- George Vancouver
Infobox Military Person
June 22, 1757– May 12, 1798
nationality = British
allegiance=United Kingdom of
Great Britain and Ireland
Captain George Vancouver RN (
June 22, 1757– May 12, 1798) was an officer in the Royal Navy, best known for his exploration of North America, including the Pacific coast along the modern day Canadian provinceof British Columbiaand the American states of Alaska, Washingtonand Oregon. He also explored the southwest coast of Australia. He was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, in England.
Vancouver traveled to the Pacific aboard HMS "Resolution", on James Cook's second voyage (1772-1775). It was Vancouver's first naval service. He also accompanied Cook on his third voyage (1776-1779), this time aboard "Resolution"'s sister ship, HMS "Discovery".
Upon his return to Britain in 1779, Vancouver was commissioned as a
lieutenant. He was then posted aboard the sloopHMS "Martin", on patrol in the English Channel.
While serving on the
West Indiesstation, Vancouver put the surveyingand cartographic skills he learned under Cook to use surveying Port Royaland Kingston Harbour, assisted by Joseph Whidbey.
In 1789, the Royal Navy was planning another voyage to the Pacific, to further survey the valuable South Pacific whaling groundscite book
title=The Interwoven Lives of George Vancouver, Archibald Menzies, Joseph Whidbey and Peter Puget: The Vancouver Voyage of 1791-1795
publisher=The Edward Mellen Press, Ltd.
year=1996|id=ISBN 0-7734-8857-X] . It was to be commanded by Henry Roberts, another of Captain Cook's
protégés, with Vancouver as his second in command and Whidbey as sailing master. A new vessel was purchased for this expedition and named HMS "Discovery" after Cook's ship.
Nootka Crisisintervened, as Spain and Britain came close to war over ownership of Nootka Soundand, of greater importance, the right to settle the Northwest American Coast. Roberts and Vancouver joined Britain's more warlike vessels (Vancouver going, with Whidbey, to HMS "Courageux"). When the first Nootka Conventionended the crisis, Vancouver was given command of "Discovery" to take possession of Nootka Soundand survey the coast.cite book
author=Allen, Richard Edward
title=A Pictorial History of Vancouver, Book 1
Vancouver's 1791-1795 explorations
Departing England with two ships in April, 1791, Vancouver commanded an expedition charged with exploring the Pacific region. In its first year the expedition travelled to Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and China, collecting botanical samples and surveying coastlines along the way. Proceeding to North America, Vancouver followed the coasts of what is now Washington and Oregon northward. In April 1792 he encountered American Captain Robert Gray off the coast of modern
Oregonjust prior to Gray's sailing up the Columbia River. Vancouver entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Islandand the Washingtonstate mainland on April 29, 1792. His orders included a survey of every inlet and outlet on the west coast of the mainland, all the way north to Alaska. Most of this work was done from small boats powered by both oars and sail because maneuvering larger sail-powered vessels in uncharted waters was generally impractical and dangerous due to strong tidal currents.
Vancouver was the first European to enter
Burrard Inlet(beyond Stanley Park), the main harbour area of the present day City of Vancouver. This was on June 13, 1792. He named it after his friend Sir Harry Burrard. He surveyed Howe Soundand Jervis Inletover the next nine days, before returning to Point Grey (now the site of the University of British Columbia) on June 22, 1792(Vancouver's 35th birthday). Here he unexpectedly met a Spanish expedition led by Dionisio Alcalá Galianoand Cayetano Valdés y Floresand was "mortified" (his word) to learn they already had a crude chart of the Strait of Georgia based on the exploration voyage of José María Narváez, under command of Francisco de Eliza, the year before. For three weeks they cooperatively explored Georgia Straitand the Discovery Islandsarea before going their separate ways.
After the summer surveying season ended in November, Vancouver went to
Nootkaon Vancouver Island, then the region's most important harbour, where he was to receive any British buildings or lands returned by the Spanish. The Spanish commander, Bodega y Quadra, was very cordial and he and Vancouver exchanged the maps they had made, but no agreement was reached; they decided to await further instructions. At this time, they decided to name the large island on which Nootka was now proven to be located as "Quadra and Vancouver Island". Years later, as Spanish influence declined, the name was shortened to simply Vancouver Island. [The Voyage of George Vancouver 1791-1795, Volume 1, ed: W. Kaye Lamb, Hakluyt Society, 1984, p.247]
In October 1792, he sent Lieutenant
William Robert Broughtonwith several boats up the Columbia River. Broughton got as far as the Columbia River Gorge, sighting and naming Mount Hood.
