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Document Number: AJ-028
Author: Cartier, Jacques, 1491-1557
Title: Third Voyage of Discovery Made By Captaine Jaques Cartier, 1541
Source: Burrage, Henry S. (editor). Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 91-102.
Pages/Illustrations: 14 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Jacques Cartier (1491-1557) was a Breton sailor who visited Brazil and may have accompanied Giovanni da Verrazzano during his exploration of the North American coast in 1524. In 1533 he inquired about further exploration of North America and received permission from the crown to pursue his idea. He made voyages in 1534, 1535-1536, and 1541-1542, and may have returned once more in 1543. Cartier died in September 1557 at or near his home in St. Malo, France.

Cartier’s Third Voyage to Canada, 1541-1542

The difficult conditions experienced in Quebec during the winter of 1535 and Cartier’s failure to produce jewels or gold convinced the King to withdraw support for another expedition. Not until a nobleman from Picardy, Jean-François de la Rocque de Roberval, expressed interest in backing another expedition in 1540 could Cartier return to New France. In command of five ships, Cartier and Roberval set out from St. Malo on May 23, 1541 (Hakluyt records an incorrect year, 1540, for the departure). Storms slowed their crossing and the crew was forced to drink spirits while the water for the journey was given to goats, pigs, and “beasts” on board, carried to breed at the planned colony. The crossing lasted three months and Cartier was unable to rendezvous with Roberval’s ships that fall.

Cartier returned to the St. Lawrence River harbor of St. Croix where he had wintered in 1535-1536, and set up a new compound. In his travels he discovered quartz crystals he believed were diamonds and pyrite he believed to be gold. However, upon his return, the discovery of the worthless nature of these minerals hurt his chances to return to New France. The account is incomplete and stops before winter arrives. Cartier ran out of supplies and returned to France in May 1543. He discovered that Roberval had begun his colony at modern St. John’s in Newfoundland, but Cartier did not remain in Canada.

Document Note

The official report of this expedition came to the attention of Richard Hakluyt, who translated it from French and published it in his Principal Navigations… in 1600.

Other Internet or Reference Sources

The standard modern edition of Cartier’s writings is The Voyages of Jacques Cartier, Published from the Originals with Translations, edited by Henry P. Bigger (Toronto, 1924). A book-length biography of the explorer, written in 1916 by Stephen Leacock, is available from Project Gutenberg at

The National Library of Canada has created “Pathfinders and Passageways: The Exploration of Canada” at with a wealth of background information, images, and excerpts from primary sources on the country’s early history that provide biographical and historical summaries. Other contemporary primary documents can be found at the Early Canadiana Online project,

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