Report of Raleigh's First
Exploration of the American Coast

Arthur Barlow

In the summer of 1584, Sir Walter Raleigh (seen here) sent Captains Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlow to explore the eastern American coast. Their mission took them along what is now the coast of North Carolina. Upon their return in September, 1584, Barlow submitted the following report to Raleigh. It was later published as part of Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations (1589).

The first voyage made to the coasts of America with two barks, wherein were Captains Master Philip Amadas and Master Arthur Barlow, who discovered part of the country now called Virginia, anno 1584, written by one of the said captains and sent to Sir Walter Raleigh, Knight, at whose charge and direction the said voyage was set forth.

The twenty-seventh 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 directions by your letters, confirming the former instructions and commandments delivered by yourself 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 yourself (by whose direction and charge and by whose servants this our discovery hath been performed), as also to Her Highness and the commonwealth, in which we hope your wisdom will be satisfied, considering that as much 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 south-easterly course than was needful, because we doubted that the current of the Bay of Mexico, disbogging between the cape of Florida and the Havana, had been of greater force than afterwards we found it to be. At which islands we found the air very unwholesome, and our men grew for the most part ill-disposed, so that, having refreshed ourselves with sweet water and fresh victual, we departed the twelfth day after our arrival there. These islands, with the rest adjoining, are so well known to yourself and to many others as I will not trouble you with the remembrance of them.

The second of July we found shoal water, which smelt so sweetly and was 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 120 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, and cast anchor about three harquebus shot within the haven's 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 Seal. 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 waterside, 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 the high cedars, that I think in all the world the like abundance is not to be found, and myself, 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 itself to the west, which after we found to be but an island of twenty leagues 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 harquebus shot, such a flock of cranes (the most part white) arose under us, with such a cry redoubled by many echoes, 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 Hyrcania, barren and fruitless, but the highest and reddest cedars of the world, far bettering the cedars of the Azores, of the Indies, or of Libanus, pines, cypress, sassafras, the lentisk, or the tree that beareth the mastic, the tree that beareth the rind of black cinnamon of which Master Winter brought from the Straits 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 espied one small boat rowing towards us, having in it three persons. This boat came to the land's side, four harquebus shot from our ships, and there, two of the people remaining, the third came along the shore-side 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 Ferdinando, and the Captain, Philip Amadas, myself, 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, and 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 bowshots into the water, he fell to fishing, and in less than 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 pinnace, which, after he had (as much as he might) requited the former benefits received, he departed out of our sight.

The next day there came unto us divers boats and in one of them the king's brother, accompanied with forty or fifty men, very handsome and goodly people and in their behaviour as mannerly and civil as any of Europe. His name was Granganimo, and the king is called Wingina, the country Wingandacoa (and now, by Her Majesty, Virginia).

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[s] 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, buff, and deerskins. 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 very good exchange for our hatchets and axes and for knives, and would have given anything for swords, but we would not depart with any.

After two or three days the king's brother came aboard the ships and drank wine and ate 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 little children. His wife was very well favoured, 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 broad 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 every ear, and some of the children of the king's brother and other noblemen have five or six in every 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, 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 colour yellowish, and their hair black for the most part, and yet we saw children that had very fine auburn and chestnut colour hair.

After that these women had been there, there came down from all parts great store of people, bringing with them leather, coral, divers kinds of dyes very excellent, and exchanged with us; but when Granganimo, the king's brother, was present none durst to trade but himself, except such as wear red pieces of copper on their heads like himself, for that is the difference between the noblemen and governors of countries and the meaner sort. And we both noted there, 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 than these do. The king's brother's wife, when she came to us, as she did many times, she 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 king's 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 afar 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 wrack 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 spikes, and with those they made their best instruments. Their manner of making their boats is this: they bum down some great tree or take such as are wind-fallen, and, putting myrrh and rosin upon one side thereof, they set fire into it, and when it bath burnt it hollow, they cut out the coal with their shells, and everywhere they would burn it deeper or wider they lay on their gums, which burneth away the timber, and by this means 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 king's brother had great liking of our armour, a sword, and divers 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 doth 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 divers kinds of fruits, melons, walnuts, cucumbers, gourds, peas, and divers roots and fruits very excellent good, and of their country corn, which is very white, fair, and well tasted, and groweth 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. Ourselves proved the soil and put some of our peas into the ground, and in ten days they were of fourteen inches high. They have also beans very fair, of divers colours 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 bays and such-like. They have those oaks that we have, but far greater and better.

