Summary, Program
Abstracts Meeting Photos

Annual Meeting 2004


ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS PRESENTED AT
THE 45th ANNUAL MEETING OF
THE SOCIETY FOR THE HISTORY OF DISCOVERIES

Cody, Wyoming
September 9-11, 2004

ARRANGED ALPHABETICALLY BY AUTHOR

(not all presenters provided abstracts)


A Geographer’s Reflections on Exploration and Discovery

Sanford H. Bederman


A number of concerns have evolved during more than forty years of teaching, reading and writing about geographical exploration and discovery, and several will be explicated today. One notion is that geographers look at exploration and discovery differently than do those from other fields. The significance of discovery was that it allowed Western geographers and cartographers to add new and different spatial information that in time could be systematically studied. Ultimately some sense could be made of the earth’s human and physical geography. Another concern involves the veracity of the accounts supplied by explorers. How accurate were they, and what motives may have existed when reports were prepared. Still another concern regards such events as the Columbus Quincentennial, Drake’s California landfall, and the discovery of the Vinland Map. Will we ever know the truth? Several other ruminations involve Felix Driver’s concept of “cultures of exploration,” and the fact that the Society for the History of Discoveries has devoted no time to the role of women in the discovery process.


The Role Of Native Peoples In The Exploration Of The Southeast
Louis De Vorsey

In his Paper, De Vorsey states that he has been often perplexed by the notable lack of scholarly interest traditionally devoted to the role of the American Indian in the literature purporting to explicate the history of the discovery and exploration of our continent. Admitting that there are probably a multiplicity of causes for this omission on the part of historians, he singles out one he terms the myth of "The Forest Primeval," for discussion as a backdrop to his investigation of the exploratory efforts of three of the earliest European attempts to assess the American Southeast; Verrazano, De Soto and Ribault and Laudonniere. Not surprisingly he joins Carl O. Sauer, who found early on that, "Explorers, being sensible men ... used Indian guides who took them over Indian roads."


The Fourth Island: Una Isla Sin Nombre?
Bill Dunwoody


On the evening of 18 October, 1492, Columbus’s fleet anchored off the southern shore of the Bahamian island now called Long Island, which Columbus had named Fernandina. The following morning the three ships fanned out across the Crooked Island Passage and at noon converged at the north end of Long Cay (also called Fortune Island). Finding no deep-water entry into the Bight of Acklins there they sailed southwestward along the coast of Long Cay and anchored near that island’s southern cape at dusk on 19 October.

These twenty-four hours mark an unusual interval in the Columbus landfall controversy, all three of the current central Bahamas scenarios (Plana Cay, Samana Cay and Watling/San Salvador scenarios) agree on Columbus’s being at these places at those times.

The Diario provides a highly accurate description of the lay of the land at their noontime landfall near French Wells and then proceeds to muddy the waters by placing their departure point from Fernandina to the west rather than west-northwest, running the coastline of Long Cay west rather than southwest, making Long Cay four times as long as it actually is, apparently having Columbus sail to another anchorage in the middle of the night, and, giving apparently inaccurate compass directions in two other cases.

This paper resolves these incongruities and provides a scenario for Columbus’s movement that closely conforms to the Diario data for the period from 18 October to 25 October by (1) identifying the island the Indians called Samoet and that Columbus named Isabela, (2) locating Cabo Hermoso, Cabo de la Laguna and Cabo del Isleo, (3) substantiating a “leagues” for “miles” substitution in the Diario, (4) locating the domain of the “king” for whom Columbus had been seeking, and, (5) analyzing the usefulness of the “Cape Verde fix.”


Voyage Pittoresque: Emmanuel Henri Domenech’s Exploration of the American West, 1850-1860
Richard Francaviglia

Emmanuel Henri Domenech was one of the American West’s influential mid-nineteenth century traveler-sojourners. Born in or near Lyons, France in 1825 or 1826, Domenech moved to San Antonio, Texas, where he was ordained a Catholic priest in 1848. As an avid student of native customs and natural landscapes, Domenech found much to write about in the American West immediately after the U.S.-Mexican War. In the next two decades, Domenech’s writings helped introduce the Transmississippi West and Mexico to an eager reading public. Domenech wrote several popular books that were published in both French and English editions. Two books in particular -- Journal d’un missionaire au Texas et au Mexique, par l’abbe E. Domenech (published in English as Missionary adventures in Texas and Mexico. A personal narrative of six years’ sojourn in those regions. By the Abbé Domenech. Tr.) (1857), and Voyage pittoresque dans les grands deserts du Nouveau monde, par l’abbé Em. Domenech (titled in the English edition, Seven years’ residence in the great deserts of North America, by the abbe Em. Domenech) (1860) – provided readers with vivid descriptions of the region.

