Society for the History of Discoveries

47th Annual Meeting of the Society for the History of Discoveries

Portland, Oregon, USA
September 7-9, 2006


Unguided Exploration, Poor Observations:
Captain John Smith in Northern Virginia

Matthew H. Edney

Captain John Smith sailed down the coast of “Northern Virginia,” between Penobscot Bay and Cape Cod, during some five weeks in the summer of 1614. Smith narrated this brief episode, and provided a famous map of the coastline, in his Description of New England (London, 1616). In this, he carefully presented himself as a careful observer who reported only what he saw and found at first-hand; he noted, for example, that he was “no Alchymist” to make gold where none had hitherto existed. Drawing on his narrative and map, historians have considered Smith to have been an effective observer, guided by a local informant, who created the first recognizably accurate and not error-prone map of that coast.

This paper reconsiders this established view. The presence of a native guide turns out to have no empirical basis. Indeed, Smith himself was actually quite reticent in his own writings about his powers of observation and communication with the Abenaki. He was distracted from surveying and mapping by his principal goal of finding and exploiting trading opportunities. Finally, the map itself cannot be taken as being a product solely of Smith’s brief visit to northern Virginia, but was undoubtedly a composite of his own and other materials. All in all, Smith’s 1614 voyage becomes a case study of the limitations faced by European explorers when they were not guided by indigenous people; historians have been misguided in recognizing this by the apparent quality of the published map.

Did Smith (1819), Bellingshausen, Bransfield or Palmer (1820),
or Biscoe (1831) Discover The Real Antarctica?

Arthur B. Ford

The discoverer of Antarctica is debatable. "Terra Australis Incognita" dominated maps of high southern latitudes until Capt. James Cook's voyages of 1772–1775. First to cross the Antarctic Circle (17 Jan. 1773), Cook, stopped by the pack, saw evidence of an undiscovered landmass nearby (later found as only 80 mi. away). His reports quickly attracted avaricious fur-sealers and governments. Sealing competitors sailed in secrecy, so locations of rich finds, with sightings of new lands, commonly were lost.

"Antarctica" is defined today as the continent around the South Pole, including all lands connected by grounded ice. Its discovery is widely given to the first of three 1820 sightings: (16 Jan.) Russian Captain Fabian von Bellingshausen, of the Vostok, saw the front of an ice shelf, though no actual land (Princess Martha Coast); (30 Jan.) British Master Edward Bransfield (brig Williams), near Tower Island reported mountains (now, Antarctic Peninsula); and (16 Nov.) Connecticut fur sealer Capt. Nathanial Palmer (sloop Hero) visited Trinity Island and definitely saw the Peninsula. Dates favor Bellingshousen, who saw shelf ice assumed connected to a landmass.

On an 1819 Valparaiso-bound trading voyage from Buenos Aires, contrary winds blew English Capt. William Smith's brig Williams far south of normal Cape Horn routes. He encountered an unknown land 19 Feb., naming it "New South Britain" (now Livingston Island, South Shetland Islands). The Shetlands lie on the Pacific continental shelf of the Antarctic Peninsula. An island on a continental shelf (to c.200 m water depth) is a geological part of the overall actual continent, as in European "discoveries" of North America by Vikings (1001) and Cabot (1497 – of Newfoundland), or Columbus (1492 – of the Bahamas). Though Smith's logs were destroyed, substantial evidence remains for his unrecognized discovery of the last continent. 

Crediting discovery to Smith's 1819 accidental sighting, as here justified, would mean that Bransfield was first to sight the Antarctic Peninsula. The first clear sighting of land of East Antarctica (the principal part of the continent) was made 28 Feb. 1831 (Enderby Land region) by Capt. John Biscoe of the British sealing firm Enderby Brothers. When West Antarctica's ice sheet someday melts, a deep marine seaway will separate the true continent from a lengthy island presently called "Antarctic Peninsula." Future historians will then debate the case for continental discovery between Captains Bellingshausen and Biscoe and a new name must be found for today's "Peninsula."

