Arthur Barlowe's journal of 1584 - Transcribed by Scott Dawson

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Arthur Barlowe's Journal of  the 1584 expedition


Scott Dawson transcribed excerpts from the journal kept of the 1584 expedition, presumed to have been kept by Arthur Barlowe, as found below.  His source was the handbook provided to the interpretive guides at Fort Raleigh when he was employed there.  This document is currently being transcribed a second time to compare the two versions for accuracy.  The originals are written in old English, in Secretarial script and are difficult at best to translate:



The 27 day of April , in the year of our redemption, 1584 we departed the West of England, with two barks well furnished with men and victuals, having received our last and perfect direcions by your letters, confirming the former instructions, and commandments delivered by your self at our leaving the river of Thames. And I think it a matter both unnecessary for the manifest discovery of the Country , as also for tediousness sake, to remember unto you the diurnal of our course, sailing thither and returning: only I have presumed to present unto you this brief discourse, by which you may judge how profitable this land is likely to succeed , as well to your self , (by whose direction and charge, and by whose servants this our discovery hath been performed) as also to her Highness , and the Common wealth, in which we hope your wisdom will be satisfied, considering that as much as by us hath been brought to light, as by those small means , and number of men we had, could any way have been expected or hoped for.


    The tenth of May we arrived at the Canaries, and the tenth of June in this present year , we were fallen with the Islands of the West Indies, keeping a more Southeasterly course then was needful , because we doubted that the current of the Bay of Mexico, disbogging between the Cape of Florida and Havana, had been of greater force then afterwards we found it to be . At which Islands we found the air very unwholsome, and our men grew for the most part ill disposed: so that having refreshed our selves with sweet water, & fresh victual , we departed the twelfth day of our arrival there. These Islands, with the rest adjoining , are so well known to your self , and to many others, as I will not trouble you with the remembrance of them.


    The second of July, we found shoal water, where we smelled so sweet, and so strong a smell , as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden abounding with all kind of odoriferous flowers, by which we were assured, that the land could not be far distant: and keeping good watch, and bearing but slack sail , the fourth of the same month we arrived upon the coast, which we supposed to be a continent and firm land , and we sailed along the same a hundred and twenty English miles before we could find any entrance, or river issuing into the Sea. The first that appeared unto us, we entered , though not without some difficulty , & cast anchor about three harqquebuz-shot within the havens mouth, on the left hand of the same: and after thanks given to God for our safe arrival thither, we manned our boats, and went to view the land next adjoining , and to take possession of the same, in the right of the Queen's most excellent Majesty , as rightful Queen , and Princess of the same, and after delivered the same over to your use, according to her Majesty's grant, and letters patents, under her Highness great Seale. Which being performed, according to the ceremonies used in such enterprises, we viewed the land about us, being, whereas we first landed, very sandy and low towards the waters side, but so full of grapes, as the very beating and surge of the Sea overflowed them, of which we found such plenty , as well there as in all places else, both on the sand and on the green soil on the hills , as in the plains , as well on every little shrub , as also climbing towards the tops of high Cedars, that I think in all the world the like abundance is not to be found: and my self having seen those parts of Europe that most abound, find such difference as were incredible to be written.

     We passed from the Sea side towards the tops of those hills next adjoining , being but of mean height and from thence we beheld the Sea on both sides to the North, and to the South, finding no end any of both ways . This land lay stretching it self to the West, which after we found to be but an Island of twenty miles long, and not above six miles broad . Under the bank or hill whereon we stood , we beheld the valleys replenished with goodly Cedar trees, and having discharged our harquebuz-shot, such a flock of Cranes (the most part white) arose under us, with such a cry redoubled by many ecchoes, as if an army of men had shouted all together.  

