The following story ran on the front page of the Halifax Chronicle Herald, Saturday, January 8th 2000
Italian mariner sets sail to retrace iffy 1398 trip to N.S.
Believers say Scot came before Columbus
By Susan Hughes, Staff Reporter
Italy’s only female master mariner set sail Thursday from Venice to retrace a voyage some believe was made in 1398 by Scottish Prince Henry Sinclair from Italy to Nova Scotia.
Laura Zolo of Elba will travel 10,138 kilometres, stopping in Scotland, Iceland and Greenland before landing in Guysborough County in August, D’Elayne Coleman, president of the Prince Henry Sinclair Society of North America, said Friday.
The society, with 400 members in Canada and the United States, claims that Prince Henry, Earl of Orkney and Baron of Roslyn, Scotland, and Venetian admiral Antonio Zeno began an expedition to the New World nearly a century before Christopher Columbus.
But author Brian Cuthbertson, a former archivist with the Nova Scotia Public Archives who spend three years researching the alleged voyage, has said there’s "no evidence whatsoever in documents or tradition that Henry Sinclair ever sailed west of Ulster."
And John Reid, a Canadian history specialist at Saint Mary’s University, says the historical evidence for such an expedition is based on documents that are "ambiguous at best."
Supporters of the theory contend that Prince Henry and Admiral Zeno, accompanied by a group of Venetian traders, were fleeing persecution by the Inquisition.
"There is more proof of Henry’s voyage than there is of (John) Cabot’s," Mrs. Coleman said.
An account of the journey along with maps made at the time have led to a growing number of books on Prince Henry’s voyage.
According to Frederick J Pohl’s book on the subject, Prince Henry Sinclair: His Expedition to the New World, the Scottish explorer arrived in North America at Chedabucto Bay on June 2, 1398 – 100 years before Christopher Columbus. It was here, the account says, that Prince Henry built a rapport with the indigenous people of Nova Scotia, the Mi’kmaq.
The epic saga involves 12 boats including the lead vessel, 7 Roses, a replica of which Ms. Zolo is navigating.
The skipper, in her early 40s, bought an 11-metre vessel, and welded the steel hull herself, Mrs. Coleman said.
"This is also a story about female achievement."
Corporate sponsors in Europe and North America, along with the society and the City of Venice, are supporting the voyage. The boat’s riggings were donated, and the society is trying to find a computer and satellite telephone system to chart the trip, Mrs. Coleman said.
The Prince Henry society’s charter is in Halifax and its treasurer, Neil St. Clair, lives in Lower Economy.
The society erected a monument two years ago in Halfway Cove, Guysborough County, to honour the controversial historical figure.
Ms Zolo’s landing in early August could have a tremendous impact on tourism in Nova Scotia, drawing thousands of visitors, said Mrs. Coleman’s husband, Richard.
The Coleman’s own a home near Manchester, Guysborough County, and winter in New York and Arizona.
"We took a bus tour in 1973 and fell in love with Nova Scotia. My wife’s grandmother is from here," Mr. Coleman said.
It was no accident that Prince Henry and his nearly 200 followers wanted to reach Nova Scotia, he said. In medieval times, the area was considered the new Holy Land, known as Arcadia, he said.