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Model of ship La Grande Hermine

 

Galleon "La Grande Hermine"
 1530, France

 1:50,  L 475 * H 453 * W 200 mm  
(620*535*305 mm in the box)
 Craftsman: M. Pereverzev

Commission model 

 

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Click  image to enlarge 

    French fishermen reached the Grand Banks off Newfoundland earlier in the sixteenth century, but the first French voyage of exploration was dispatched in 1524. In a commission for François I, Giovanni Verrazzano sailed La Dauphine along the coast of North America from North Carolina to Newfoundland. The French did not follow up on this pioneering effort for another decade. In 1534, François I commissioned Jacques Cartier to sail with two ships (their names are not known) on a voyage that took him along the coast of Newfoundland, through the Strait of Belle Isle, to the northern coast of New Brunswick, where he embarked two sons of the Indian chief Donnaconna for the return to France. So promising were the results of this voyage that the king renewed his commission and Cartier was given three ships to make a second voyage "to explore beyond les Terres Neufves [and] to discover certain far-off countries." The latter referred specifically to Cathay.

    Cartier's ships on this voyage were La Grande Hermine (120 tons), La Petite Hermine (60 tons), and the pinnace L'Emerillon (40 tons). They sailed from Saint Malo in May 1535 and on August 10 put into a small bay on the southern coast of Labrador that Cartier named for Saint Lawrence, whose feast day it was. This name eventually applied to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the river that flows from Lake Ontario past Montréal and Québec, but Cartier simply called it La Grande Rivière. Spurred on by descriptions of the riches of Saguenay, Cartier sailed up the St. Lawrence and eventually reached Donnaconna's village near present-day Québec. From there he continued west with L'Emerillon as far as Lac Saint-Pierre, and with his longboats touched the village of Hochalega under the hill he called Mont Royal. His way barred by rapids, he returned to Quebec for the winter. The following spring, Cartier kidnapped Donnaconna and several of his tribesmen so that they could relate their tales of Saguenay directly to the French king.

    War with Spain postponed the launch of a new expedition until 1541. On May 23, Cartier sailed with La Grande Hermine (which François I had given to him), L'Emerillon, and three other ships as part of an ambitious attempt to establish a French colony in Canada and reach Saguenay. Donnaconna had died in France and their reception was not as warm as it had been previously. Cartier established a fort at Charlesbourg-Royal, and during the winter thirty-five of their company were killed in Indian attacks. A second fleet, under Sieur de Roberval, was supposed to have joined them, but in May Cartier's group sailed alone for France. They met up with Roberval at St. John's, Newfoundland, but Cartier refused to turn back, and continued to France. The riches of Saguenay with which they returned proved to be nothing more than iron ore and quartz.

    Although the lack of material success and a half century of civil war prevented France from mounting further expeditions to Canada, fishermen and trappers continued to visit the area throughout the sixteenth century. The next voyages of political significance would be those in which Samuel de Champlain took part between 1603 and 1635. Although few details of La Grande Hermine survive, a full-size model was made for Canada's Expo '67. The dimensions given here are based on that model, which is on display at the Cartier-Brebeuf Park in Quebec.

                                       Morison, European Discovery of America: The Northern Voyages.


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