After a visit to Spanish
California, Vancouver spent the winter in further exploration of the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii).
The next year, he returned to
British Columbia, and proceeded further north. He got to 56°N, but because the more northern parts had already been explored by Cook, he sailed south to California, hoping to find Bodega y Quadra and fulfill his mission, but the Spaniard was not there. He again spent the winter in the Sandwich Islands.
In 1794, he first went to
Cook Inlet, the northernmost point of his exploration, and from there followed the coast south to Baranov Island, which he had visited the year before. He then set sail for Great Britainby way of Cape Horn, returning in September 1795, thus completing a circumnavigation.
Return to England and death
Vancouver faced difficulties when he returned home. The politically well-connected Naturalist
Archibald Menziescomplained that his servant had been pressed into service during a shipboard emergency; sailing master Joseph Whidbeyhad a competing claim for pay as expedition astronomer; and Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, whom Vancouver had disciplined for numerous infractions and eventually sent home in disgrace, challenged him to a duel. Vancouver was attacked in the newspapers and assaulted on the street by Pitt; his career was effectively at an end. One of Britain's greatest navigators, Vancouver died in obscurity in 1798 at the age of 40 less than three years after completing his voyage. His modest grave lies in St. Peters churchyard, Petersham, Surrey, in southern England.
Vancouver determined that the
Northwest Passagedid not exist at the latitudes that had long been suggested. His charts of the North American northwest coast were so extremely accurate that they served as the key reference for coastal navigation for generations. Robin Fisher, the academic Vice President of Mount Royal Collegein Calgary and author of two books on Vancouver, states: : "He [ie: Vancouver] put the northwest coast on the map...He drew up a map of the north-west coast that was accurate to the nth degree, to the point it was still being used into the 20th century as a navigational aid. That's unusual for a map that early." [Larry Pynn, 'Charting the Coast,' The Vancouver Sun, May 30, 2007, p.B3] Vancouver, however, failed to discover two of the largest and most important rivers on the Pacific coast, the Fraser Riverand the Columbia River. (He also missed the Skeena River near Prince Rupert in northern British Columbia.) Although Vancouver did eventually learn of the Columbia before he finished his survey (from Robert Gray (sea-captain), captain of the American merchant ship which was the first to sail into the river on May 11, 1792; Gray had first spotted the river on an earlier voyage in 1788) the Fraser never made it onto his charts. Stephen R. Bown, noted in " [http://web.archive.org/web/20030620111804/mercatorsworld.com/archives.phtml Mercator's World] " magazine (Nov/Dec 1999) that:
"How Vancouver could have missed these rivers while accurately charting hundreds of comparatively insignificant inlets, islands, and streams is hard to fathom. What is certain is that his failure to spot the Columbia had great implications for the future political development of the Pacific Northwest...." [BCGNIS|24320|Vancouver]
While it is difficult to comprehend how Vancouver missed the Fraser River, much of this river's delta was subject to flooding and summer
freshetwhich prevented the captain from spotting any of its great channels as he sailed the entire shoreline from Point Roberts to Point Grey in 1792. [Stephen Hume, The Birth of Modern British Columbia Part 7, The Vancouver Sun, November 17, 2007, p.D9] The Spanish, who preceded Vancouver in 1791, had also missed the Fraser River although they knew from its muddy plume that there was a major river located nearby. [Hume, op. cit., p.D9]
Vancouver generally established a good rapport with both natives and European foreigners. Despite a long history of warfare between Britain and Spain, Vancouver maintained excellent relations with his Spanish counterparts and even feted a Spanish sea captain aboard the tall ship HMS Discovery during his 1792 trip to the Vancouver region. [Pynn, op. cit., May 30, 2007, p.B3] While Captain Vancouver played an undeniable role in the eventual series of upheavals in native life on the North American Pacific Coast since his explorations opened up the Northwest coast to European exploration and the long term negative impact on first nations peoples and their cultures, historical records show Vancouver himself enjoyed good relations with native leaders both in Hawaii - where
King Kamehameha the Greatceded Hawaii to Vancouver in 1794 - as well as the Pacific Northwest. [Larry Pynn, "Peaceful Encounters." May 29, 2007, p.B3] Vancouver's journals exhibit a high degree of sensitivity to natives: he once wrote of his exploration of a small island on the Alaskan coast on which an important burial site was marked by a sepulchre of "peculiar character" lined with boards and fragments of military instruments lying near a square box covered with mats.Pynn, May 29, 2007, op. cit., p.B3] Vancouver states: : "This we naturally conjectured contained the remains of some person of consequence, and it much excited the curiosity of some of our party; but as further examination could not possibly have served any useful purpose, and might have given umbrage and pain to the friends of the deceased, should it be their custom to visit the repositories of their dead, I