John Davis

English Navigator

Born: 1550

Died: 1605

In 1585, Davis led a two ship expedition in search of a northwest or northern sea passage to Asia. Reaching what is today Baffin Island, Davis sailed up Cumberland Sound, thinking it was the passage to Asia. Running low on provisions, he was forced to turn back before reaching the end of the Sound.

The following year, Davis commanded a four ship expedition with similar goals as his early attempts. This time he reached Labrador and explored the coast while two of his ships tried, unsuccessfully, to sail over the North Pole.

Davis led his third, and final, northwest expedition in 1587. This time he did in fact reach the end of the Cumberland Sound, but was dismayed that all he had done was prove that it did not actually lead to Asia, as he had hoped. The fish brought back by the expedition, however, made the trip profitable and proved that Newfoundland had rich fishing grounds.

In 1588, Davis commanded ship in the battle against the Spanish Armada. Three years after that, he accompanied Thomas Cavendish on an expedition to the South Seas. It was on that expedition that Davis discovered the Falkland Islands. Later, he sailed around Africa and piloted a ship for the East India Company. He invented a navigational instrument, known as the Davis quadrant, and he wrote several important nautical works.

Davis came to an abrupt end when he was killed by pirates near Singapore in 1605.

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