Canadian Military History Gateway
Date > 1500
Subject > Weapons, Equipment and Fortifications
This picture of a ship is engraved on a plank of the galleon San Juan, which sank in Red Bay, Labrador, in 1565. (Parks Canada)
Martin Frobisher led unsuccessful English expeditions to find the Northwest Passage. There were conflicts with the Inuit. Other English mariners also voyaged to the region around Labrador.
The weather shown hitting these Spanish ships was encountered by the Basque whalers based in Labrador during the second half of the 16th century. Occasionally, ships were lost. One such was the San Juan, sunk in Red Bay, Labrador in 1565.
Archers and crossbowmen were commonly found on ships and in the early overseas settlements of the first half of the 16th century. Such soldiers were most likely part of the early Portuguese forays to Newfoundland and Cape Breton Island. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)
The Iroquois were surprised and fearful at first of Cartier's cannon, but their awe did not last very long.
Such ships would have carried the Portuguese who explored what is now Canada’s east coast. (Museu de Arte Antiguo, Lisbon)
Professional soldiers were a recent development in the Europe of 1500. They fought for pay, not for loot or feudal obligation, and could have firearms as weapons.
Many European expeditions were sent to explore North America during the sixteenth century. The explorers were armed, and their ocean-going ships were a revolutionary technology.
The crewmen of this 16th century galleon are using several devices to discover their position. Tools like the arbalete and nocturlabe were used at night to measure the position of the stars in the sky. Based on these measurements, navigators could determine where they were on the globe. (National Library of Canada 18025)
Cartier's expedition got along poorly with the Iroquois at Quebec. Discovery of what was falsely thought to be gold led to discord between Roberval and Cartier. Eventually, the fortified settlement was abandoned.