After they had been divers times aboard our ships, myself with seven more went twenty mile into the river that runneth toward the city of Skicoak, which river they call Occam, and the evening following we came to an island which they call Roanoke, distant from the harbour 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 it like a turnpike very artificially.

When we came towards it, standing near unto the water's side, the wife of Granganimo, the king's 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 the shore for the beating of the billow. 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 utter 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 pulled off our stockings and washed them. Some washed our feet in warm water, and she herself 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 ourselves, she brought us into the inner room, where she set on the board standing along the house some wheat like frumenty, sodden venison and roasted, fish sodden, boiled, and roasted, melons raw and sodden, roots of divers kinds, and divers fruits. Their drink is commonly water, but while the grape lasteth 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 divers 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 lived after the manner of the Golden Age. The earth bringeth forth all things in abundance as in the first creation, without toil or labour. The people only care to defend themselves from the cold in their short winter and to feed themselves with such meat as the soil affordeth. Their meat is very well sodden, and they make broth very sweet and savoury. 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 which 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 espied, we began to look one towards another and offered to reach our weapons, but as soon as she espied 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 boat's side, in which we lay all night, removing the same a pretry distance from the shore. She, perceiving our jealousy, was much grieved and sent divers men and thirty women to sit all night on the bank's side by us, and sent us into our boats fine 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 durst not adventure anything, although there was no cause of doubt, for a more kind and loving people there cannot be found in the world, as far as we have hitherto had trial.

Beyond this island there is the mainland, and over against this island falleth into this spacious water the great river called Occam by the inhabitants, on which standeth a town called Pemeoke, and six days' journey further upon the same is situate 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 day's journey about.

Into this river falleth another great river called Cipo, in which there is found great store of the mussels in which there are pearls. Likewise there descendeth into this Occam another river called Nomopana, on the one side whereof standeth a great town called Chowanoake and the lord of that town and country is called Pooneno. This Pooneno 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 sunset four days' journey is situate a town called Sequotan, which is the westernmost 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 whom the country people preserved.

And after ten days, remaining in an out-island uninhabited called Wococon, they, with the help of some of the dwellers of Sequotan, fastened two boats of the country together and 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 three weeks. But shortly after, it seemed, they were cast away, for the boats were found upon the coast, cast aland in another island adjoining. Other than these, there was never any people apparelled or white of colour either seen or heard of amongst these people, and these afore said were seen only of the inhabitants of Sequotan; which appeared to be very true, for they wondered marvellously 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 marvellous admiration, and all things else was so strange unto them as it appeared that none of them had ever seen the like. When we discharged any piece, were it but a harquebus, they would tremble thereat 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 swords are of wood hardened; likewise they use wooden breastplates for their defence. They have besides a kind of club in the end whereof they fasten the sharp horns of a stag or other beast. When they go to wars they carry 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, instead of drums and trumpets. Their wars are very cruel and bloody, by reason whereof and of their civil dissensions, which have happened of late years amongst them, the people are marvellously wasted and in some places the country left desolate.

Adjoining unto this town afore said called Sequotan beginneth a country called Ponouike, belonging to another king whom they call Piemacum, and this king is in league with the next king adjoining towards the setting of the sun and the country Neiosioke, situate upon the side of a goodly river called Neuse. 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 Sequotan, as these men which we have brought with us into England have made us understand. But there remaineth a mortal malice in the Sequotanes for many injuries and slaughters done upon them by this Piemacum. They invited divers men and thirty women of the best of his country to their town to a feast, and when they were altogether merry and 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 oftentimes 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 they bear to us, we leave that to the trial hereafter.

Beyond this island called Roanoke are many 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 lieth 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 appeareth 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 about a hundred islands of divers bignesses, whereof one is sixteen miles long, at which we were, finding it to be a most pleasant and fertile ground, replenished with goodly cedars and divers other sweet woods full of currants, 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, of three, of four, of five miles, some more, some less, most beautiful and pleasant to behold, replenished with deer, conies, hares, and divers 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 north as the shortness of the time we there continued would afford us to take view of. And so contenting ourselves 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 ourselves to return for England, which we did accordingly and arrived safely in the west of England about the midst 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 gentlemen and men of accompt who then were present as witnesses of the same, that thereby all occasion of cavil to the tiile 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
William Greeneville
John Wood
James Browewich
Henry Greene
Benjamin Wood
Simon Ferdinando
Nicholas Petman
John Hewes
of the company

America as the Garden during the Renaissance