Domenech’s accounts of the West represented a fascinating blend of first hand observation and material evidently gleaned from written sources such as John Charles Frémont’s Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains (1848). Like many travelers and observers of the period, Domenech was caught between two increasingly polarizing perspectives -- science, with its emphasis on objectivity, and art, with its emphasis on emotions/aesthetic impressions. This paper interprets passages and illustrations from Domenech’s Voyage Pittoresque. Of special interest is his interpretation of the region’s geographic features from the upper Missouri River drainage, the Rocky Mountains, and the interior Great Basin. Placed in context, Domenech can be seen as a passionate observer and talented travel writer who helped popularize exploration. Upon his death in France in 1886, Domenech was honored as a major figure; however, today few French people know about him. Similarly, he is little known in the United States today despite his considerable contribution to the history of exploration narratives in the American West.


The Changing Role of Indians in the Exploration of Canada:
Cartier (1534) to Mackenzie (1794).
Conrad E. Heidenreich

In the 350 years under study, the participation of Indians in the process of European exploration underwent many changes. During most of the 16th century, Indians were seized by force and coerced into being guides and geographical informants. Late in the century, friendlier European / Indian relations were established with the emerging fur trade. Early in the 17th century under Champlain, the role of Indians in exploration changed dramatically. Champlain was the first European to realize that exploration could only be carried out with Indian help. This meant developing friendly relations with them, learning their languages and going through a series of adaptations to their ways of life and to the physical environment in which they lived. The process developed by Champlain became the basis for later French and, after 1760, English exploration in Canada. In the early to mid 17th century, the reliance of the French on Indians in exploration was total. As more Frenchmen learned to paddle canoes and live off the land, speak Indian languages and forged closer Indian relations through the fur trade and intermarriage, the role of Indians in exploration shifted to being primarily geographical informants, guides and interpreters. Throughout the period of French exploration it would be safe to say that explorers had a fair idea where they were going and what they were going to find, before they got underway. English exploration out of Hudson Bay and the St Lawrence Valley after the conquest (1760) continued in the same vein, the use of Indians as informants, guides, interpreters, and on occasions, providers of food.

The paper will draw on examples from the exploration literature and maps in order to document this theme. What this writer finds remarkable is that explorers often expressed their indebtedness to their Indian informants, but that these credits are hardly ever passed on by modern writers on the subject.


A Little Known Circumnavigation
Robert Highbarger

It is customary to recognize six circumnavigations of the world in the ninety-seven years from the beginning of Ferdinand Magellan’s voyage in 1519 to the completion of William Cornelison Schouten’s voyage in 1616. Yet a little known circumnavigation took place between 1594 and 1602, not by a famous navigator, but by a twenty-two year old Florentine Merchant, Francesco Carletti.

Accompanied by his father, Francesco visited the Cape Verde Islands, Cartagena, Panama, Peru, Mexico, the Mariana Islands, the Philippians, Japan, Macao, Malacca, and Goa, before being captured by a Dutch ship off Saint Helena Island. He spent almost four fruitless years in the Netherlands trying to recover his goods before returning to Florence to become a court official under Cosimo II

This paper will briefly sample Francesco’s narrative written with a keen eye and clever wit, a narrative that contains great insight into the geography and political set up of the places he visited, and is especially delightful for his many vignettes of the lives and customs of the peoples he encountered.


The Error of the Southwest: They Myth of the Fountain of Waters and the Accidental Completion of President Jefferson’s Continental Portage
John C. Jackson


Over the next three years bicentennial celebrations of the Corps of Discovery will be fixed on an east/west axis, western discovery. But for decades before and several years after there was also a tangential question of north/south geography. The major known or suspected western rivers flowing to the Mississippi or to the Pacific Ocean were believed to issue from a central fountain of waters located on the continental divide. This paper views geographical thinking that prevailed thorough the eighteenth century and was not disproved by the horizontal exploration by the United States in 1805 and 1806. Lewis and Clark had failed to correct what Bernard DeVoto termed “the error of the southwest.” In the very next year that concept was put to a test.