did not think it right that it should be disturbed." [Pynn, May 29, 2007., op. cit., p.B3] Vancouver also displayed contempt in his journals towards unscrupulous western traders who provided guns to natives by writing: : "I am extremely concerned to be compelled to state here, that many of the traders from the civilised world have not only pursued a line of conduct, diametrically opposite to the true principles of justice in their commercial dealings, but have fomented discords, and stirred up contentions, between the different tribes, in order to increase the demand for these destructive engines....They have been likewise eager to instruct the natives in the use of European arms of all descriptions; and have shewn by their own example, that they consider gain as the only object of pursuit; and whether this be acquired by fair and honourable means, or otherwise, so long as the advantage is secured, the manner how it is obtained seems to have been, with too many of them, but a very secondary consideration."Robin Fisher notes that Vancouver's "relationships with aboriginal groups were generally peaceful; indeed, his detailed survey would not have been possible if they had been hostile." While there were hostile incidents at the end of Vancouver's last season - the most serious of which involved a clash with Tlingits at Behm Canalin southeast Alaska in 1794 - these were the exceptions to Vancouver's exploration of the US and Canadian Northwest coast.
* Various locations have been named after George Vancouver, notably
Vancouver Island, the Hudson's Bay Company's 1825 Fort Vancouverand the cities of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Vancouver, Washington.
*Vancouver Bay in Jervis Inlet was named after him when Capt. G.H. Richards resurveyed the area in 1860.
* Statues of Vancouver are located in front of Vancouver City Hall, in
King's Lynnand on top of the dome of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.
* In his home town of
King's Lynnthe Vancouver Quarter Shopping Centre bears his name.
April 26, 1978- Canada Postissued a pair of 14-cent stamps to mark the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook's arrival at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island. George Vancouver was a crewman on this voyage.
* March 1980- A commemorative statue "Gate to the Northwest Passage" by Vancouver artist
Alan Chung Hungwas commissioned by Parks Canadaand erected near the Vancouver Maritime Museumin Vanier Parkat the opening to False Creek.
March 17, 1988- Canada Postissued a 37-cent stamp inscribed "Vancouver Explores the Coast". It was one of a set of four stamps issued to honour "Exploration of Canada - Recognizers".
June 22, 2007- Canada Postissued a $1.55 stamp to commemorate the 250th anniversary of Vancouver's birth. The stamp has an embossed image of Vancouver seen from behind as he gazes forward towards a mountainous coastline. This may be the first Canadian stamp not to show the subject's face. [ [http://www.canada.com/victoriatimescolonist/news/story.html?id=9a727afd-5ae5-4ffe-98ff-65f52dcea471&k=40125 Mystery man:The Canada Post stamp honouring Captain George Vancouver has created a buzz with collectors] , By Larry Pynn, "Vancouver Sun", Published: Thursday, May 24, 2007]
250th anniversary commemoration
June 22, 2007, the City of Vancouver in Canada organized a celebration at the Vancouver Maritime Museumto remember the 250th anniversary of Vancouver's birth. [Larry Pynn, 'Native elder embraces captain's legacy,' the Vancouver Sun, June 23, 2007, p.B9] The one-hour festivities included the presentation of a massive 63 by 114 centimetre carrot cake, the firing of a gun salute by the Royal Canadian Artillery's 15th Field Regiment and a performance by the Vancouver Firefighter's Band. [Ibid., p.B9]
Sam Sullivan, officially declared June 22 2007to be "George Day". [Ibid., p.B9] The Musqueamnative elder Larry Grant who also attended the festivities acknowledged that some of his people might disapprove of his presence here but noted:
"Many people don't feel aboriginal people should be celebrating this occasion...I believe it has helped the world and that's part of who we are. That's the legacy of our people. We're generous to a fault. The legacy is strong and a good one, in the sense that without the first nations working with the colonials, it [B.C.] wouldn't have been part of Canada to begin with and Britain would be the poorer for it." [Ibid, p.B9]
Origins of the family name
There has been some debate about the origins of the Vancouver name. It is now commonly accepted that the name Vancouver derives from the word "van Coevorden", meaning "from
Coevorden", a city in the northeast of the Netherlands. This city is apparently named after the "Coeverden" family of the 13 - 15th Century.An [http://www3.telus.net/public/rkaauwen/captainvancouver_eng.htm alternative theory] claims that Vancouver is a misspellingor anglicizedversion of "van Couwen", a Dutch family name. ["The story of a Norfolk Sailor" (pamphlet) by G.H. Anderson, Published in King's Lynn in 1923 (copy available at [http://www.vpl.ca Vancouver Public Library] )] In the 16th century, a number of businessmen from the Coevorden area (and the Netherlands in general) did move to England. Some of them were known as "van Coeverden". Others adopted the surname Oxford, as in oxen crossing, which is approximately the English translation of "Coevorden.", however this is NOT the name of the noble family mentioned in the history books that claim Vancouver's noble lineage, that name was Coeverden not Coevorden.
