Sarah Albee: Pirate Pyrite
From: Sarah Albee
July 02, 2012 at 06:02AM
Sir Martin Frobisher (1535ish – 1594) was a privateer (a pirate with permission from his government to rob and plunder enemy ships) who worked for Queen Elizabeth, plundering Spanish and French ships. He was arrested several times on piracy charges, but managed to evade trial. He is best known for exploring parts of Canada in an attempt to find a northwest passage to the Orient. He made three voyages to the New World and named a bay after himself in northeastern Canada.
On his second voyage, he loaded up his ship with tons and tons of what he thought was gold, and returned to England, leaving behind about 100 people, in a half-hearted attempt to establish a colony. (This failed.)
Then he made a third trip to Canada with an even larger fleet and brought back even more “gold.” A delighted Queen Elizabeth had a special smelting factory built to accommodate it. Years later, the smelters discovered that the “gold” Frobisher had schlepped over turned out to be a big load of worthless iron pyrite. Oopsa-daisy.
Frobisher fell into disfavor after that, and a lot of wealthy people who had provided financial backing for his trips were pretty steamed at him, but eventually he managed to gain back his reputation (as a pirate, if not someone familiar with his table of elements) during the Spanish Armada, when he fought alongside fellow privateer Sir Frances Drake, in 1588, to help defeat the Spanish.