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The First Mapping of The Future City of Vancouver and the Lower Fraser River

Rare map of the lower part of the Fraser River, covering an area in modern day Vancouver, British Columbia, published by the Admiralty.

The main map covers the area from Barnston Island to Strait of Georgia.  The Cowitchin Indian Villages, Canoe Channel, Colvile Point, Garry Pt., Pelly Point, North Bluff and South Bluff are all shown in the main map.

The small inset cover the area from Barnston Island to McMillan Island, centered on Fort Langley and also showing the Ninimuh Village.

The river details include soundings and anchorages.  Two profile views are also included.

1827 was the year of the founding of Fort Langley and apparently the first year in which the River was charted.

According to R.H. Laurie's A Directory for the Navigation of the Pacific Ocean (Alexander Findlay, London, 1851) at page 393:

FRAZER RIVER debouches 7 miles to the northward of Point Roberts[shown on the map] . . . , but its mouth was passed unsuspected by Vancouver. He found his progress along the eastern shore much impeded by a shoal extending W. by N. 7 or 8 miles from Point Roberts, from whence it stretches N.W. by W., about 5 or 6 miles farther.  It is at this time that the entrance to the channel of the river is to be found.

According to the Admiralty chart, executed from a drawing by Mr. Emilius Simpson, in the Hudson's Bay Company's schooner Cadborough, in 1827, this entrance was about half a mile in width, with a depth of 5 or 6 fathoms in it, abruptly commencing from 20 and 50 fathoms outside. This depth, with one or two exceptions of 3 and 4 fathoms, may be carried up to Fort Langley.

Frazer River had never been wholly descended by whites previously to 1828, when, in order to explore the navigation all the way to the sea, Sir George Simpson started from Stuart's Lake with three canoes. He found the stream hardly practicable even for any craft, excepting that, for the first 25 miles from its mouth, it might receive large vessels. This river, therefore, is of little or no use to England as a channel of communication with the interior; and in fact the trade of New Caledonia, the very country which it drains, is carried overland to Okanagan, and thence down the Columbia. 

HBC Schooner Cadboro

Perhaps the most noted arrival in 1827 was the Hudson's Bay schooner Cadboro which reached Vancouver from London. The Cadboro was built at Rye, County of Sussex, in 1824, one deck and two masts, schooner-rigged, with a standing bowsprit. She was built and owned by the Hudson's Bay Company, and sailed from London on her first trip in the fall of 1826,rounding Cape Horn, and arriving at Fort Vancouver, Oregon Territory, in the spring of the following year, bringing, beside her crew of picked men, several new servants for the Hudson's Bay Company, about thirty persons, all told. On arrival at Vancouver Captain Swan left the vessel, and E. Simpson, a naval lieutenant, became master. He retained command until June, 1831, when he retired from the service and was succeeded by Captain Sinclair.  

Desertions and other personnel problems had made it impossible to carry out Governor Simpson's hope of founding a post at the mouth of Fraser River during 1826. But in July of that year Simpson ordered the establishment the fort during the next summer. The Cadboro was to be used for the purpose, and additional men were sent over the mountains to help with the task. 

In June, 1827, the Cadboro was northward with the supplies and equipment for the construction and outfitting of a new fort.  A few days later James McMillan, now a chief factor, started by way of Cowlitz River with the personnel of the establishment. After firmly establishing a route of communication overland to Puget Sound, McMillan boarded the Cadboro, and the combined parties sailed to Fraser River. There, on the left bank of the stream about twenty-eight miles above its mouth, they founded Fort Langley. Thus was established the first of the posts on the Northwest Coast, posts which were eventually to extend the rule of the Columbia Department far up into Russian Alaska. 


The map is very rare.  OCLC locates 2 copies (British Library and University of British Columbia).

We find no auction or dealer records.

Condition Description
Narrow margins. Minor marginal soiling.
British Admiralty Biography

The British Admiralty has produced nautical charts since 1795 under the auspices of the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (HO). Its main task was to provide the Royal Navy with navigational products and service, but since 1821 it has also sold charts to the public.

In 1795, King George III appointed Alexander Dalrymple, a pedantic geographer, to consolidate, catalogue, and improve the Royal Navy’s charts. He produced the first chart as the Hydrographer to the Admiralty in 1802. Dalrymple, known for his sticky personality, served until his death in 1808, when he was succeeded by Captain Thomas Hurd. The HO has been run by naval officers ever since.

Hurd professionalized the office and increased its efficiency. He was succeeded by the Arctic explorer Captain William Parry in 1823. By 1825, the HO was offering over seven hundred charts and views for sale. Under Parry, the HO also began to participate in exploratory expeditions. The first was a joint French-Spanish-British trip to the South Atlantic, a voyage organized in part by the Royal Society of London.

In 1829, Rear-Admiral Sir Francis Beaufort was appointed Hydrographer Royal. Under his management, the HO introduced the wind force scale named for him, as well as began issuing official tide tables (1833). It was under Beaufort that HMS Beagle completed several surveying missions, including its most famous voyage commanded by Captain FitzRoy with Charles Darwin onboard. When Beaufort retired in 1855, the HO had nearly two thousand charts in its catalog.

Later in the nineteenth century, the HO supported the Challenger expedition, which is credited with helping to found the discipline of oceanography. The HO participated in the International Meridian Conference which decided on the Greenwich Meridian as the Prime Meridian. Regulation and standardization of oceanic and navigational measures continued into the twentieth century, with the HO participating at the first International Hydrographic Organization meeting in 1921.

During World War II, the HO chart making facility moved to Taunton, the first purpose-built building it ever inhabited. In 1953, the first purpose-built survey ship went to sea, the HMS Vidal. Today, there is an entire class of survey vessels that make up the Royal Navy’s Hydrographic Squadron. The HO began to computerize their charts in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In 1968, the compilation staff also came to Taunton, and the HO continues to work from there today.