Sieur de Champlain.  The Voyages of Sieur de Champlain of Saintonge, Captain in Ordinary to the King in the Marine; or, a most faithful Journal of Observations made in the Exploration of New France, describing not only the countries, coasts, rivers, ports, and harbors, with their latitudes and the various deflections of the magnetic needle, but likewise the religious belief of the inhabitants, their superstitions, mode of life and warfare; furnished with numerous illustrations.  Together with two Geographical Maps: the first for the purtposes of navigation,…and the other in its true meridian…to which is added the Voyage to the Strait north of Labrador…discovered in 1612 by the English when they were searching for a northerly course to China.  Paris: Jean Berjon, 1613.

Includes the Voyages of 1604-1607 [Book I] (pp. 77-170), and The Voyage of Monsieur de Monts into New France, Written by Marke Lescarbot (pp. 171-307). 

This very brief set of notes is just on Champlain.   Lescarbot’s writings are covered separately. 


Champlain’s writings offer a nice and detailed description of the land scurvy, a little about its treatment, and much more about the autopsy of the scurvy case, a detailed description given very candidly.  To treat their morale problems, he prescribed Ordre de Bon Temps (p. 163) [Dec-Jan, 1607]:  

“Sieur de Poutrincourt landed with eight or ten of our company.  We saw some very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas, pumpkins, squashes and very good roots, which the savages cultivate, having a taste similar to that of chards….We saw a savage here, who had wounded himself in the foot, and lost so much blood, that he fell down in a swoon.  Many others surrounded him, and sang some time before touching him.  Afterwards, they made some motions with their feet and hands, shook his head and breathed upon him, when he came to himself.  Our surgeon dressed his wounds, when he went off in good spirits.  (p. 144)


Birch bark canoes are mentioned.

[Champlain, 1604-7, p. 119]

Garden Plants

“only copse and herbage” were noted in the pasturelands, “pasturage for the bullocks and cows, which the Portuguese carried there more than sixty years ago.” [May 1, 1604]  (p. 81)  [Copse (def.): thickets of bushes or small trees.]

Jerusalem Artichoke.  Port Royal:  “…very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas, pumpkins, squashes, and very good roots, which the savages cultivate, having a taste similar to that of chards.” p. 144  [Editor notes the root crop as Jerusalem Artichoke (Helianthus tuberosus L.).

Brazil Beans, p. 115-6, 124, 143

Corn, p. 115-6, 124, 127, 143, 148-9 (method of growing described).

Christian Cross, p. 131

Grains:  Wheat, Rye, and Hemp seeds are sown, p. 141

Grapes: 115-6; “very fine grapes just ripe, Brazilian peas, pumpkins, squashes, and very good roots, which the savages cultivate, having a taste similar to that of chards.” p. 144 .

Pumpkins/Squash, p. 115-6, 143, 144


Champlain gives vivid descriptions of medical and living conditions at times.  The chief disease his crew dealt with was land and sea scurvy, which many felt was a disease bred from either bad air, bad living space, or the local environment.  The first deaths due to the Land Sickness, or Mal de la Terre, led his surgeon Master Estienne to perform autopsies to determine what the death was due to.  A vivid description of this autopsy appears on pages 105-109, Chapter 6 “Of the Mal de la Terre, a very desparate Malady…”  (See also page 163-4.) 

Those afflicted with scurvy, and who survived it, were typically healed by the spring (p. 107).  The growing seasons typically began about March or April (p. 164).  Since medicine could not cure scurvy, and since this restoration of the entire crew occured in the early spring, Champlain blamed the scurvy on the season.  Mal de la Terre would recur the following year, and seven more died from it. (p. 163) 

The cure for Mal de la Terre was what later became known as Scurvy Grass, an oceanside, brackish shoreline plant that they had come to learn about through local Native American influences.

Medicine Man

For notes pertaining to shamanism, etc., see very first quote above under Impressions, and p. 112.  For their life based on “…the persuasions of the devil” and “superstitions,” see p. 112.

For notes on the Mi’kmaq treatment of the deceased, see page 162.  The red body wares (head piece) are typical Mi’kmaq.

Medicine Man: Membertou.  The tribe referred to at times in Champlain’s writings is Mi’kmaq, New-Foundland-New Brunswick, and Mabretou [Membertou] is their famous medicine man noted in the earliest New France writings.  For more on Membertou, see p. 138 and 162 (wrappage and prayer to corpse) of Champlain’s writings.  Lescarbot covers Membertou in detail and so Membertou will be covered in those notes.  (Editor, Thwaites).


Trees noted by Champlain:

“only copse and herbage,” Cape Breton [1 May 1604], (p. 81).

Port au Mouton area is covered with “copse and heath.” [13 May 1604] (p. 82)

General mention of trees: Riviere de l’Equille (p. 89), and Port Royal (p. 91).

oaks, elms, birches [8 May 1604], p. 82 

Nut-trees, p. 115-6.

Walnut, Cupress, sassafras, oak, ash and beech, p. 144.

oaks, beeches, walnut-trees, and also wild grape-vines” (around Tadoussac) p. 93

“only some oaks, and some copse wood” River Norumbeque (p. 101).

Souriquois “cabins” described as being made from tree bark, p. 101-2.