Biography

Davis was born c.1550 in Devonshire, at Sandridge, in the parish of Stoke Gabriel, near Dartmouth. However, little is known of his early life other than that he received a sound education and went to sea at an early age. Following his three Arctic voyages, his four years of naval service included command of the Desire from August 26, 1591 to June 11, 1593 on Thomas Cavendish's ill-fated attempt at a second circumnavigation. Davis was to have searched for the North West Passage on his own after Cavendish's ships passed through Magellan's Strait, but adverse winds blocked the strait and scattered the ships. Davis brought Desire home, albeit with great loss of life, and en route discovered the Falkland Islands. He served as master of Raleigh's ship on the Cadiz expedition, 1596-1997, and served on three voyages to the East Indies. Davis married Faith Fulford on September 29, 1582, with whom he had a daughter and four sons, three of whom—Arthur, Gilbert, and Philip—survived him. He was murdered by Japanese pirates at Bintang, Malaya, on December 27, 1605.

Merrill Distad

Further Reading

Dee, John, The Diaries of John Dee, edited by Edward Fenton,

Oxfordshire: Day Books, 1998 Markham, Sir Clements R., A Life of John Davis, the Navigator, 1550-1605: Discoverer of Davis Straits, London: George Philip, 1889 (2nd edition), London: George Philip, 1891 Quinn, David Beers (editor), The Voyages and Colonising Enterprises of Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 2 volumes, London: Hakluyt Society, 1940 Rundall, Thomas (editor), Narratives of Voyages Towards the North-West in Search of a Passage to Cathay and India, 1496 to 1631: With Selections From the Early Records of the Honourable the East India Company and From MSS in the British Museum, London: Printed for the Hakluyt Society, 1849, reprinted New York: Burt Franklin, 1964 and 1970 Sauer, Carl Ortwin, Sixteenth Century North America: The Land and the People as Seen by the Europeans, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971 "The First Voyage of Master John Davis, Undertaken in June 1585 for the Discoverie of the Northwest Passage, Written by John Janes, Marchant, Servant to the Worshipfull M. William-Sanderson" (document 666); "The Second Voyage Attempted by Master John Davies With Others for the Discoverie of the Northwest Passage, in Anno 1586" (document 667a); "The Third Voyage Northwestward, Made by John Davis, Gentleman, as Chiefe Captaine and Pilot Generall, for the Discoverie of a Passage to the Isles of Molucca, or the Coast of China, in the Yeere 1587. Written by John Janes, Servant to the Aforesayd M. William Sanderson" (document 668); and "A Report of M. John Davis Concerning His Three Voyages Made for the Discouery of the Northwest Passage, Taken Out of a Treatise of His intituled The Worlds Hydrographical Description" (document 465) in volume 4, edited by David B. Quinn, New American World: A Documentary History of North America to 1612, 5 volumes, New York: Arno Press, 1979 Thomson, George Malcolm, The North-West Passage, London:

Secker and Warburg, 1975 Waters, David W., The Art of Navigation in England in Elizabethan and Early Stuart Times, London: Hollis and Carter, 1958

Woolley, Benjamin, The Queen's Conjurer: The Science and Magic of Dr John Dee, Advisor to Queen Elizabeth I, New York: Henry Holt, 2001

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