In the 1970s, Adrien Mansvelt, a former
Consul Generalof the Netherlands based in Vancouver, published a collation of information in both historical and genealogical journals and in the "Vancouver Sun" newspaper. ["The Vancouver - van Coeverden Controversy" by Adrien Mansvelt, "British Columbia Geneologist" (published Feb 1975 Vol 4 No.1,2,3)] ["Vancouver: A lost branch of the van Coeverden Family" by Adrien Mansvelt, BC Historical News, VI (1973) 20-23] ['Solving the Captain Vancouver mystery', and "The Original Vancouver in Old Holland" by Adrien Mansvelt, "Vancouver Sun", Published September 1, 1973] Mansvelt's "theory" was later presented by the city during the Expo '86 World's Fair, as historicalfact.Mr. Mansvelt's theories however, are severely flawed in the fact that his "historical evidence" is based on many assumptions and possibilities. Geneologyis the study or investigation of ancestry and family history, with undeniable proof of traceability through family lineage of birth, marriage and death records. Mr. Mansveld bases his research on no such proof and uses the words "assumed" "possible" and "may" time and again throughout his essay. [http://www3.telus.net/public/rkaauwen/mansveldtheory.htm Mansvelts essay] This flawed information was then used as rock solid proof for Mr. W. Kaye Lamb to write his book "A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean and Round the World, 1791-1795" W. Kaye Lamb, in summarizing Mansvelt's unproven 1973 research, suggests evidence of close family ties between the Vancouver family of Britain and the van Coeverden family of Holland as well as George Vancouver's own words from his diaries in referring to his Dutch ancestry:
As the name Vancouver suggests, the Vancouvers were of Dutch origin. Popular theory suggests that they were descended from the titled van Coeverden family, one of the oldest in the Netherlands. By the twelfth century, and for many years thereafter, their castle at
Coevorden, in the Province of Drenthe, was an important fortress on the eastern frontier. George Vancouver was aware of this. In July 1794, he named the Lynn Canal 'after the place of my nativity' and Point Couverden (which he spelt incorrectly) 'after the seat of my ancestors.' Vancouver's great grandfather, Reint Wolter van Couverden, was probably the first of the line to establish an English connection. While serving as a squire at one of the German courts he met Johanna (Jane) Lilingston, an English girl who was one of the ladies in waiting. They were married in 1699. Their son, Lucas Hendrik van Couverden, married Vancouver's grandmother, Sarah...In his later years he "probably" anglicized his name and spent most of his time in England. By the eighteenth century, the estates of the van Couverdens were mostly in the Province of Overijssel, and some of the family were living in Vollenhove, on the Zuider Zee. The English and Dutch branches kept in touch, and in 1798 (the date of Vancouver's death) George Vancouver's brother Charles would marry a kinswoman, Louise Josephine van Couverden, of Vollenhove. Both were great-grandchildren of Reint Wolter van Couverden. [The Voyage of George Vancouver 1791-1795, Volume 1, editor: W. Kaye Lamb, Hakluyt Society, 1984. p.3]
George Vancouver also identified a body of land off the Alaskan coast as '
Couverden Island' during his exploration of the North American Pacific coast "presumably" to honour his family's Dutch hometown of Coevorden. [ [http://www.chuckdavis.ca/archives_coevorden.htm History of Metropolitan Vancouver] ] It is located at the western point of entry to Lynn Canalin southeastern Alaska. [ [http://www.dnr.state.ak.us/mlw/planning/areaplans/nseap/maps/13_haines_couverden.pdf Couverden Island] ]
Others present on Vancouver's voyage
Archibald Menzies, naturalist, assumed duties of expedition doctor
* William Broughten
* Joseph Baker
* Edward Roberts
* Honorable Thomas Pitt (nephew of the Prime Minister)
* Thomas Manby
TowererooSee "Muster Table of His Majesties Sloop The Discovery"cite web
title=Muster Table of His Majesties Sloop The Discovery
publisher=Admiralty Records in the Public Record Office, U.K.]
