George Vancouver (June 22, 1757 - May 12, 1798) was an officer of the Royal Navy, and an explorer best known for his exploration of North America and the Pacific coast along Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. He was born in King's Lynn, England.
George Vancouver's first voyage to the Pacific was aboard Captain James Cook's HMS Resolution on Cook's second voyage of exploration, from 1772-1775. It was Vancouver's first naval service. He was only fifteen years old.
Vancouver served under Cook again, during his third voyage of discovery, this time aboard the Resolution's sister ship, HMS Discovery. This voyage lasted from 1776-1779.
Upon his return to Britain in 1779 Vancouver was commissioned as a lieutenant. His first post as a lieutenant was serving aboard the sloop HMS Martin , on patrol duties in the English Channel.
The next vessel Vancouver served in was the 74-gun ship of the line HMS Fame . The Fame was one of the vessels participating in the British victory in the Battle of the Saintes in 1782.
While serving on the West Indies station Vancouver was able to put his surveying and cartographic skills he learned under Cook to use surveying Port Royal and Kingston Harbour . He was assisted in this task by Joseph Whidbey , who was to later serve as his sailing master , during his voyage of exploration.
In 1789 the Royal Navy was planning another voyage of exploration to the Pacific. It was to be commanded by Henry Roberts , another of the proteges of Captain Cook. Vancouver was to be his second in command. HMS Discovery was purchased specifically for this mission.
However a dispute when Spanish forces seized Nootka Island in Nootka Sound put the expedition on hold. Spain and Britain came close to going to war. An accommodation was arrived at, the Nootka Convention, and war was avoided. But the preparations for war had disrupted to preparations.
By the time the convention had been signed Roberts was no longer available to lead the expedition. Vancouver was given command.
Vancouver's 1791-1794 exploration of North America's Pacific Coast
He followed the coasts of Oregon and Washington northward. In October 1792 he sent Lieutenant William Robert Broughton with several boats from Broughton's own ship to explore the Columbia River. Broughton navigated as far as the Columbia River Gorge, sighting and naming Mt. Hood. Vancouver also entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the mainland. He intended to explore every bay and outlet of this region, and many times had to use boats to do so, because the inlets were often too narrow for his ships. He met a Spanish exploring party led by Dionisio Alcala Galiano and Cayetano Valdes y Flores , and for some time they explored Puget Sound together. Afterwards, Vancouver went to Nootka (on Vancouver Island), then the region's most important harbour, where he was to get 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 of their explorations, but no agreement was reached; they decided to await further instructions. After a visit to Spanish California, Vancouver used the winter to further explore the Sandwich Islands.
The next year he went back to British Columbia, and explored the coast further north. He got 56 degrees north, and because the more northern parts had already been explored by Cook, he then sailed south to California, hoping to be able to fulfull his task regarding Nootka; however, Bodega y Quadra was not there. He again spent the winter on the Sandwich Islands.
In 1794, he first went to Cook Inlet, the northernmost limit of his exploration, and from there he followed the coast southward to Baranov Island, which he had also reached the year before. He then set sail for England, choosing the route around Cape Horn, thus completing a circumnavigation.
At the end of the exploration. Vancouver determined that the Northwest Passage did not exist at the latitudes that had long been suggested. Various locations around the world have been named after George Vancouver, including Vancouver Island (originally Vancouver & Quadra Island) and the cities of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Vancouver, Washington.
Vancouver had to face a disciplinary inquiry when he returned because of an action he had taken against a junior officer who happened to be well connected politically. His career was effectively at an end. This greatest of Britain's navigators after Cook, died in obscurity.
"Vancouver" History of the family name
The origins of the family name are a hotly disputed issue, popular belief states that the name is derived from a small village in the north east of the Netherlands. However this theory is directly quoted from the misinterpretations of Mr. Adrien Mansfeld (Consul General of the Netherlands based in Vancouver BC in the 1970's).
As per Mr. Mansvelt's theory, The family name Vancouver was derived from 'Van Coevorden', meaning 'from Coevorden', hence the locations mentioned were indirectly named after this town in the Netherlands.
The World exposition in Vancouver BC in 1986 Expo 86 asserted to the world that this belief was correct and solidified it as historical fact.
However this theory is based solely on the assumptions of Mr. Mansfeld and lack any actual proof, documents quoted by Mr. Mansvelt which are accepted as undeniable proof of his theory are at most skeptical proof of actual fact.
see also Captain Vancouver, another theory.
This theory is based on the theory that the name Vancouver was actually a misspelling or anglicized version of the name "van Couwen", which is still a very common name in the Netherlands.
Though the two theories both agree that the name was changed to an anglicized version of the original Dutch name, the contradictions start with "WHICH NAME" was changed and how was it changed.
Both opinions show ample evidence of being correct, but without actual DNA evidence it will likely never be proven otherwise.
Others present on Vancouver's voyage
Archibald Menzies, ship's doctor and naturalist on board Vancouver's voyage.
Peter Puget, lieutenant
- Zachariah Mudge
- Robert Barrie
- Spelman Swaine
- Edward Roberts
- Joseph Whidbey