Arthur Barlowe was one of two British captains (the other was Phillip Amadas) who, under the direction of Sir Walter Raleigh, left England in 1584 to find land in North America to claim for Queen Elizabeth I of England. His account survives in a letter written to Raleigh as a report on their journey. It is one of the earliest detailed English commercial reports written from direct observation about any place in North America and has been called "one of the clearest contemporary pictures of the contact of Europeans with North American Indians."
Barlowe and Amadas departed England with two ships on April 27th, sailing down to the Canary Islands and then on to the West Indies, where they stopped briefly for food and water before sailing north along the eastern coast of Florida. After eleven days they came to shallow water and smelled "so sweet, and so strong a smell, as if we had been in the midst of some delicate garden," indicating that land was nearby. Two days later (July 4th), they saw the coast and continued to sail for 120 miles until they could find an entrance or river going in from the sea. They finally landed on the outer banks of what is now the Pamlico Sound of North Carolina. Barlow described the land as a place where "in all the world the like abundance is not to be found...." He and his crew were met by a large group of the Secotan tribe, led by their king, Wingina. Several of the natives accompanied them as they sailed north to Roanoke island. There they found a Secotan village, where, according to Barlowe, they were treated with great hospitality and generosity. Barlowe described the people of the village as "gentle, loving and faithful, void of all guile and treason, and such as live after the manner of the golden age."
The discovery of Roanoke Island and the coast of North Carolina led to the establishment of the Roanoke Colony. This colony at Roanoke Island would later be known as the "Lost Colony," whose members are presumed to have either starved to death or been incorporated into one of the local native American Indian populations.
- Moran, Michael G. "Arthur Barlowe (ca. 1550–ca. 1620)." Encyclopedia Virginia. Ed. Brendan Wolfe. July 21, 2011. Virginia Foundation for the Humanities. 31 Mar. 2011 <http://www.EncyclopediaVirginia.org/Barlowe_Arthur_ca_1550-ca_1620>.
- University of North Carolina Library Collections: Documenting the South source: Dictionary of North Carolina Biography edited by William S. Powell. Copyright (c) 1979-1996 by the University of North Carolina Press.
- Broadview Anthology of British Literature, Volume Two: The Renaissance and the Early Seventeenth Century. Ed. Joseph Black. Ontario: Broadview, 2006. Print.