Cartier's First Voyage to Canada

On April 20, 1534, Jacques Cartier sailed off Saint-Malo, France, with sixty-one men on two ships.

Francois I, King of France, gave him a clear order: to find the islands and the country that were rumored to be rich in gold and other treasures. Jacques Cartier was presented to the King as an experienced captain able to lead a long expedition, because he knew the waters of the Atlantic Ocean and had sailed the coast of Brazil.

The voyage turned to be exceptionally smooth: the ships crossed the Atlantic Ocean and reached Canadian shores in twenty days. But the sailors were disappointed to discover only infertile lands. Near Newfoundland, they came into first contact with the natives (the Indians hunted seals in the area) and then sailed along the coast of Newfoundland and the Magdalen Islands. Cartier named the first island Brion, after Phillippe de Chabot, seigneur de Brion, grand admiral of France.

When the French returned to the Baie des Chaleurs and anchored in an inlet there (modern Port-Daniel), they took small boats and explored the coast in detail. They made another contact with natives who were friendly—so much so that their chief agreed to let two of his sons, Domagaya and Taignoagny, go to France (Cartier promised to bring them back, of course).

On July 23, 1534, Jacques Cartier formally took possession of the territory in the name of Francois I. After that, he sailed for Anticosti Island and around its east end. He was sailing up its northern coast to the west end, when a strong west wind built up. Knowing nothing about the navigation conditions farther upstream and fearing the storms, the sailors decided to return home.

Cartier and his men returned to St-Malo on September 5, 1534.

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