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RICS 150

5 MAR 2018

Captain George Vancouver: Surveying North America's Pacific Coast

Captain George Vancouver is best known for his three expeditions in the years 1791 to 1795 in which he explored and surveyed North America’s north-western Pacific Coast regions, including the coasts of Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon.

A British officer in the Royal Navy, Vancouver corrected the pre-existing latitudes of the Northwest Passage, to such an accurate degree that it is still being used into the modern day as a navigational aid. Vancouver Island, the city of Vancouver and Mount Vancouver are all named after the surveyor.

He began his naval career as a 13 year old on the Resolution under Captain James Cook. In 1790, in his early 30s, Vancouver attained the rank of commander and was given command of HMS Discovery. His first expedition in the Discovery was charged with exploring the Pacific region, travelling to Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti and Hawaii and surveying the coastline while collecting botanical samples

As Vancouver proceeded to North America, he followed the west-coast of present-day Washington and Oregon. On reaching what is now known as Vancouver Island, he ordered a survey of every inlet and outlet of the mainland, all the way up north to Alaska. The task of surveying this land was all conducted from a small oar and sail boat.

Perhaps Vancouver’s most impressive accomplishment was determining that the Northwest Passage did not exist at the latitudes that had been long accepted. The Northwest Passage was a crucial trade sea route, from the European and northern Atlantic Ocean, to the Pacific Ocean via the Arctic Ocean.

His survey of the Northwest Passage was so accurate that they serve as the key reference even into the modern day. The voyage also settled once and for all that there was no sea passage connecting the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans south of the Bering Strait.

Due to his legendary expedition Vancouver Island, the City of Vancouver and Mount Vancouver were all named after the surveyor and retain his name to this day.