As the explorers returned they met a fellow officer, past Captain of Artillery John McClallen, who was traveling in the shadow of the Zebulon Pike expedition with the intention of opening a mercantile connection to Santa Fe. Deflected by circumstances McClallen attempted to utilize what was believed to be the short distance between the Yellowstone River and Spanish waters in order to reach New Mexico by a backdoor.

That test of the prevailing armchair theory grew into a larger sense of duty. The explorers had also failed to complete President Jefferson’s order to find a practical portage from the upper Missouri to the Pacific drainage. In a remarkable demonstration of individual initiative the enigmatic Captain Zachery Perch went on into western Montana in autumn 1807 with a larger force than the Corps of Discovery. In addition to continuing the pacification of western tribes he also traveled through the Salish country to complete a practical connection between the upper Missouri and the Columbia River, and block the expansion plans of rival British interests headed by David Thompson of the North West Company.

That was one of the great adventures in western exploration. It has been reconstructed through a broad understanding and interpretation of the documents of the period and will answer why for two hundred years that neglected odyssey has been overlooked.


The Mountain Man: Trapper, Hunter, Trader, Guide--and Scientist?
Russell M. Lawson


The early American experience of the West was the experience of being on the verge of civilization, on the fringes of the wilderness. Such was Frederick Jackson Turner’s conception of the frontier. Turner argued that the frontier is constantly moving, constantly renewing itself; the frontier does not recognize attributes of civilization such as wealth and social status; the frontier is the great force of democratization; the frontier is a source of new ideas challenging old theories and traditions. According to this logic, science should be ever renewed by the experience of scientists on the frontier. Such clearly seems to be the case when examining the accounts of scientists who journeyed into the wilderness of America, who recorded their experiences and findings, and who returned to civilization armed with new ideas, new species of flora and fauna, a renewed sense of potential and progress, and new impressions on the landscape and geography of America.

Few 18th and 19th century scientists journeyed alone into the trans-Appalachian and trans-Mississippi wildernesses. Often they accompanied other adventurers or soldiers, who were themselves led by local hunters and trappers, the frontiersmen and mountain men making a living off of the incredible plenty of Kentucky, the Northwest Territory, the Louisiana Territory, and beyond. Indeed, such wilderness guides were largely responsible for the initial acquisition of knowledge in North America. On countless journeys into the West wilderness guides taught scientists how to approach what was to the scientist new landscapes, climates, flora and fauna, and peoples. Lewis and Clark relied on their guides, such as Charbonneau and Sacagawea, to guide their scientific pursuits. Naturalists William Dunbar and Dr. George Hunter, on their ascent of the Red, Black, and Ouachita rivers in 1804, relied on unnamed guides for much information on the rivers and mountains to the west. The Belknap-Cutler Expedition that ascended Mount Washington in 1784 relied on the experiences and intuitive knowledge of Captain John Evans, a frontiersman who had ascended Mount Washington in 1774. Jeremy Belknap’s natural History of New-Hampshire, published in 1792, owed much to what he learned from John Evans, whose intuitive and experiential knowledge of the natural and physical environment of the New Hampshire and Maine frontiers was unsurpassed. Botanist Manasseh Cutler also used such guides on his 1804 ascent of Mount Washington, during which the guides became lost. Indeed Captain Evans lost his way upon reaching the summit on his 1784 journey.

To be lost before finding one’s way is a metaphor for science as well as life. One Mr. Lee, whose Christian name is unknown, journeyed to Fort Smith around 1810 to pursue the lonesome life of a trapper in what was then called the Missouri Territory. In July, 1819, at the Three Forks (later Fort Gibson) of the Arkansas River, Lee arranged to pilot the botanist Thomas Nuttall west toward the source of the Arkansas. Lee guided Nuttall across the Oklahoma prairies and down the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers. Nuttall’s description (in his A Journal of Travels into the Arkansa Territory During the Year 1819) of the flora and fauna of the Canadian, Cimarron, and Arkansas river valleys owed much to Mr. Lee. Lee claimed to have ascended the various rivers of the southern Great Plains to near their sources. The rivers were his map, as it were, into the wilderness interior. When one has the river, and knows generally where it is headed and whence it comes, there is no need for the actual written map. Lee’s map was in his head. He felt his way about by intuition. He sensed time and place by means of vegetation, the direction of the wind, the position of the sun, the descent of falling waters. The notions of knowing where one is or being lost had no meaning for Lee, who was always lost in the sense of precise knowledge of location. And yet he knew where he was. Such hunters and trappers as Lee and John Evans were rather like scientists engaged in hypothetical reasoning as they confront particularly thorny problems for which there is no clear answer.


