In the spring of 1553 three ships sailed north-east from London into uncharted waters. The scale of their ambition was breathtaking. Drawing on the latest navigational science and the new spirit of enterprise and discovery sweeping the Tudor capital, they sought a northern passage to Asia and its riches.

The success of the expedition depended heavily on its two leaders: Sir Hugh Willoughby, a brave gentleman soldier, and Richard Chancellor, a brilliant young scientist and practical man of the sea. When the ships became separated in a storm, each had to fend for himself. Their fates were sharply divided. One returned to England, to recount extraordinary tales of an imperial court in the Moscow of Tsar Ivan the Terrible. The tragic, mysterious story of the other two ships has to be pieced together through the surviving captain’s logbook, after he and his crew became lost and trapped by the advancing Arctic winter.

This neglected endeavor was one of the boldest in British history, and its impact was profound. Although the ‘merchant adventurers’ failed to reach China as they had hoped, their achievements would lay the foundations for England’s expansion on a global stage. As James Evans’ vivid account shows, their voyage also makes for a gripping story of daring, discovery, tragedy and adventure.

“A good story, well told.” (Iain Finlayson The Times)

“Richly entertaining reading.” (Giles Milton Literary Review )

“Evans’s short, exciting chapters describe the voyage and 16th-century life, technology and politics in glorious detail.” (The Lady)

“One of the great untold tales of English exploration… Evans triumphs” (Management Today)

“A fascinating and riveting account” (The Times, Business Book of the Week,

“This splendid book…” (Catholic Herald)

“A wonderful adventure story…” (Kirkus Reviews)