The Mormons’ Role in Exploring the Interior American West
Richard Francaviglia

Although most of our knowledge about the exploration of the American West is derived from the records of U. S. government expeditions and surveys, this paper documents the importance of geographical discoveries by the Mormons. In addition to the well-documented Mormon Battalion, which traversed portions of Arizona and California, the Salt Lake City based Mormon church sponsored numerous efforts to explore the Interior West that became part of the proposed Mormon state of “Deseret.” These exploration efforts began shortly after the Mormons arrived in Salt Lake City in 1847, and were frequently mapped and described in considerable detail. They usually operated independently of government surveys, and were sometimes conducted secretly to avoid conflict with the federal government. However, on occasion, talented Mormon surveyors worked with government and other surveyors. Records in the Church Archives bring to light the cartography of Mormon surveyors and mapmakers, including James Martineau, George Washington Bean, W. W. Phelps, and John Steele. The early Mormon expeditions (1847-1859) were conducted for several reasons – to establish communities, locate more direct travel routes to California, create missions among the Indians, find mineral deposits, and locate areas where the Latter-day Saints could be free of government interference. When studied carefully, the records of these expeditions shed light on the topography, hydrology, geology, vegetation, and native inhabitants of the interior American West. 

Beeswax, Teak and Castaways:
Searching for Oregon's Lost Protohistoric Asian Ship
E. W. Giesecke

Exploration and commerce in the Pacific was well underway more than a century ago before the remote northwest coast of America received its first non-native visitors. An unfortunate member, a seventeenth century transpacific, Asian and teak-built ship was wrecked on the Nehalem, Oregon coast. The timbered hull of the old vessel was associated with humans by later ethnological studies and with many tons of beeswax blocks and candles. It was last exposed through the shifting sand in 1926. Again and for the last time the wreck was covered on the then-barren sandspit by strong ocean winds. Its exact location has been lost, hiding its historic riches of intercontinental first contact. Scores of teak timbers and at least a dozen tons of beeswax have been found, radiocarbon dated to more than 300 years ago and placed as to early Asian origins. Porcelain sherds of Chinese make have been sifted out. The author set out, several decades ago, to rediscover this first visitor’s actual location. He conducted interviews with early residents of the Oregon coast, sorted documents and located aged newspaper clippings. The assemblage of these spottings cluster well together on a map of the Nehalem peninsula. Archaeological investigation is proposed. Rediscovering the teak wreck, this time excavating some of it, will tell much of intercultural contact 150 years before Oregon coast settlement. If the vessel is a Manila galleon, it may well be the San Francisco Xavier, lost in 1705 and carrying some 200 souls, 75 tons of beeswax and a cargo of precious Asian goods. It would be one of only two such historic galleons known to have wrecked on the entire west coast.

Dressing and Undressing in the History of Discovery
Anne Good

Clothing has long been recognized as an important repository of both ethnic and personal meaning. This paper discusses some significant examples of cross-cultural dressing and undressing from the seventeenth through the early nineteenth centuries, in order to argue that clothing exchanges offer us a significant way to investigate inter-cultural understanding in the long age of discovery. By “cross-cultural dressing and undressing” I mean putting on the clothes of a culture not one’s own, and, conversely, taking off those clothes, often to symbolically express a rejection of the foreign culture. Instances of this kind of dressing and undressing are discussed in travelers’ accounts and are depicted in paintings or engravings as well. 

