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Samuel de Champlain's Voyages
Volume II, Part X

The Journals of the intrepid French explorer who was the first European to discover Lake Champlain

This is the seventeenth in a continuing series of entries from the Voyages of Samuel de Champlain, first published in 1613. To view Part I, click here. For Champlain's account of the discovery of the lake that bears his name, click here...

Original translation from the French by Charles Pomeroy Otis, Ph.D. Republished by the Prince Society, Boston: 1878.

Volume II



On the 11th of August, we set out from our settlement in a shallop, and coasted along as far as Cape Fourchu, where I had previously been.

Continuing our course along the coast as far as Cap de la Hève, where we first landed with Sieur de Monts, on the 8th of May, 1604, [262] we examined the coast from this place as far as Canseau, a distance of nearly sixty leagues. This I had not yet done, and I observed it very carefully, making a map of it as of the other coasts.

Departing from Cap de la Hève, we went as far as Sesambre, an island so called by some people from St. Malo, [263] and distant fifteen leagues from La Hève. Along the route are a large number of islands, which we named Les Martyres, [264] since some Frenchmen were once killed there by the savages. These islands lie in several inlets and bays. In one of them is a river named St. Marguerite, [265] distant seven leagues from Sesambre, which is in latitude 44° 25'. The islands and coasts are thickly covered with pines, firs, birches, and other trees of inferior quality. Fish and also fowl are abundant.

After leaving Sesambre, we passed a bay which is unobstructed, of seven or eight leagues in extent, with no islands except at the extremity, where is the mouth of a small river, containing but little water. [266] Then, heading north-east a quarter east, we arrived at a harbor distant eight leagues from Sesambre, which is very suitable for vessels of a hundred or a hundred and twenty tons. At its entrance is an island from which one can walk to the main land at low tide. We named this place Port Saincte Helaine, [267] which is in latitude 44° 40' more or less.

From this place we proceeded to a bay called La Baye de Toutes Isles, [268] of some fourteen or fifteen leagues in extent, a dangerous place on account of the presence of banks, shoals, and reefs. The country presents a very unfavorable appearance, being filled with the same kind of trees which I have mentioned before. Here we encountered bad weather.

Hence we passed on near a river, six leagues distant, called Rivière de l'Isle Verte,[269] there being a green island at its entrance. This short distance which we traversed is filled with numerous rocks extending nearly a league out to sea, where the breakers are high, the latitude being 45° 15'.

Thence we went to a place where there is an inlet, with two or three islands, and a very good harbor, [270] distant three leagues from l'Isle Verte. We passed also by several islands near and in a line with each other, which we named Isles Rangées, [271] and which are distant six or seven leagues from l'Isle Verte. Afterwards we passed by another bay [272] containing several islands, and proceeded to a place where we found a vessel engaged in fishing between some islands, which are a short distance from the main land, and distant four leagues from the Rangées. This place we named Port de Savalette, [273] the name of the master of the vessel engaged in fishing, a Basque, who entertained us bountifully; and was very glad to see us, since there were savages there who purposed some harm to him, which we prevented. [274]

Leaving this place, we arrived on the 27th of the month at Canseau, distant six leagues from Port de Savalette, having passed on our way a large number of islands. At Canseau, we found that the three barques had arrived at port in safety. Champdoré and Lescarbot came out to receive us. We also found the vessel ready to sail, having finished its fishing and awaiting only fair weather to return. Meanwhile, we had much enjoyment among these islands, where we found the greatest possible quantity of raspberries.

All the coast which we passed along from Cape Sable to this place is moderately high and rocky, in most places bordered by numerous islands and breakers, which extend out to sea nearly two leagues in places, and are very unfavorable for the approach of vessels. Yet there cannot but be good harbors and roadsteads along the coasts and islands, if they were explored. As to the country, it is worse and less promising than in other places which we had seen, except on some rivers or brooks, where it is very pleasant; but there is no doubt that the winter in these regions is cold, lasting from six to seven months.

The harbor of Canseau [275] is a place surrounded by islands, to which the approach is very difficult, except in fair weather, on account of the rocks and breakers about it. Fishing, both green and dry, is carried on here.

