GIBBONS, WILLIAM, arctic explorer, cousin of Sir Thomas Button; fl. 1612–14.
Nothing is known of the life and career of Capt. William Gibbons beyond what appears in Purchas and Fox, and a few odd bits of information gleaned by Miller Christy for the notes and introduction to the Hakluyt edition of the Fox and James voyages.
Capt. William Gibbons was a cousin of Sir Thomas Button and served with him as a volunteer on Button’s expedition to Hudson Bay in 1612. He was apparently a seaman of considerable experience in whom Button had great confidence.
The return of the Button expedition in 1613 raised the hopes of those who felt that the northwest passage would ultimately be found through Hudson Bay. Consequently Capt. Gibbons, now an arctic veteran, commanded the next expedition for the Company of the Merchants Discoverers of the North-West Passage, and he is listed as one of the Adventurers in that company. Some support for the voyage was also contributed by the East India Company.
Gibbons sailed in March 1614 in Henry Hudsons old ship Discovery accompanied by Robert Bylot a veteran of both the Hudson and the Button voyages. Very little is known of this voyage. It was a year of unusually heavy ice which forced the ship from the entrance of Hudson Strait down the Labrador coast where for ten weeks Gibbons remained ice bound in a bay about 58 1/2° latitude, which was called Gibbons’ Hole, now believed to be Saglek Bay. At last, free of the ice with the season far-gone Gibbons sailed back to England, accomplishing nothing.
The fruitless results of this voyage by no means prove that Gibbons was incompetent; he was, more likely, simply unfortunate in his season as many other good arctic explorers have been.