This paper discusses specific examples from the global north and south and develops categories for understanding sartorial exchanges. I will begin with a discussion of the famous painting (by Charles B.J.F. de Saint Mémin) and later engraving (by William Strickland) of Meriwether Lewis wearing a Shoshone tippet or cape. This portrait, as well as Lewis’s description of exchanging clothing and names with the Shoshone suggests the remarkable ability of the Corps of Discovery to improvise and to promote meaningful cultural contact. The paper then touches briefly on the famous portrait of Linnaeus wearing traditional Saami (or Lapp) costume, as well as portraits of Jesuit missionaries to China dressed as Confucian scholars or Mandarins. These portraits were meant to show how deeply these men had immersed themselves in Saami and Chinese culture, and at the same time suggested that their written works carried special value as caches of knowledge about other places and peoples. Finally, the paper looks at the uses of clothing in South Africa, especially in the Cape Colony in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. European explorers described the elements of Khoikhoi (or Hottentot) costume in great deal, but none of them mentioned trying on Khoikhoi clothing, and none of them were depicted in this dress. Only castaways and social outcasts occasionally discarded European clothing as well. Europeans did, however, make selective borrowings, apparently adapting Khoikhoi velskoene or sandals made from hides, for example. But many Khoikhoi seem to have taken on European clothing much more quickly. Some Europeans who wrote about life at the Cape recognized the significance of Khoikhoi changes in clothing. Among several examples discussed in the paper, the most well-known story in the eighteenth century was that of Pegu, a Khoikhoi man who was raised from childhood in the household of one of the governors of the Cape. Pegu famously rejected his European upbringing when he reached adulthood, and stripped himself of his European clothing before returning to his people.

These examples of significant dressing and undressing in the history of discovery are clearly not all parallel: some depict moments of cultural contact, while others allow us to see long term consequences of cultural interaction. However, focusing on instances where clothing becomes the main expression of cultural exchange, or lack thereof, gives us another way to access the meaning of this fascinating period of world history.

Mapping the Territory of Oregon
Robert L. Hamm

The large tract of land now known as the Pacific Northwest attracted the attention of early European and American explorers, fur trappers, and Eden-seekers. Long before Captains Lewis and Clark made the trek westward at the request of President Thomas Jefferson, fabulous stories of cities of gold and unlimited natural resources piqued the interests of English, Spanish, Russian, and American explorers. The idea of Manifest Destiny in the young United States fueled the quick and urgent annexation of territories on the West Coast. Shortly after gold was discovered in California, that large area became a state in 1850. Oregon followed in 1859.

In my map collection I have twenty different names that have been given to what we today call Oregon, including familiar names such as “Oregon Territory,” “New Albion,” “Western Territory,” and “United States Territory.” Lesser-known names I have on maps include “Rupertsland,” “New Caledonia,” “New England,” and others. Several maps show this area to be called “Missouri” and “Louisiana,” names not normally associated with the West Coast. 

As explorers and ship captains continued to explore, many errors appeared on maps, and some errors stayed around for quite a while as cartographers copied each other’s mistakes. Perhaps the most obvious ones are mountain ranges that don’t exist, lakes with rivers running in and out, and the huge inland “Western Sea” or “La Mer de l’Ouwest.”

Scurvy and the Early Exploration of Canada
Conrad E. Heidenreich

The paper will present an overview of the incidence and impact of scurvy on the exploration, over-wintering, and beginning of settlement in what is now Canada from about 1520 to 1630. Four broad geographical areas will be examined:
1. The coast of Acadia from the time of early Portuguese exploration and settlement (c. 1520) to the exploration and colonization by De Monts and Champlain (1604-07).
2. The St. Lawrence River Valley from the over-wintering by Cartier (1535) to the settlement under Champlain (1635). 
3. The Arctic from Frobisher’s explorations (1576) to wintering by Hudson, Munck and James (1632), including some comparisons to the experiences of Arctic whalers in the nineteenth century.
4. Newfoundland’s early settlement (1610-30).
Using data derived from the expeditions to and attempts at settlement in these areas, generalizations will be drawn about the onset and development of the disease over time, incidence of death, hypotheses about causes, attempts at curing, and the impact of scurvy on exploration and settlement.

Preliminary findings suggest that scurvy was present on most of the early expeditions to Canada but presented serious difficulties only as voyages became longer in duration and especially with over-wintering. By the end of the sixteenth century, there was serious doubt in Western Europe whether Canada could be settled. When settlements were established early in the seventeenth century, it took some three years before scurvy began to wane to the point where it was no longer a major cause of death. Factors that diminished the impact of scurvy were the beginnings of horticulture, copying native behavior, and learning to live off the land.

