KNIGHT, JOHN, English navigator, explorer; d. June 1606 in Labrador.
Knight is first heard of in 1605 when he captained the pinnace Marekatten or Katten (Cat) in a Danish expedition to Greenland led by John Cunningham, with James Hall as chief pilot. By 1606 he had quit Danish service and was employed by the East India and Russia companies to search for a northwest passage. In April he received a safe-conduct from the companies and, later that month, sailed from Gravesend in the Hopewell of 40 tons. On 19 June he sighted the coast of Labrador and followed it southwards, intending to explore as much as possible during the summer and to winter ashore. His plans went astray when the ship was badly damaged in a storm, probably in the vicinity of Nain. On 26 June, Knight and three companions, including his brother Gabriel, went ashore; they never returned. His crew denied that they had borne any grudge against the commander whom they deserted, claiming that ice and hostile Eskimos prevented their searching for him.
There are three sources for the voyage: PRO, H.C.A. 13/38 (narratives by several members of the crew); Knight’s own journal, continued after his disappearance by Oliver Brownel or Browne (Olivier Brunel), and printed in The voyages of Sir James Lancaster, Kt., to the East Indies . . . and the voyage of Captain John Knight (1606) to seek the North-West Passage, ed. C. R. Markham (Hakluyt Soc., 1st ser., LVI, 1877); and an abridged version of the journal in Purchas, Pilgrimes, XIV (1905–7), 353–65. DNB. Dodge, Northwest by sea. The first letter book of the East India Company, ed. G. Birdwood and W. Foster (London, 1893). W. Foster England’s quest of eastern trade (London, 1933).