||Captain Arthur Barlowe's Narrative of the First Voyage to the Coasts of America
||Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 225-241.
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Arthur Barlowe captained one of the two vessels that Sir Walter
Raleigh fitted out for a preliminary exploration of the American
coast in 1584. Little more is known about him than the information
contained in his narrative of the voyage.
Barlowe and Amadas Expedition, 1584
This journey was a reconnaissance trip financed by Sir Walter Raleigh,
whose colonization efforts closely followed the plans laid out by
Sir Humphrey Gilbert before his ill-fated expedition of 1583 (see
AJ-033). On March 25, 1584, Elizabeth I granted Raleigh a patent
empowering him to establish a colony in the New World. Arthur Barlowe
and Philip Amadas led this preliminary expedition of only two ships
to find a site for England’s first colony.
After setting out on April 27, 1584, from England, the explorers
sailed to the West Indies. From July 4 to July 13, Barlowe and Amadas
sailed north along the coast of America looking for a landfall.
They found land on the North Carolina coast, above Roanoke Island,
on a barrier island. The English explorers soon met the inhabitants,
the Roanoke Island Indians, now known to be Carolina Algonkins.
After some exploration of the river there, Barlowe and seven others
went by boat to Roanoke Island where they found an Indian village.
Barlow describes the wealth of the island’s natural riches, from
fish, birds and game, to the superiority of the trees and plants
and the generosity of the Indians there. He returned to England
with two Indians, Wanchese and Manteo, to describe to Raleigh the
area’s suitability for European settlement. They returned from their
exploration in the middle of September 1584.
This text provides one of the first English accounts of the geography,
soils, flora, fauna, and native inhabitants of the southern coast.
It describes the process of burning out logs to form large canoes,
and the fortified villages where the Indians lived. The document
also provides insight into the beginnings of English colonization,
the naming of Virginia in honor of the “Virgin Queen” Elizabeth
I. Barlowe and Amadas’ favorable report on Roanoke Island led to
the colonizing expedition in 1585 under Sir Richard Grenville and
Sir Ralph Lane (see AJ-035). Barlowe addressed his account to Sir
Walter Raleigh, but it seems likely that he expected Richard Hakluyt
to publish it.
Hakluyt made several manuscript copies of Barlowe’s account
but apparently never published them. The first known publication
of this text took place in 1877, when the Maine Historical
Society included it in the second volume of its Documentary
Series, edited by Charles Deane.
Other Internet and Reference Sources
This text is also available from a variety of other online sources,
including the University of North Carolina’s “Documenting the American
South” and the University of Virginia Library’s Electronic Text
Center's Virtual Jamestown at
The web sites for the Mariners’ Museum in Newport News and Fort
Raleigh National Historic Site offer general overview information
on voyages of discovery in the Chesapeake region at
For specific information on the Roanoke Colony and Captains Arthur
Barlowe and Philip Amadas, see the National Parks Service site,
“Roanoke Revisited” at
The Norton Anthology of English Literature web site contains useful
contextual information on English exploration and the Elizabethan
view of the New World at
The National Park Service has also placed their Fort Raleigh guidebook
Ivor Noël Hume's The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to James Towne,
an Archeological Odyssey (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994) discusses
the archaeological evidence from the early English Virginia voyages.