Striking example of the general map illustrating the regions covered by George Vancouver in his seminal voyage of exploration along the NW Coast of America. This general map, stretching from San Francisco to Kodiak Island in Alaska, illustrates the vast majority of the coastline covered by Vancouver, including some of the earliest appearances of many of the coastal features. Vancouver's voyage to the Northwest Coast of America is best described as the last major explorations of the North Pacific. Thereafter, subsequent discoveries were primarily incidental to voyages in pursuit of commerce and fur trade. Vancouver began his career as a midshipman on James Cook's second expedition. As commander of his own fleet in three seasons, he demonstrated that there was no link between Hudson's Bay and the Pacific, and his charts of the lower Columbia River aided Lewis and Clark in the final stages of their overland expedition. This map is the general map illustrating Vancouver's explorations, from the French Octavo edition of the report of his voyages. It shows the coast from the northern corner of Baja California past Cook's Inlet and Kodiak Island. There is amazing detail considering the scale, and many places are named.
George Vancouver (1757–1798), a naval officer and explorer, grew up in King’s Lynn, England, the youngest of six children. After entering the Royal Navy in 1771, he served in both the second and third great exploratory voyages of James Cook. During Cook’s second voyage, a three-year quest to find a legendary southern continent, Vancouver received instruction from the astronomer William Wales. During Cook’s third voyage, to the Pacific Northwest, Vancouver was part of the first known group of Europeans to land on the coast of present-day British Columbia.
Vancouver gained valuable navigational, surveying, and mapping experience in the Pacific Northwest during his time with Cook. After returning from Cook’s third voyage in 1780, Vancouver was promoted to lieutenant and spent the following nine years serving on fighting ships, primarily in the Caribbean.
In 1790, Vancouver was chosen to captain the Discovery and charged with a mission to discover and chart the vast areas of the Pacific that were still unknown, in part to locate a Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. This four-year voyage of discovery circumnavigated the globe and eliminated the possibility of an inland Northwest Passage. During many months of surveying, Vancouver produced detailed regional maps of the Northwest Coast, as far north as Alaska. He also established several hundred place-names for physical features in the areas surveyed.
Upon returning to England in 1795, Vancouver’s voyage received little recognition, and he faced personal and political attacks from colleagues and crew members alleging abuse of power. With his health failing, Vancouver spent his remaining years in retirement, revising his journal for publication. His Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and Round the World was first published in 1798, which was also the year of his death. It contained a multi-volume account of his voyage as well as an atlas of his maps. His exploration and mapmaking activities greatly increased knowledge of the North American coast.