Humphrey Gilbert sails into St. John’s (1583)

On today’s date in 1583, English explorer Humphrey Gilbert sailed into St. John’s Harbour with his ships Delight, Golden Hind, Swallow and Squirrel, reading a royal charter while claiming the surrounding 320 kilometres for Queen Elizabeth I, thereby founding the first English colony in North America.

In 1983, the Royal Canadian Mint commemorated the 400th anniversary of Gilbert’s landing in Newfoundland with a $100 half-ounce Proof gold coin. The obverse, designed by Arnold Machin, features an anchor dividing the Marconi tower and a contemporary ship, like one in Gilbert’s fleet. The reverse design, by John Jaciw, of Windsor, features the effigy of Queen Elizabeth II. This 22-karat gold coin has a diameter of 27 mm and weighs 16.97 grams.

The obverse shows an anchor in the centre, dividing the Marconi tower and a contemporary ship similar to one in Gilbert’s fleet.

The obverse shows an anchor in the centre, dividing the Marconi tower and a contemporary ship similar to one in Gilbert’s fleet.

On his return trip to England later that year, Gilbert was lost in the 10-ton Squirrel in a storm off the Azores, near Portugal.

Before his death, in 1570, he was knighted for his service in the campaigns in Ireland. What’s more, his 1576 A discourse of a discouerie for a new passage to Cataia (or A Discourse of a Discovery for a New Passage to Cathay), which discussed a Northwest Passage, inspired the voyages of Martin Frobisher and John Davis.

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