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Sir Humphrey Gilbert was educated at Oxford and was a member of Queen Elizabeth's household before she became queen. His early interest in exploration led him to prepare and publish a book, A Discourse of a Discoveries for a Passage to Cataia, which essentially made the argument that England needed to find the Northwest Passage to the far east over the North of the Americas.

This work inspired both Frobisher and Davis to mount expeditions to find the passage. It may have also influenced the Queen who backed Frobisher's second voyage. He was also a half brother of Sir Walter Raleigh who was instrumental in the Roanoke Island Colony.

His interest led him to campaign for Letters of Patent, which he received in 1578, to start an English colony in North America. On June 11th, 1583 he sailed from Plymouth and arrived at present day St John's Newfoundland which he claimed for England on August 5th.

 Gilbert turning the sod on during a ceremony which claimed the land for England and signaled the establishment of the colony.

He spent some time exploring the Newfoundland coast and in late summer sailed for England. On September 9th he was onboard the Squirrel, when the Golden Hind, a large ship drew near, and was urged to transfer to the Hind. He commented "We are as near to heaven by sea as by land." As evening fell the Squirrel was swallowed by the sea and sunk.

The colonists at St John's were much more interested in mining for gold then building a colony and hence the settlement failed.