    This Island had many goodly woods full of Deer , Conies, Hares, and Fowl , even in the midst of Summer in incredible abundance. The woods are not such as you find in Bohemia, Muscovia, or Hercynia, barren and fruitless , but the highest and reddest Cedars of the world, far bettering the Cedars of the Azores , of the Indies, or Lybanus, Pines , Cypress , Sassafras , the Lentisk, or the tree that bears the Mastic , the tree that bears the rine of black Cinnamon , of which Master Winter brought from the straights of Magellan, and many other of excellent smell and quality . We remained by the side of this Island two whole days before we saw any people of the Country : the third day we spied one small boat rowing towards us having in it three persons: this boat came to the Island side, four harquebuz-shot from our ships , and there two of the people remaining, the third came along the shoreside towards us, and we being then all within board , he walked up and down upon the point of the land next unto us: then the Master and the Pilot of the Admiral , Simon Fernandino , and the Captain Philip Amadas , my self , and others rowed to the land, whose coming this fellow attended, never making any show of fear or doubt. And after he had spoken of many things not understood by us, we brought him with his own good liking, aboard the ships, and gave him a shirt, a hat & some other things, and made him taste of our wine, and our meat, which he liked very well : and after having viewed both barks, he departed, and went to his own boat again , which he had left in a little Cove or Creek adjoining : as soon as he was two bow shoot into the water, he fell to fishing, and in less then half an hour , he had laden his boat as deep , as it could swim , with which he came again to the point of the land , and there he divided his fish into two parts, pointing one part to the ship, and the other to the pinnesse: which, after he had (as much as he might) requited the former benefits received, departed out of our sight.

    The next day there came unto us diverse boats , and in one of them the Kings brother, accompanied with forty or fifty men, very handsome and goodly people, and in their behavior as mannerly and civil as any of Europe. His name was Granganimeo , and the king is called Wingina , the country Wingandacoa, and now by her Majesty Virginia. The manner of his coming was in this sort: he left his boats altogether as the first man did a little from the ships by the shore, and came along to the place over against the ships, followed with forty men. When he came to the place over against the ships, followed with forty men. When he came to the place, his servants spread a long mat upon the ground, on which he sat down , and at the other end of the mat four others of his company did the like, the rest of his men stood round about him, somewhat a far off: when we came to the shore to him with our weapons, he never moved from his place, nor any of the other four , nor never mistrusted any harm to be offered from us, but sitting still he beckoned us to come and sit by him, which we performed: and being set he made all signs of joy and welcome, striking on his head and his breast and afterwards on ours, to show we were all one, smiling and making show the best he could of all love, and familiarity . After he had made a long speech unto us, we presented him with diverse things, which he received very joyfully, and thankfully . None of the company dared speak one word all the time: only the four which were at the other end , spoke one in the others ear very softly.

    The King is greatly obeyed, and his brothers and children reverenced: the King himself in person was at our being there, sore wounded in a fight which he had with the King of the next country , called Wingina, and was shot in two places through the body, and once clean through the thigh, but yet he recovered: by reason whereof and for that he lay at the chief town of the country , being six days journey off, we saw him not at all.

    After we had presented this his brother with such things as we thought he liked, we likewise gave somewhat to the other that sat with him on the mat : but presently he arose and took all from them and put it into his own basket, making signs and tokens, that all things ought to be delivered unto him, and the rest were but his servants, and followers. A day or two after this we fell to trading with them, exchanging some things that we had, for Chamois , Buffe, and Deer skins : when we showed him all our packet of merchandise , of all things that he saw , a bright tin dish most pleased him, which he presently took up and clapped it before his breast, and after made a hole in the brim thereof and hung it about his neck , making signs that it would defend him against his enemies arrows : for those people maintain a deadly and terrible war , with the people and King adjoining . We exchanged our tin dish for twenty skins , worth twenty Crowns , or twenty Nobles: and a copper kettle for fifty skins worth fifty Crowns . They offered us good exchange for our hatchets, and axes, and for knives, and would have given any thing for swords : but we would not depart with any. After two or three days the Kings brother came aboard the ships , and drank wine, and eat of our meat and of our bread, and liked exceedingly thereof: and after a few days overpassed, he brought his wife with him to the ships, his daughter and two or three children: his wife was very well favored , of mean stature and very bashful : she had on her back a long cloak of leather, with the fur side next to her body, and before her a piece of the same: about her forehead she had a band of white Coral , and so had her husband many times: in her ears she had bracelets of pearls hanging down to her middle, (whereof we delivered your worship a little bracelet) and those were of the bigness of good peas . The rest of her women of the better sort had pendants of copper hanging in either ear , and some of the children of the kings brother and other noble men, have five or six in either ear : he himself had upon his head a broad plate of gold , or copper for being unpolished we knew not what metal it should be, neither would he by any means suffer us to take it off his head, but feeling it, would bow very easily. His apparel was as his wives, only the women wear their hair long on both sides , and the men but on one. They are of color yellowish, and their hair black for the most part, and yet we saw children that had very fine auburn , and chestnut colored hair .  