From this place to the Island of Cape Breton, which is in latitude 45° 45' and 14° 50' of the deflection of the magnetic needle, [276] it is eight leagues, and to Cape Breton twenty-five. Between the two there is a large bay, [277] extending Some nine or ten leagues into the interior and making a passage between the Island of Cape Breton and the main land through to the great Bay of St. Lawrence, by which they go to Gaspé and Isle Percée, where fishing is carried on. This passage along the Island of Cape Breton is very narrow. Although there is water enough, large vessels do not pass there at all on account of the strong currents and the impetuosity of the tides which prevail. This we named Le Passage Courant, [278] and it is in latitude 45° 45'.

The Island of Cape Breton is of a triangular shape, with a circuit of about eighty leagues. Most of the country is mountainous, yet in some parts very pleasant. In the centre of it there is a kind of lake, [279] where the sea enters by the north a quarter north-west, and also by the south a quarter Southeast. [280] Here are many islands filled with plenty of game, and shell-fish of various kinds, including oysters, which, however, are not of very good flavor. In this place there are two harbors, where fishing is carried on; namely, Le Port aux Anglois, [281] distant from Cape Breton some two or three leagues, and Niganis, eighteen or twenty leagues north a quarter north-west. The Portuguese once made an attempt to settle this island, and spent a winter here; but the inclemency of the season and the cold caused them to abandon their settlement.

On the 3rd of September, we set out from Canseau. On the 4th, we were off Sable Island. On the 6th, we reached the Grand Bank, where the catching of green fish is carried on, in latitude 45° 30'. On the 26th, we entered the sound near the shores of Brittany and England, in sixty-five fathoms of water and in latitude 49° 30'. On the 28th, we put in at Roscou, [282] in lower Brittany, where we were detained by bad weather until the last day of September, when, the wind coming round favorable, we put to sea in order to pursue our route to St. Malo, [283] which formed the termination of these voyages, in which God had guided us without shipwreck or danger.



262. _Vide antea_, p. 9 and note 22.

263. Sesambre. This name was probably suggested by the little islet, _Cézembre_, one of several on which are military works for the defence of St. Malo. On De Laet's map of 1633, it is written _Sesembre_; on that of Charlevoix. 1744, _Sincenibre_. It now appears on the Admiralty maps corrupted into Sambro. There is a cape and a harbor near this island which bear the same name.

264. The islands stretching along from Cap de la Hève to Sambro Island are called the _Martyres Iles_ on De Laet's map, 1633.

265. The bay into which this river empties still retains the name of St. Margaret.

266. Halifax Harbor. Its Indian name was Chebucto, written on the map of the English and French Commissaries _Shebûctû_. On Champlain's map, 1612, as likewise on that of De Laet, 1633, it is called "_Baye Senne_," perhaps from _saine_, signifying the unobstructed bay.

267. Eight leagues from the Island Sesambre or Sambro Island would take them to Perpisawick Inlet, which is doubtless _Le Port Saincte Helaine_ of Champlain. The latitude of this harbor is 44° 41', differing but a single minute from that of the text, which is extraordinary, the usual variation being from ten to thirty minutes.

268. Nicomtau Bay is fifteen leagues from Perpisawick Inlet, but _La Baye de Toutes Isles_ is, more strictly speaking, an archipelago, extending along the coast, say from Clam Bay to Liscomb Point, as may be seen by reference to Champlain's map, 1612, and that of De Laet, 1633, Cruxius, 1660, and of Charlevoix, 1744. The north-eastern portion of this archipelago is now called, according to Laverdière, Island Bay.

269. _Rivière de l'Isle Verte_, or Green Island River, is the River St. Mary; and Green Island is Wedge Island near its mouth. The latitude at the mouth of the river is 45° 3'. This little island is called _I. Verte_ on De Laet's map, and likewise on that of Charlevoix; on the map of the English and French Commissaries, Liscomb or Green Island.

270. This inlet has now the incongruous name of Country Harbor: the three islands at its mouth are Harbor, Goose, and Green Islands. The inlet is called Mocodome on Charlevoix's map.