Mapping Post-Colonial Anxieties:
Anglo-American cartography of western North America, 1830-1846
Alistair Maeer

Antebellum Americans struggled with their identity. In grappling with their identity, Americans sought both recognition from Britain and affirmations of their ‘exceptionalism.’ Yet, the overly insecure ‘post-colonial’ sensitivities of Americans failed to realize British acceptance; and, therefore, Americans became apt Anglophobes who easily jumped to conspiracy theories to prove British attempts to stifle the United States. From theaters to novels and from riots to lecture halls, Americans often defined themselves in terms of their relationship with Great Britain, be it Anglophobic or Anglophilic. So too can the anxious nature of Anglo-American relations be studied by incorporating cartographic source material, since maps are graphic expressions of reality. Americans’ conceptions of British attitudes stymied antebellum relations between Britain and America, and the maps of the era reflect the insecurities of the period. Consequently, a comparison of Anglo-American maps depicting California and Oregon reaffirms the Anglophobic nature of American relations with Britain, where American fears of British encroachment prompted an aggressive, defensive imperialism to secure American borders. Numerous American and British cartographic sources, from school atlases, general atlases, and maps, reveal that British intentions and American perceptions differed. Cartographically, the heightened sensitivities of Americans to British encroachment and American claims are evident when contrasted to British recognition of accepted borders and lands in western North America.

This study will reflect the general attitudes of Anglo-American cartographers by highlighting the most prominent mapmakers of the day, while not an exhaustive survey, it none the less does reflect dozens of mapping traditions and mapmakers who have been carefully studied. In effect, I have chosen the maps that more readily reveal the overall representations of geographic data.


Exploration Images: Isaac Stevens’ Northern Pacific Railroad Survey
Paul D. McDermott

The Pacific Railroad Surveys, which were authorized by Congress in 1853, consisted of five exploratory surveys designed to gather geographical and engineering data for determining the most practical route for a transcontinental railroad. Four of these routes traversed the continent from east to west, while the fifth surveyed conditions along a north-south corridor paralleling the Pacific Coast. The northernmost survey, which was headed by Major Isaac Stevens, was the most successful of the group, both scientifically and geographically. The value of this undertaking is attributed to the systematic collection of data pertaining to the region's weather, topography, flora, and fauna. This data was assembled by numerous scientists supported by surveyors, soldiers, and artists. Two artists, John Mix Stanley and Gustavus Sohon, were responsible for creating the 70 illustrations, which accompanied the survey's final report. Their work graphically documents the geographical character of the northwestern United States prior to significant Anglo settlement. These landscape views are insightful documents recording a regional landscape at a pivotal time in its settlement history. In addition, the drawings capture elements of Native American culture prior to significant impacts created by assimilation and acculturation.




The Transatlantic Tracks of Christopher Columbus
Keith Pickering

There have been at least six published attempts to trace Columbus's track across the Atlantic, with the ultimate goal of determining the elusive first landfall. Unfortunately, all previous work has depended, to some degree or another, on a 1492 magnetic field proposed in 1899 by Willem Van Bemmeln – work that is now quite obsolete. Further, all of published work is fraught with unmeasured (and usually unmentioned) errors. For these reasons, the definitive study on the transatlantic track of Columbus’s voyages has yet to be done.

Mathematical models of the Earth's magnetic field have advanced enormously since the mid 1980's. Using the technique of spherical harmonic analysis, these models are now providing realistic predictions of the magnetic field for the near future. Similar models have also been extrapolated to back to about 0 A.D. using available geological and archeological data.

Some years ago, I suggested that any scientifically valid study of Columbus’s transatlantic track must include the following elements:
1. It must use a consistent league length throughout, and this league length must also be consistent with the inter-island track. Such a league length should also be historically supportable.
2. It must account for the effects of current and leeway using vector averages.
3. The magnetic declinations used must allow a return voyage (using currents and league length as described above) to sail Columbus’s return voyage from Samana Bay, Hispaniola, to Santa Maria Island in the Azores, using the courses and distances in Columbus's log.
4. The magnetic declinations used must allow a re-created second voyage from Gomera (Canary Islands) to Dominica, on a constant west-by-south course, again using currents and league length as above.
5. The magnetic declinations used should show a significant westerly variation at Hispaniola, as implied by the map of Juan de la Cosa.
6. The magnetic declinations should be derived from modern spherical-harmonic mathematical models for the Earth's magnetic field
7. Most important, such a study MUST clearly state and properly account for all sources of error – a notable (and inexplicable) failure of all previous studies of this problem.


