Lane Expedition Sails to America

Roanoke Map

A map of the Roanoke Island from 1585 by John White

On April 9, 1585, Sir Ralph Lane sailed with 107 colonists to America. A native of Devonshire, England, Lane entered into the service of Queen Elizabeth I in 1563. After serving as a courtier, soldier and sheriff, he was invited by Sir Walter Raleigh to command an expedition to America. By the end of June 1585 they had arrived at Wococon, now Plymouth Island, on the Outer Banks. A colony was established there with Lane as the governor.

The colony later moved to Roanoke Island and established Fort Raleigh. In 1586, Lane and a group of colonists explored the Choanoac Indian country and the Chowan River. Thomas Harriot, a mathematician and scientist, and John White, an artist, were members of the expedition. Raleigh had sent Harriot to study the native inhabitants and explore the region’s plants, animals and minerals. White was hired to make maps and paint watercolors. Their findings were preserved in a book, A Briefe and true report of the new found land of Virginia.

By June of 1586, the colony’s supplies were running short. Sir Francis Drake arrived on June 11 and the discouraged Lane and other colonists abandoned the colony and boarded Drake’s ships to return to England.

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