   After that these women had been there, there came down from all parts great store of people, bringing with them leather, coral , diverse kinds of dyes very excellent, and exchanged with us: but when Granganimeo the kings brother was present, none dared trade but himself : except such as wear red pieces of copper on their heads like himself : for that is the difference between the noble men, and the governors of the countries , and you have understood since by these men, which we brought home, that no people in the world carry more respect to their King, Nobility , and Governors , then these do . The Kings brothers wife, when she came to us (as she did many times) was followed with forty or fifty women always : and when she came into the ship , she left them all on land, saving her two daughters, her nurse and one or two more. The Kings brother always kept this order, as many boats as he would come withal to the ships , so many fires would he make on the shore a far off, to the end we might understand with what strength and company he approached. Their boats are made of one tree, either of Pine or of Pitch trees: a wood not commonly known to our people, nor found growing in England. They have no edge- tools to make them withal : if they have any they are very few , and those it seems they had twenty years since, which, as those two men declared, was out of a wreck which happened upon their coast of some Christian ship, being beaten that way by some storm and outrageous weather, whereof none of the people were saved, but only the ship, or some part of her being cast upon the sand, out of whose sides they drew the nails and the spikes, and with those they made their best instruments. The manner of making their boats is thus: they burn down some great tree, or take such as are wind fallen, and putting gum and rosin upon one side thereof, they set fire into it, and when it had burnt it hollow, they cut out the coal with their shells , and ever where they would burn it deeper or wider they lay on gums , which burn away the timber, and by these meanes they fashion very fine boats , and such as will transport twenty men. Their oars are like scoops , and many times they set with long poles , as the depth serveth.  

   The Kings brother had great liking of our armor , a sword, and diverse other things which we had: and offered to lay a great box of pearl in gage for them: but we refused it for this time, because we would not make them know , that we esteemed thereof, until we had understood in what places of the country the pearl grew: which now your Worship do very well understand.  

    He was very just of his promise: for many times we delivered him merchandise upon his word, but ever he came within the day and performed his promise. He sent us every day a brace or two of fat Bucks, Conies, Hares, Fish the best of the world. He sent us diverse kinds of fruits , Melons, Walnuts, Cucumbers, Gourds , Peas , and diverse roots , and fruits very excellent good, and of their Country corn , which is very white, fair and well tasted, and grows three times in five months : in May they sow, in July they reap , in June they sow, in August they reap : in July they sow, in September they reap : only they cast the corn into the ground breaking a little of the soft turf with a wooden mattock, or pickaxe : our selves proved the soil , and put some of our Peas in the ground, and in ten days they were of fourteen inches high: they have also Beans very fair of diverse colors and wonderful plenty : some growing naturally, and some in their gardens, and so have they both wheat and oats .

     The soil is the most plentiful , sweet , fruitful and wholesome of all the world : there are above fourteen several sweet smelling timber trees, and the most part of their underwoods are Bayes and such like: they have those Oaks that we have, but far greater and better. After they had been diverse times aboard our ships , my self , with seven more went twenty mile into the River, that runs toward the City of Skicoak, which River they call Occam: and the evening following, we came to an island, which they call Raonoak, distant from the harbor by which we entered , seven leagues: and at the North end thereof was a village of nine houses, built of Cedar, and fortified round about with sharp trees, to keep out their enemies, and the entrance into it made like a turnpike very artificially; when we came towards it, standing near unto the waters side, the wife of Granganimo the kings brother came running out to meet us very cheerfully and friendly, her husband was not then in the village; some of her people she commanded to draw our boat on shore for the beating of the billoe: others she appointed to carry us on their backs to the dry ground, and others to bring our oars into the house for fear of stealing. When we were come into the other room , having five rooms in her house, she caused us to sit down by a great fire, and after took off our clothes and washed them, and dried them again : some of the women plucked off our stockings and washed them, some washed our feet in warm water, and she her self took great pains to see all things ordered in the best manner she could, making great haste to dress some meat for us to eat .  

