The Sea Mark

Captain John Smith’s Voyage to New England

Russell M. Lawson

By age thirty-four Captain John Smith was already a well-known adventurer and explorer. He had fought as a mercenary in the religious wars of Europe and had won renown for fighting the Turks. He was most famous as the leader of the Virginia Colony at Jamestown, where he had wrangled with the powerful Powhatan and secured the help of Pocahontas. By 1614 he was seeking new adventures. He found them on the 7,000 miles of jagged coastline of what was variously called Norumbega, North Virginia, or Cannada, but which Smith named New England. This land had been previously explored by the English, but while they had made observations and maps and interacted with the native inhabitants, Smith found that “the Coast is . . . even as a Coast unknowne and undiscovered.” The maps of the region, such as they were, were inaccurate. On a long, painstaking excursion along the coast in a shallop, accompanied by sailors and the Indian guide Squanto, Smith took careful compass readings and made ocean soundings. His Description of New England, published in 1616, which included a detailed map, became the standard for many years, the one used by such subsequent voyagers as the Pilgrims when they came to Plymouth in 1620. The Sea Mark is the first narrative history of Smith’s voyage of exploration, and it recounts Smith’s last years when, desperate to return to New England to start a commercial fishery, he languished in Britain, unable to persuade his backers to exploit the bounty he had seen there.

Cover Image of The Sea Mark: Captain John Smith’s Voyage to New England
Cloth: $22.95 | E-book: $24.99
ISBN-13: 9781611685169
Pages: 252 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: March 22, 2015


  • An excellent example of maritime history, illuminating not only remarkable voyages but also the varying contexts in which they took place. Anyone interested in the early modern Atlantic or English colonization should read it. . . . Highly recommended.

  • Champlain, Gosnold, Cabot, Verrazanno, Hakluyt, Frobisher. Smith believed he belonged in this pantheon, and surely he does. The Sea Mark reminds us of the intrepidity of these men-this man-who if not fearlessly, then boldly crossed the sea to explore distant shores and imagine what the New World could be.

    The Nautilus
  • Lawson’s book shows that we should pay greater attention to the long struggle and high cost of getting colonization underway in New England.

    Historical New Hampshire
  • The Sea Mark achieves considerable success contextualizing Smith’s voyage effectively within the broader sweep of England’s colonizing projects in the early seventeenth century. . . . Lawson’s concise and insightful monument to John Smith’s New England remains a signal contribution to the literature of early American exploration.

    The Historian
  • An extraordinary adventurer, writer, and visionary, Captain John Smith deserves an account of his exploits as vivid as this one. Russell Lawson has left his mark with The Sea Mark, and readers of maritime history are the better for it.

    W. Jeffrey Bolste

About the Author

RUSSELL M. LAWSON has a Ph.D. from the University of New Hampshire. He has taught in higher education for many years and is the author of twenty books on local and regional history, biography, history of science and ideas, and history of exploration. 

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