Throwback Thursday: The Sighting of Martha’s Vineyard

The island was spotted by a not-so-creative explorer named Captain Bartholomew Gosnold.

If your weekend plans include some quality time on the Vineyard, take a moment to commemorate its first European sighting 414 years ago.

On May 21, 1602, Captain Bartholomew Gosnold caught his first glimpse of Martha’s Vineyard. The chunk of land was spotted from a vessel called the Concord. With a crew of 32 people, the ship sailed along the coast of New England, four years before Gosnold would bring the first colonists to Jamestown, Virginia.

The journal of crew member Gabriel Archer, which was published in 1625, chronicles the expedition and the sightings of Martha’s Vineyard and Cape Cod. A snippet from an entry reads:

“…coasting along we saw a disinhabited island, which so afterward appeared unto us: we bore with it, and named it Martha’s Vineyard.”

The name was not pulled from thin air as the entry makes it seem. Gosnold is said to have named Martha’s Vineyard after his daughter. The origin of the name seems nice enough, until you find out that Gosnold also named Cape Cod.

He reached Martha’s Vineyard after days of sailing along the coast of the Cape. A few days earlier, he had docked near Provincetown and officially dubbed the land as Cape Cod. His inspiration? The abundance of cod fish he encountered.

For an influential explorer, the names Gosnold came up with aren’t exactly a stroke of genius (Jamestown is equally as creative). Although, it’s probably not creativity that enabled Gosnold to sail across the Atlantic. Naming aside, his successful voyage to the Cape and the Vineyard encouraged English colonization efforts in New England. Happy anniversary!