Sir Richard Clarke was captain and navigator of the Delight, the flagship vessel of Sir Humphry Gilbert’s 1583 exploratory fleet staking out New World territory for the British crown. Clarke and his crew drifted here in a lifeboat after the Delight was shipwrecked off Sable Island.
Gilbert’s voyage had left England with five ships, but only four would make it across the Atlantic – the Golden Hind, the Delight, the Squirrel and the Swallow. They entered St. John’s and claimed the land 200 leagues on either side for England. Humphry then continued to explore westward towards the St. Lawrence River, travelling aboard the fleet’s smallest vessel so he could explore close to the shore.
Near Sable Island, a navigational disagreement between Humphry and Clarke led to catastrophe and the Delight was smashed on the rocks. Clarke and 16 men were saved by a small boat they happened to have in tow, but 85 or more sailors were lost, along with many provisions for the voyage. Clarke and his crew then drifted for about a week in thick fog, with little water, no food and only one oar.
They finally landed here in Little St. Lawrence harbor, where they were nourished and renewed by salmon from the nearby river. They compared this waterway to the great St. Lawrence River, and so the town was named St. Lawrence. Sir Richard Clarke and company spent only a few days here before making their way along the shore to Burin, where good fortune would find Basque fishermen and a means of transport back to the European continent.
After the loss of the Delight, Humphry’s voyage was abandoned. The two ships, the Golden Hind and the Squirrel turned back to England. Despite pleas for Gilbert to travel aboard the larger Golden Hind, he remained on the smaller Squirrel, which was swallowed by the sea in a storm off the Azores. The Golden Hind was the only vessel to complete the voyage, and its captain, Edward James, wrote in great detail about the voyage.