Frobisher discovered the bay now named for him on Baffin Island, but was deceived by the pyrites, which he took for gold (courtesy Bodleian Library, Oxford).
It has become common knowledge that the first Thanksgiving in North America was held by Martin Frobisher and his crew in the eastern Arctic in 1578. There are those—mainly Americans upset at having their holiday co-opted—who argue that it wasn’t a “real” Thanksgiving. I would counter that Frobisher had reason to give thanks, and that giving thanks was an important aspect of Elizabethan society, so it would have been a natural thing for him and his men to do.
Sir Martin Frobisher, mariner, explorer, chaser of fool’s gold, made three voyages from England to the New World in search of a passage to Asia. He discovered the bay that is named for him and returned with tons of dirt that he thought contained gold. Each expedition was bigger than the preceding one and on his third, in 1578, he commanded a flotilla of 15 ships and more than 400 men. They set sail on May 31 for Baffin Island, where they intended to establish a gold mining operation and the first English colony in the New World. On July 1, they sighted Resolution Island, but they were driven by storms across the entrance to Hudson Strait, the fleet was dispersed and one ship, which carried their prefabricated barracks, was sunk by ice. Another ship deserted the flotilla and sailed back to England. The remaining ships assembled at the Countess of Warwick’s Island, which is known today as Kodlunarn Island, a tiny speck of land in Frobisher Bay. They established two mines on the island and set up shops to test the ore from other mines. The mine sites and the ruins of a stone house are still clearly visible.