National Geographic : 1985 Jul
John Cabot andJacques Cartier, official discoverersof Terranova and the St. Lawrence River, were in all likelihood merely formal claimantsto coasts already known to their humbler predecessors, the fishermen. Like New Englandwhalers three centurieslater,Basque crews earned sharesin the season'scatch rather thanfixed salaries.Typical payments rangedfrom 30 barrelsof whale oil for a ship's captainto five barrelsfor an ordinaryseaman. In poor years crews received next to nothing. Once loaded with oil, the galleons weighed anchorfor ports in Europe, 2,000 miles and normally a month's voyage across the Atlantic. Delayed departurecould be costly. Ships that remainedin Labradoruntil late fall ran the risk of beingfrozen in and forced to winter there under terrible conditions.