The first voyage (1534)

Cartier-Brébeuf National Historic Site

Jacques Cartier made three voyages to Canada. On April 20, 1534, accompanied by approximately 60 sailors who were to handle two ships of about 60 tonnes each, Cartier set sail from Saint-Malo. Crossing the Atlantic went smoothly; after 20 days, he entered the Strait of Belle Isle. After following the north shore of the gulf of St. Lawrence for a time, he turned back, then headed south following the west coast of Newfoundland. Then, sailing toward the continent, he deduced the existence of the Cabot Street, skirted the Magdalen Islands, rounded the northern tip of Prince Edward Island, and put in at Chaleur Bay. Believing he had discovered the passage to Asia, he travelled to the head of the bay, but then had to backtrack. A storm drove him into the bay of Gaspé, where he met more than 300 people from Stadacona (Québec), who had come there to fish. Two Amerindians who were relatives (sons) of the chief Donnacona were made to embark on Cartier's ship; they accompanied the explorer on the remainder of his exploration.

Following this, weather conditions prevented Cartier from making out the entrance to the St. Lawrence River between the Gaspé peninsula and Anticosti Island. After hunting along the north shore of this island, he finally found a passage, but was unable to travel further inland on account of strong winds and opposing tides. As winter was not far off, Cartier and his men decided to head the two ships back to France. A second voyage thus became a compelling necessity: the St. Lawrence River might be the northern passage so ardently hoped for.

Map of Cartier's first voyage (1534)

Carte du 1er voyage de Cartier 1534


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