271. There are several islets on the east of St. Catharine's River, near the shore, which Laverdière suggests are the _Isles Rangées_. They are exceedingly small, and no name is given them on the Admiralty charts.

272. Tor Bay.

273. _Le Port de Savalette_. Obviously White Haven, which is four leagues from the Rangées and six from Canseau, as stated in the text. Lescarbot gives a very interesting account of Captain Savalette, the old Basque fisherman, who had made forty-two voyages into these waters. He had been eminently successful in fishing, having taken daily, according to his own account, fifty crowns' worth of codfish, and expected his voyage would yield, ten thousand francs. His vessel was of eighty tons burden, and could take in a hundred thousand dry codfish. He was well known, and a great favorite with the voyagers to this coast. He was from St. Jean de Luz, a small seaport town in the department of the Lower Pyrenees in France, near the borders of Spain, distinguished even at this day for its fishing interest.

274. The Indians were in the habit of selecting from day to day the best of Savalette's fish when they came in, and appropriating them to their own use, _nolens volens_.

275. _Canseau_. Currency has been given to an idle fancy that this name was derived from that of a French navigator, but it has been abundantly disproved by the Abbé Laverdière. It is undoubtedly a word of Indian origin.

276. The variation of the magnetic needle in 1871, fifteen miles South of the Harbor of Canseau, was, according to the Admiralty charts, 23 degrees west. The magnetic needle was employed in navigation as early as the year 1200, and its variation had been discovered before the time of Columbus. But for a long period its variation was supposed to be fixed; that is to say, was supposed to be always the same in the same locality. A few years before Champlain made his voyages to America, it was discovered that its variation in Paris was not fixed, but that it changed from year to year. If Champlain was aware of this, his design in noting its exact variation, as he did at numerous points on our coast, may have been to furnish data for determining at some future day whether the variation were changeable here as well as in France. But, whether he was aware of the discovery then recently made in Paris or not, he probably intended, by noting the declination of the needle, to indicate his longitude, at least approximately.

277. Chedabucto Bay.

278. The Strait of Canseau. Champlain gives it on his map, 1612. _Pasage du glas;_ De Laet, 1633, _Passage du glas;_ Creuxius, 1660, Fretum Campseium; Charlevoix, 1744, _Passage de Canceau_. It appears from the above that the early name was soon superseded by that which it now bears.

279. Now called _La Bras d'Or_, The Golden Arm.

280. There is, in fact, no passage of La Bras d'Or on the south-west; and Champlain corrects his error, as may be seen by reference to his map of 1612. It may also be stated that the sea enters from the north-east. _Nordouest_ in the original is here probably a typographical error for _nordest_. There are, indeed, two passages, both on the north-east, distinguished as the Great and the Little Bras d'Or.

281. _Le Port aux Anglois_, the Harbor of the English. On De Laet's map, Port aux Angloix. This is the Harbor of Louisburgh, famous in the history of the Island of Cape Breton.

282. Roscofs, a small seaport town. On Mercator's Atlas of 1623, it is written Roscou, as in the text.

283. According to Lescarbot, they remained at St. Malo eight days, when they went in a barque to Honfleur, narrowly escaping shipwreck. Poutrincourt proceeded to Paris, where he exhibited to Henry IV. corn, wheat, rye, barley, and oats, products of the colony which he had so often promised to cherish, but whose means of subsistence he had now nevertheless ungraciously taken away. Poutrincourt also presented to him five _oustards_, or wild geese, which he had bred from the shell. The king was greatly delighted with them, and had them preserved at Fontainebleau. These exhibitions of the products of New France had the desired effect upon the generous heart of Henry IV.; and De Monts's monopoly of the fur-trade was renewed for one year, to furnish some slight aid in establishing his colonies in New France.

This is the conclusion of Chapter 17 of Voyages
Click here for Voyages, Volume II, Chapter I- 1608-1612

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Samuel de Champlain. 1567-1635. "Voyages of Samuel de Champlain" Edited by Edmund F. Slafter, (Boston: Prince Society 1878)

Samuel de Champlain image: Warwick Stevens Carpenter. The Summer Paradise in History. Albany: General Passenger Department, The Delaware and Hudson Company. 1914. Courtesy of John and Barbara Gallagher.

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