Works by George Vancouver
* Voyage Of Discovery To The North Pacific Ocean, And Round The World In The Years 1791-95, by George Vancouver ISBN 0-7812-5100-1. Original written by Vancouver and completed by his brother John and published in 1798. Edited in 1984 by W. Kaye Lamb and re-named "The Voyage of George Vancouver 1791 - 1795." W. Kaye Lamb's later analysis of Vancouver's exploration was published by the
Hakluyt Societyof London, England
*"Madness, Betrayal and the Lash: The Epic Voyage of Captain George Vancouver" by Stephen R. Bown. Published by Douglas & McIntyre 2008.
*"Vancouver A Life: 1757-1798" by George Godwin. Published by D. Appleton and Company, 1931.
*"Adventures in Two Hemispheres Including Captain Vancouver's Voyage" by James Stirrat Marshall and Carrie Marshall. Published by Telex Printing Service, 1955.
*"The Life and Voyages of Captain George Vancouver" by Bern Anderson. Published by University of Washington Press, 1966.
*"Captain Vancouver: A Portrait of His Life" by Alison Gifford. Published by St. James Press, 1986.
*"Journal of the Voyages of the H.M.S. Discovery and Chatham" by Thomas Manby. Published by Ye Galleon Press, 1988.
*"Vancouver's Voyage: Charting the Northwest Coast, 1791-1795" by Robin Fisher and Gary Fiegehen. Published by Douglas & McIntyre, 1992.
*"On Stormy Seas, The Triumphs and Torments of Captain George Vancouver" by B. Guild Gillespie. Published by Horsdal & Schubart, 1992.
*"Captain Vancouver: North-West Navigator" by E.C. Coleman. Published by Tempus, 2007.
*"Sailing with Vancouver: A Modern Sea Dog, Antique Charts and a Voyage Through Time" by Sam McKinney. Published by Touchwood Editions, 2004.
*"The Early Exploration of Inland Washington Waters: Journals and Logs from Six Expeditions, 1786-1792" edited by Richard W. Blumenthal. Published by McFarland & Company, 2004.
*"A Discovery Journal: George Vancouver's First Survey Season - 1792" by John E. Roberts. Published by Trafford Publishing, 2005.
*"With Vancouver in Inland Washington Waters: Journals of 12 Crewmen April-June 1792" edited by Richard W. Blumenthal. Published by McFarland & Company, 2007.
* [http://www.stephenrbown.net/ Stephen R. Bown Historical Non-Fiction Author]
* [http://www.allsaintskingslynn.org.uk/captainvancouver.html Burial and Marriage records of the Vancouver family - All Saints' Church, King's Lynn]
* [http://www.biographi.ca/009004-119.01-e.php?&id_nbr=2195 Biography at the "Dictionary of Canadian Biography Online"]
* [http://www.npg.org.uk/live/search/person.asp?search=ss&sText=vancouver&LinkID=mp04600 George Vancouver (1757-1798), Explorer] , illustrations in the National Portrait Gallery
* [http://www.win.tue.nl/~engels/discovery/vancouver.html Discoverers Web]
* [http://www.library.ubc.ca/jones/vanety.html The True Meaning of Vancouver]
* [http://www3.telus.net/public/rkaauwen/captainvancouver_eng.htm Vancouver an Alternate Theory]
* [http://vancouver.ca/ctyclerk/archives/exhibits/George%20Vancouver.htm Web exhibit of two letters by George Vancouver and his commission to 4th Lieutenant]
* [http://www.garylittle.ca/van250.html Gary Little's interactive Google map showing the path Vancouver followed during his 11-day survey of the southwest coast of British Columbia]
* [http://www.vancouverhistory.ca/archives_coevorden.htm Coevorden: What connection does Vancouver have with Coevorden, an industrial town of about 20,000 in the northeast Netherlands?] , The History of Metropolitan Vancouver website, Retrieved on June 11, 2007
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