Fascinating! I now want to read the book! I especially was taken with
the idea of Basque fishermen casually criss-crossing the Atlantic
without all the bells and whistles of recorded voyages. What an amazing
Terry Foreman wrote:
> In Love With the History Our Teachers Never Told Us
> CUTTYHUNK ISLAND, Mass. — Tony Horwitz’s new book, “A Voyage Long and
> Strange,” is about the American history most Americans never learned,
> including the story of the short-lived, early-17th-century colony
> established on this windswept island eight miles west of Martha’s
> The book starts with the Viking discovery of North America, dispels a
> number of myths about Columbus (a much lousier navigator than we were
> taught) and then traces the various Spanish and French explorations of
> America before turning to the English settlements at Jamestown and
> That the Pilgrims were very tardy latecomers is one of the themes of “A
> Voyage Long and Strange,” just published by Macmillan. Another is that
> of what we think of as heroic exploration was bumbling and misguided.
> And a
> third is that large chunks of our past are preserved these days less by
> scholars than by passionate amateurs. Who knew, for example, that some
> evangelicals in Jacksonville, Fla., were keeping alive the memory of the
> French Huguenots who settled there and were massacred by the Spanish?
> Oddly, considering that he now lives on Martha’s Vineyard, one place that
> Mr. Horwitz writes about but did not visit is Cuttyhunk, right nearby,
> where the British explorer Bartholomew Gosnold established a short-lived
> colony in 1602. On a gray, cold and blustery day earlier this month, he
> rectified the omission, and afterward he wrote in an e-mail message:
> never complain again about the Vineyard being bleak.”
> To get there he had to take two ferries: from the Vineyard to Wood’s Hole
> and then from New Bedford to Cuttyhunk. On the second leg, as
> Cuttyhunk — a
> gray smudge at the end of what are now known as the Elizabeth Islands —
> came into view, he explained that Gosnold sailed to the New England
> or what he thought was northern Virginia, in search of sassafras,
> which was
> the 17th-century version of penicillin. It was believed — wrongly — to
> be a
> cure for syphilis and thus was extremely valuable. Gosnold had a crew of
> 31, including sailors — “none of the best,” according to someone
> onboard —
> an apothecary (to identify the sassafras) and 20 settlers, who were
> supposed to found a year-round trading post.
> The settlement lasted only a few weeks because those who were supposed to
> stay behind got cold feet. They felt they were insufficiently provisioned
> and were also worried about being cheated of their share of the cargo.
> Two men left accounts of the voyage, and so the Cuttyhunk colony, though
> brief, is unusually well documented, Mr. Horwitz said, and what’s most
> remarkable about these accounts is their description of the settlers’
> encounter with American Indians.
> On first making landfall in southern Maine, Gosnold’s ship, the Concord,
> was greeted by a canoe rigged with a mast and sails, so that it was at
> first mistaken for a European fishing vessel. The Indians onboard “spake
> diverse Christian words,” one of the Englishmen wrote, “and seemed to
> understand much more than we.” It turned out they had been trading for
> years with Basque fishermen.
> [For the rest of the story:].