devils, and warned Cartier not to go further, but Cartier just
laughed at it. He went further upriver, leaving the two Huron boys behind. He
reached Hochelaga, another Huron village. Again their coming resulted in
extensive festivities. Cartier climbed a mountain he called Mount R'eal (royal
mountain), and was appointing when he saw the Lachine Rapids a bit upriver,
which told him that this was not the passage to China. He spent the winter in

Stadacona. During the winter his men suffered from scurvy, less than ten of his

110 men remained strong enough, and had to get food and water for all. Because
he was afraid that the indians would attack if they learned that the French were
ill, Cartier ordered his men to make noise when they were near. The expedition
might well not have survived if it were not for Domagaia. Domagaia had scurvy
too, but ten days later Cartier saw him healthy and well. Domagaia told him he
had cured from the bark and needles of the white cedar tree. Just over one week
later the tree was bare, but all Cartier's men were healthy again. The Hurons
told him stories about a land in the north, called Saguenay, full of gold and
other treasure. None of this was true of course, but the Hurons liked telling
stories, and when they found the French liked stories of riches, they were happy
to give them these. Willing to let king Francis I to hear about these stories,

Cartier kidnapped Donnaconna and his sons, and took them with him to France. He
wanted to make another expedition, this time to look for Saguenay, but because
of a war with Spain, and the difficulties of preparing the voyage, he was not
able to do so until 1541. This time Cartier would not be the sole leader of the
expedition, but had to serve under Jean-Francois de la Rocque, sieur de

Robervalas viceroy and commander in chief. He visited Stadacona, and built a
fort near the mouth of the Saguenay. His men collected what they thought were
diamonds and gold, but in reality were only quartz and iron pyrite (fool's
gold). Cartier himself went west, looking for Saguenay, but got no further than

Hochelaga. Back at his fort (called Charlesbourg-Royal) he spent the winter.

Some thirty-five of his men were killed in sporadical indian attacks (the Hurons
had become hostile when they realized the French had come to stay), and Cartier
was worried about the fact that Roberval did not show up. The next spring he met

Roberval on Newfoundland. Roberval wanted him to return, but Cartier refused,
and sneaked back to France. Roberval built a fort near Stadacona, wintered
there, went looking for Saguenay but also got no further than Hochelaga, and
returned to France. Cartier spent the rest of his life in St.-Malo and his
nearby estate, and died in September 1, 1557, age 66. He published an account of
his voyages in 1545, which was translated into english by Richard Hakluyt in

1600. In conclusion Jacques Cartier has discovered new land for the French,
which sponsored his many voyages (3). He explored the coast of the St. Lawrence
river, Mount Royal (Montreal), the coast of the Newfoundland, and Cap Rouge.

Even though his goal was to find a northwest passage to china in the westward.

Some of his achievements were the French colonies on the St. Lawrence river, the
discovery of Montreal, which he called Mount Royal, and the settlement on Cap

Rouge. Some setbacks or significant events on his voyage was that less than ten
of his one hundred ten of his men suffered from scurvy, a lack of vitamins.

Domagaia had found a cure, it was from the bark of a tree as mentioned, the tree
went bare at the end of the week, but the crew was healthy again. Another
significant event was when he made friends with the indians, and the Benton
fisherman, and the Huron village of Stadacona. This explorer shed light to the
path of Cabot and Verrazano.