Jacques Cartier Sails Upriver
French navigator Jacques Cartier sailed into the St. Lawrence River for the first time on June 9, 1534.
Commissioned by King Francis I of France to explore the northern lands in search of gold, spices, and a northern passage to Asia, Cartier's voyages underlay France's claims to Canada.
Born in 1491 in the coastal village of Saint-Malo, France, Jacques Cartier was an experienced navigator familiar with the routes that Breton fishermen followed to the New World. In command of the king's 1534 expedition, Cartier set sail from France on April 20, 1534, with two ships and sixty-one men.
In 1534, Cartier set sail under a commission from the king, hoping to discover a western passage to the wealthy markets of Asia. In the words of the commission, he was to "discover certain islands and lands where it is said that a great quantity of gold and other precious things are to be found". It took him twenty days to sail across the ocean. Starting on May 10 of that year, he explored parts of Newfoundland, the areas now the Canadian Atlantic provinces and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.