Monday, September 10, 2012

George Vancouver

George Vancouver was born on June 22, 1757 in Kings Lynn Norfolk, England. He was the youngest of five children of John Jasper Vancouver and his wife Bridget. Vancouver joined the navy at the age of fifteen and served under Captain James Cook for seven years during his two explorations in the Pacific. He served as a midshipman aboard the HMS Resolution, part of Captain James Cook's second voyage in 1972-1975 in search for Terra Australis. He also joined James Cook's third voyage where he was aboard in Resolution's sister ship, the Discovery. This exploration started in 1776 and ended in 1778, the first European sighting of the Hawaiian Islands.

In 1780, Vancouver was commissioned as a lieutenant after his return to Britain. In 1781 to 1783, he served in the West Indies. In 1784 to 1789, he started his first independent surveys under Sir Alan Gardner at Jamaica. In 1790, he was chosen to lead an expedition to the South Seas and was promoted commander at Gardner's suggestion. His mission is to negotiate with the Spaniards at Nootka Sound and to explore the north-west coast of America. He left England in April 1791 equipped with the latest chronometers and scientific instruments aboard the 340 tons ship Discovery accompanied by the armed 135 tons Chatam.

During the expedition's first year, Vancouver sailed to Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand and China. They have collected botanical samples and surveyed the coastlines. He then pushed through North America following the coast of Oregon and Washington. He encountered Captain Robert Gray off the coast of Oregon before Captain Gray sailed up in Columbia River. Vancouver entered Juan de Fuca Strait, between the mainland and Vancouver Island on April 29, 1792. His order was to explore every inlet and outlet on the west coast of the mainland. Because his ships were too big, he had to use boats many times to explore these narrow inlets and outlets.

During this exploration, he met Spanish explorers led by Dionisio Alcala Galiano and Cayetano Valdes y Flores during his 35th birthday on June 13, 1972 upon his return to Point Gray, the present day location of the University of British Columbia. They had explored Puget Sound together before Vancouver sailed separately towards Nootka Sound. He was the first European to chart accurately the large island which was later on named after him.

George Vancouver died at Petersham on May 10, 1798. His body was buried at St. Peters in Petersham on May 18, 1798. He was known to be a strict disciplinarian. He never received the affection of his crew but was given so much respect. Many places were named after him like the Vancouver Island in Canada, the city of Vancouver in Washington USA and Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border.

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