GPS in 1869: The Geographical Powell Survey
Richard D. Quartaroli


In 1869, Major John Wesley Powell led a river expedition into terra incognita of the American southwest, down the Green and Colorado rivers, and through the Grand Canyon. Powell, therefore, rightfully received credit for filling in this blank spot on the maps of the western United States. Reports from expeditions completed before Powell’s regularly contained scientific methods, names of equipment and their uses, methods of data collection, and data, yet Powell’s published reports are extremely sparse in these regards.

What did Powell know of the area prior to his expedition and how did he know it? How did Powell and his men obtain enough information to solve the mystery of “the great unknown”? My presentation will provide detailed answers such as what maps and survey equipment, one hundred years before Global Positioning Systems, allowed Powell to plot his course through the canyons, and how accurately he did so.


Views of the Borderlands: the U.S.-Mexico Boundary Report
Paula Rebert

The Report on the United States and Mexican Boundary Survey is one of the most highly illustrated nineteenth-century accounts of western exploration. As the official report of the U.S. Boundary Commission, it summarizes the survey and mapping of the U.S.-Mexico boundary completed in 1857. The Report also presents a comprehensive scientific survey of the borderlands. Many illustrations accompany essays on geography, ethnography, geology, paleontology, botany, and zoology. One group of sixty-four drawings by John E. Weyss and Arthur C. V. Schott illustrates the topography of the boundary. Depicting places found on the manuscript boundary maps, the views by Weyss and Schott were intended for use as legal evidence of the location of the boundary. Like the other illustrations in the boundary Report, however, they served best to support the scientific essays and the boundary commission’s efforts to explore and gain knowledge of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands.


Polyphemus africanus: Mapping Cannibals in the History of the Cross River
Region of Nigeria, ca. 1500-1985
Christopher Slogar


This paper examines the trope of cannibalism as it appears in the literature of discovery of the Cross River region southeastern Nigeria. According to various accounts, cannibals often dwelled in the hinterlands of the region's established trading posts, i.e. in the areas just beyond European knowledge and control. But many times, Europeans also reported direct contact with cannibals (or what they believed was indisputable evidence of cannibalism). Here I will examine specific instances of reported anthropophagy in order to gain some understanding of why and how the trope continued to be associated with the Cross River region for so long - a period of nearly five centuries reaching even into the present day.


Albert H. Campbell: Civil Engineer, Cartographer and Incidental Artist
Richard W. Stephenson


On March 11, 1862, a 35-year old clerk in the Confederate Post Office in Richmond, Virginia, named Albert Henry Campbell addressed a letter to President Jefferson Davis requesting a commission in the Engineer Corps as a topographical engineer. In support of his application for a commission he pointed out that he had “large experience in topographical reconnaissance & camp duty upon the U.S.& Pacific Railroad Surveys under your supervision,” that is when Davis was Secretary of War in the 1850s. Davis referred the letter to General Robert E. Lee with the notation that “He had reputation for professional knowledge.” A few days after Lee assumed command of the Department of Northern Virginia, Campbell received his commission as Captain in the Provisional Engineer Corps and was assigned to organize and lead the Army’s Topographical Department. Throughout the remainder of the war, his department provided Lee and his staff officers with hundreds of county and regional maps of Virginia and eastern North Carolina based on original field surveys.

This paper examines the experience gained by Campbell as he worked from 1853 to 1855 as civil engineer, cartographer, and artist with two expeditions seeking to find a practical railroad route from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Ocean along the 35th north parallel and in California from San Francisco to Los Angeles. The varied skills and interpersonal relationships that Campbell developed and sharpened during his three difficult years in the west prepared him well for his role as Chief of the Topographical Department, Department of Northern Virginia, in effect General Lee’s mapmaker.


John Wesley Powell and the Popular Press
Marcia L. Thomas


When John Wesley Powell began his first descent by boat through the Grand Canyon in May 1869, he had already learned that capturing public attention was essential in his bid to secure public funds for surveying the unmapped country known as the Colorado River Plateau. Back in Illinois in 1867 and 1868, the one-armed Civil War veteran and college professor caught the eye of local newspapers when he led parties of amateur scientists and college students on exploring expeditions into the Colorado Rockies. Not enough, perhaps, to get a Congressional appropriation for his venture down the Colorado River, but sufficient to gather funds from state institutions and favors from the Smithsonian Institution. During the 1869 expedition, Powell and most of the members of his ten-man exploring party maintained frequent correspondence with editors of prominent regional newspapers, such as the Chicago Tribune and the Rocky Mountain News. The sensational, but false, news of his supposed drowning only contributed to the national attention focused on Powell’s great adventure in Arizona. By the time Powell emerged from the Canyon at the Virgin River in August, he had achieved the status of national hero.