    After we had thus dried our selves, she brought us into the inner room , where she set on the board standing along the house, some wheat like fermented , sodden Venison, and roasted, fish sodden, boiled , and roasted, Melons raw , and sodden roots of diverse kinds , and diverse fruits : their drink is commonly water, but while the grape lasts , they drink wine, and for want of casks to keep it, all the year after they drink water, but it is sodden with Ginger in it, and black Cinnamon , and sometimes Sassafras , and diverse other wholesome, and medicinable herbs and trees. We were entertained with all love and kindness , and with as much bounty (after their manner ) as they could possibly devise. We found the people most gentle, loving, and faithful , void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age. The people only care how to defend themselves from the cold in their short winter, and to feed themselves with such meat as the soil affords : their meat is very well sodden and they make broth very sweet and savory : their vessels are earthen pots, very large, white and sweet , their dishes are wooden platters of sweet timber: within the place where they feed was their lodging, and within that their Idol , which they worship, of whom they speak incredible things. While we were at meat , there came in at the gates two or three men with their bows and arrows from hunting, whom when we spied , we began to look one towards another, and offered to reach our weapons: but as soon as she spied our mistrust, she was very much moved , and caused some of her men to run out, and take away their bows and arrows and break them, and withal beat the poor fellows out of the gate again . When we departed in the evening and would not tarry all night, she was very sorry , and gave us into our boat our supper half dressed, pots and all, and brought us to our boatside , in which we lay all night, remooving the same a pretty distance from the shore : she perceiving our jealousy , was much greived, and sent diverse men and thirty women, to sit all night on the bank side by us, and sent us into our boats five mats to cover us from the rain , using very many words to entreat us to rest in their houses: but because we were few men, and if we had miscarried , the voyage had been in very great danger, we dared not adventure any thing, though there was no cause of doubt: for a more kind and loving people there can not be found in the world , as far as we have hitherto had trial.

     Beyond this Island there is the main land , and over against this Island falls into this spacious water, the great river called Occam by the inhabitants on which stands a town called Pomeiock, & six days journey from the same is situated their greatest city called Skicoak, which this people affirm to be very great: but the Savages were never at it, only they speak of it by the report of their fathers and other men, whom they have heard affirm it to be above one hour's journey about.

     Into this river falls another great river, called Cipo, in which there is found great store of Mussels in which there are pearls : likewise there descends into this Occam, another river, called Nomopana, on the one side whereof stands a great town called Chawanook, and the Lord of that town and country is called Pooneno : this Poomeno is not subject to the king of Wingandacoa, but is a free Lord: beyond this country is there another king, whom they call Menatonon , and these three kings are in league with each other. Towards the Southwest, four days journey is situated a town called Sequotan, which is the Southernmost town of Wingandacoa, near unto which, six and twenty years past there was a ship cast away, whereof some of the people were saved, and those were white people, whome the country people preserved.  

