John Cunningham (explorer)

Jump to navigation Jump to search

John Cunningham (c. 1575-1651), known in Danish as Hans Kønig, was a Scottish explorer who became a captain in the Danish navy in 1603.

In 1605, he was captain of the 60-ton Danish naval ship Trost (German: "Consolation"), which was probably named after one of the queen's dogs.[1] The ship, along with the 70-ton Løven ("Lion") or Den Røde Løve ("The Red Lion") and the 20-ton Katten ("Cat"), was directed by King Christian IV to reëstablish contact with the Norse settlements in Greenland, the first of three annual expeditions sent between 1605 and 1607. Cunningham served as the chief commander, following the piloting of James Hall and commanding Godske Lindenov in the Løven and John Knight in the Katten.

During the 1606 expedition, Cunningham served as the captain of the Løven under Lindenov's command.

In 1615, he was among the commanders aboard the naval expedition under Gabriel Kruse sent to Spitsbergen to demand tolls from foreign whalers. There he encountered Robert Fotherby, Thomas Edge, and Adriaen Block. The following year, he captained the Gabriel as part of the naval expedition under Jørgen Daa sent to rid the coasts of Norway, the Faeroes, and Iceland of illegal whalers and pirates.

In 1619 he was made Lensmann (Governor) of the province of Finnmark in the far north, a post he retained until his death in 1651. There, he presided over 52 witch trials,[2] nine of which afflicted the Sami population, but there may have been even more because of a lack of records for the 1640s; one of these trials was the great witch trial of 1621 in Vardø.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gosch, C.C.A. Danish Arctic expeditions, 1605 to 1620. 1897.
  2. ^ Rune Hagen, "At the Edge of Civilization: John Cunningham, Lensmann of Finnmark, 1619-1651", in Andrew MacKillop, Steve Murdoch (editors), Military Governors and Imperial Frontiers C. 1600-1800: A Study of Scotland and Empires, ISBN 9004129707, 2003, page 45
  • Oleson, T. J. (1979) [1966]. "Cunningham, John". In Brown, George Williams (ed.). Dictionary of Canadian Biography. I (1000–1700) (online ed.). University of Toronto Press.
  • Brica, Carl Frederik (1890). Dansk biografisk lexikon, tillige omfattende Norge for tidsrummet 1537-1814. Kjøbenhavn: Gyldendal (F. Hegel & Søn).
  • Conway, William Martin (1906). No Man's Land: A History of Spitsbergen from Its Discovery in 1596 to the Beginning of the Scientific Exploration of the Country. Cambridge, At the University Press.
  • Dalgård, Sune (1962). Dansk-Norsk Hvalfangst 1615-1660: En Studie over Danmark-Norges Stilling i Europæisk Merkantil Expansion. G.E.C Gads Forlag.

See also[edit]