Powell’s bibliography demonstrates that he continued to woo the public by publishing letters in newspapers and articles in popular magazines. Publication of American periodicals and newspapers underwent tremendous growth in the 19th century and they were read by Americans of all classes and persuasions. Powell took full advantage of the American people’s fascination with its Western landscape, as reflected in articles, stories, and illustrations in such publications as Harper’s Magazine and Appleton’s Journal. In fact, his famous 1875 government report, Report on the Exploration of the Colorado River of the West and Its Tributaries (GPO, 1875) appeared nearly simultaneously with his series of articles in Scribner’s, and included nearly verbatim his 1869 letters to the Chicago Tribune. Excerpts from Exploration and illustrations by artists of the Powell Survey (painter Thomas Moran and photographer John K. Hillers) were published in magazines and newspapers of all types. The public’s fascination with their country’s landscape and its commercial promise meshed perfectly with Powell’s political ambitions, as well as his agenda for public land reform. His relationship with the popular press, along with his ability to cultivate political allies, helped propel him into a successful career in Washington as Director of the U.S. Geological Survey (1881-1894) and Director of the Bureau of American Ethnology (1879-1902).


Historians and the Russian Expeditions of 1725-41 led by Vitus Bering:
Reflections and Commentary
Carol Urness

In their writings about Vitus Bering and the First (1725-30) and Second (1730-41) Kamchatka Expeditions, historians have expressed very different views on the purposes and accomplishments of the expeditions. A brief summary of a few of them demonstrates the differences, reflecting the interpretations made of the sources available to the writer. Some original sources, not known in the 18th or 19th centuries, are now available and are better understood. This, together with new archival and archaeological research, provides a better understanding of the expeditions. The “old” idea that the purpose of the First Kamchatka Expedition was to discover a Northeast Passage is no longer acceptable. The idea that the Second Kamchatka Expedition had as its primary purpose the discovery of America is no longer favored. Historians are shifting their writing about the expeditions from themes of “discovery” to “exploration.” In biography, the image of Bering is now much improved over the times when national prejudices made him either a dolt or a saint. In leadership, Bering has recently been compared to Columbus and to Captain Cook. He has risen from a “plodding, incurious man” to a leader worthy of respect. Recent archival evidence provides a clearer view of Bering as a person. The literature and research on the two Russian expeditions provide an excellent case study of issues familiar to members of the SHD in their own historical research. These include the importance of evaluating all sources, especially original ones, and extreme care in interpreting them. The researcher must avoid national or personal prejudice and be extremely wary of translated sources.


The Discovery and Mapping of the Colville River, North Slope of Alaska
H. Jesse Walker and Molly McGraw

The mapping of the Colville River and its delta has been pursued for less than 200 years. Although the southern and western shores of Alaska appear on maps quite early, as recently as the 1830s the stretch of coast between 149°W and 156°W (Point Barrow) was left blank. Point Barrow was reached from the west by some of Capt. F. W. Beechey’s crew in 1826 and Sir John Franklin, in the same year, reached a point from the east to within about 50 km of the Kupik River, i.e., Colville River. He turned back at this location, which he called Return Reef. Thus the Colville Delta is located on the last section of Alaska’s coastline to be surveyed, a section that is about 250 km long. In 1837, P.W. Dease and Thomas Simpson set out to fill the gap and on July 24 reached the Kupik, which they named the Colville after Andrew Colville, esq. of the Hudson’s Bay Co. They continued on to Point Barrow and, upon reaching it, completed the first survey of the north coast of Alaska.

The Colville River was initially confused with the Yukon River. This confusion lasted until John Simpson published a map showing the Colville and Yukon as separate rivers flowing into the Arctic and Bering Seas, respectively. The Colville River’s watershed was gradually delineated during the late 19th century. By 1903 the US Geological Survey published the first fairly accurate map of the Colville River delta. Twenty years later (1923) the Survey published a map that accurately charted the entire Colville River.

This presentation will look at the discovery, exploration, and mapping of the Colville River. The early explorers will be discussed, as well as the evolution of the maps of the region.

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