    And after ten days remaining in an out Island uninhabited , called Wocokon, they with the help of some of the dwellers of Sequotan, fastened two boats of the country together & made masts unto them, and sails of their shirts , and having taken into them such victuals as the country yielded , they departed after they had remained in this out Island 3 weeks : but shortly after it seemed they were cast away, for the boats were found upon the coast, cast a land in another Island adjoining : other then these, there was never any people appareled , or white of color , either seen or heard of amongst these people, and these aforesaid were seen only of the inhabitants of Secotan, which appeared to be very true, for they wondered marvelously when we were amongst them at the whiteness of our skins, ever coveting to touch our breasts, and to view the same. Besides they had our ships in marvelous admiration, & all things else were so strange unto them, as it appeared that none of them had ever seen the like. When we discharged any piece, were it but an hargubuz, they would tremble at it for very fear , and for the strangeness of the same: for the weapons which themselves use are bows and arrows : the arrows are but of small canes, headed with a sharp shell or tooth of a fish sufficient enough to kill a naked man. Their swordes be of wood hardened: likewise they use wooden breastplates for their defense . They have besides a kind of club, in the end whereof they fasten the sharp horns of a stag , or other beast. When they goe to wars they carry about with them their idol, of whom they ask counsel, as the Romans were wont of the Oracle of Apollo. They sing songs as they march towards the battle in stead of drums and trumpets: their wars are very cruel and bloody, by reason whereof, and of their civil dissentions which have happened of late years amongst them, the people are marvelously wasted, and in some places the country left desolate.

    Adjoining to this country aforesaid called Secotan begins a country called Pomovik, belonging to another king whom they call Piamacum , and this king is in league with the next king adjoining towards the setting of the Sun , and the country Newsiok, situated upon a goodly river called Neus: these kings have mortal war with Wingina king of Wingandacoa: but about two years past there was a peace made between the King Piemacum , and the Lord of Secotan, as these men which we have brought with us to England, have given us to understand: but there remains a mortal malice in the Secotanes, for many injuries and slaughters done upon them by this Piemacum. They invited diverse men, and thirty women of the best of his country to their town to a feast: and when they were altogether merry, & praying before their Idol, (which is nothing else but a mere illusion of the devil) the captain or Lord of the town came suddenly upon them, and slew them every one, reserving the women and children: and these two have often times since persuaded us to surprise Piemacum his town , having promised and assured us, that there will be found in it great store of commodities. But whether their persuasion be to the end they may be revenged of their enemies, or for the love of they bear to us, we leave that to the trial hereafter.

     Beyond the Island called Roanoak, are main Islands very plentiful of fruits and other natural increases, together with many towns , and villages, along the side of the continent, some bounding upon the Islands, and some stretching up further into the land.

     When we first had sight of this country , some thought the first land we saw to be the continent: but after we entered into the Haven, we saw before us another mighty long Sea: for there lies along the coast a tract of Islands, two hundred miles in length, adjoining to the Ocean sea, and between the Islands, two or three entrances: when you are entered between them (these Islands being very narrow for the most part, as in most places six miles broad, in some places less , in few more) then there appears another great Sea, containing in breadth in some places, forty, and in some fifty, in some twenty miles over, before you come unto the continent: and in this enclosed Sea there are above an hundred Islands of diverse bigness , whereof one is sixteen miles long, at which we were finding it a most pleasant and fertile ground, replenished with goodly Cedars, and diverse other sweet woods, full of Corrants, of flax , and many other notable commodities, which we at that time had no leisure to view. Besides this Island there are many, as I have said , some of two or three, or four , or five miles, some more, some less , most beautiful and pleasant to behold, replenished with Deer , Conies, Hares and diverse beasts, and about them the goodliest and best fish in the world, and in greatest abundance.

    Thus Sir, we have acquainted you with the particulars of our discovery, made this present voyage, as far forth as the shortness of the time we there continued would afford us take view of: and so contenting our selves with this service at this time, which we hope hereafter to enlarge , as occasion and assistance shall be given, we resolved to leave the country , and to apply our selves to return for England, which we did accordingly, and arrived safely in the West of England about the middle of September.

     And whereas we have above certified you of the country taken in possession by us, to her Majesty's use, and so to yours by her =Majesty's grant, we thought good for the better assurance thereof to record some of the particular Gentleman, & men of account , who then were present as witnesses of the same, that thereby all occasion of dispute to the title of the country , in her majesty's behalf may be prevented, which otherwise, such as like not the action may use and pretend, whose names are:


Master Philip Amadas

Master Arthur Barlow

Of the Companie

William Greenevile

John Wood

James Browewich

Henry Greene

Benjamin Wood

Simon Ferdinando

Nicholas Petman

John Hewes 


We brought home also two of the Savages being lusty men whose names were Wanchese and Manteo.



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