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Document Number: AJ-036
Author: Lane, Ralph, died 1603
Title: Third Voyage to Virginia, 1586
Source: Burrage, Henry S. Early English and French Voyages, Chiefly from Hakluyt, 1534-1608. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1906). Pages 275-278.
Pages/Illustrations: 6 / 0
Citable URL:

Author Note

Richard Hakluyt (1552?-1616), a minister and scholar, devoted himself to promoting the cause of English maritime expansion and colonization. Hakluyt was the first to lecture on modern geography at Oxford University. He hoped that his published accounts of geographical discovery would encourage further exploration, but he also wished to establish England’s right to colonize North America by recording and preserving documentary evidence of priority of discovery. He supported a variety of colonization plans and hoped to travel to America himself, but his obligations always prevented him from going. He acted as a consultant to the East India Company, was a patentee of the Virginia Company, and held numerous influential religious positions.

Third Voyage to Virginia, 1586

Sir Walter Raleigh sent two expeditions to re-supply the Roanoke colony in 1586. In 1585, when Raleigh dispatched his first colonists, he promised to re-supply them by the next Easter but the ship was delayed and did not leave England until after that deadline. By the time it arrived in Virginia, the colonists had already taken passage home with Francis Drake’s fleet. Unable to find the colony, the supply ship turned around and sailed back to England. Unbeknownst to the colonists, Raleigh had also outfitted a second relief mission of three more ships headed by Sir Richard Grenville, the captain who had delivered the colonists to Roanoke the year before. Grenville arrived shortly after the first ship, located the colony, and found it abandoned. Instead of simply returning to England, though, Grenville offloaded his supplies and left fifteen men in order to maintain England’s claim to possession of the territory.

This short text provides one of the only remaining documentary accounts of the two relief expeditions sent to Roanoke in 1586. It also contains several important details that supplement Ralph Lane’s narrative, including more information regarding the colonists’ decision to leave with Sir Francis Drake, as well as an assessment of the state of the encampment after it had been evacuated.

Document Note

This short account first appeared in print in Richard Hakluyt’s Principall Navigations. . . (London: George Bishop and Ralph Newberie, 1589), pages 747-48.

Other Internet and Reference Sources

For specific information on the Roanoke Colony, see the National Parks Service site, Roanoke Revisited:

The National Park Service has also placed their Fort Raleigh guidebook online:

For more biographical information on Hakluyt, see:

For printed sources on these events, consult the following works:

Axtell, James. “At the Water’s Edge: Trading in the Sixteenth Century,” in After Columbus: Essays in the Ethnohistory of Colonial North America. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 144-81.

Hume, Ivor Noël, The Virginia Adventure: Roanoke to James Towne, an Archeological Odyssey. (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994).

Salisbury, Neal. “The Indians’ Old World: Native Americans and the Coming of Europeans,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3rd ser., 53 (July 1996): 435-58.

Trigger, Bruce G. and William R. Swagerty. “Entertaining Strangers: North America in the Sixteenth Century,” in The Cambridge History of the Native Peoples of the Americas, Volume I: North America, Part I. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 325-98.

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