Scurvy: A Vitamin Deficiency Disease
Nancy Heidenreich

One of the most frequently encountered and devastating diseases experienced by early explorers of the New World is scurvy, attributable to the absence of adequate vitamin C (ascorbic acid) in the diet. This paper will outline the physiological functions of ascorbic acid and relate them to the clinical signs of this deficiency disease. The body’s requirement for vitamin C, various food sources, and factors affecting the stability of the vitamin will be outlined. Using an analysis of late sixteenth century food rations from the second Frobisher expedition, which is representative of the diet on English ships into the late eighteenth century and in initial settlements, evidence will be presented of a deficiency of vitamin C in the food supply of these early travelers.

Joseph Banks and Associates:
Volcanoes and Geological Excursions

Donald Hogarth

Joseph Banks was a naturalist on Phipp's voyage to Newfoundland (1766) and Cook's first circumnavigation of the globe (1768-1771). He was President of the Royal Society of London (1778-1820) and created baronet (1781). Best known in science for contributions to botany and zoology, he also encouraged progress in the new and evolving science of geology. In the 1760's, Banks' geological appetite was whetted when he observed possible volcanic rocks disposed in thin layers, near a lead mine on his Overton estate, Derbyshire, England. Then, in 1772, he eagerly embarked on his own voyage to Iceland, in order to examine volcanic phenomena and volcanic rocks. In the outward voyage, he made an unscheduled stop at Fingal's Cave, Isle of Staffa, Scotland, and produced the first descriptions and observations of its columnar basalt. In the present paper, emphasis will be placed on theories (from absurd, to questionable, to highly likely) of the origin of columnar basalt from Staffa, and "toadstone" from Derbyshire. The story will touch on minerals, major misappropriations of funds, impostors, personal success stories, and American history. Throughout the thirteen-year period (1772-1785), Banks had to steer his ship, around obstacles of misguided persona, through the turbulent seas of science, toward the goal of truth. 

The Discovery of the northern Marshall Islands by the Spanish,
between 1526 and 1568

Rodrigue Lévsque

The Marshall Islands got their name from the British sea-captain who re-discovered them in June 1788. However, various Spanish expeditions had already discovered them more than two and a half centuries earlier. This paper will present the historical facts of these earlier discoveries from Spanish documents, show the result of a study of ship tracks, and identify the islands that were thus discovered. In a sense, this will be a summary of some documents from Volumes 1 and 2 of my series of books on the "History of Micronesia", and a re-write of Sections 4 to 10 of the well-known book on the "Discovery of the Pacific Islands" by Andrew Sharp

To summarize, the northern Marshall Islands discovered by the Spanish are: 1) Taongi, by the Loaysa expedition in 1526; 2) Ujelang and Eniwetok, by Saavedra in 1529; 3) Wotje, Likiep, and Wotho, by Villalobos in 1542-43; 4) Mejit, Ailuk, and Jemo, by Legazpi in 1565; 5) there are a number of possibilities along the track of the rescue ship of 1566, but the most likely route was via Erikub and Kwajalein; and 6) Namu, discovered by the first Mendana expedition in 1568.

The Discovery and Charting of Ripple Rock
Michael Layland

Until 1958 Ripple Rock menaced shipping that navigated Seymour Narrows, the most constricted reach of British Columbia’s Inside Passage. This sheltered waterway, linking Puget Sound with Alaska, gained significance with the Klondike gold rush and later with mounting geo-political tensions in the North Pacific. 

Ripple Rock, an isolated twin-headed pinnacle, sprang from a general depth of 60 fathoms (360 feet, 110 meters) to within 1.5 fathoms (9 feet, 2.75 meters) below the surface at lowest tide. Tidal surges through the narrows, at up to 15 knots, create attendant whirlpools and powerful counter eddies. The turbulent currents alone seemed hazard enough, but they concealed an even greater danger.

In 1792 Capt. George Vancouver, having awaited slack high-water to do so, transited the narrows in HMS Discovery and noted the rapids but not the rock, as did Cmdr. George Gordon in HMS Cormorant in 1846, and Capt. George Richards in the surveying vessel HMS Plumper in 1860. The resultant Admiralty charts and sailing directions reflected both their observations and their ignorance until 1866. Daniel Pender, Master RN, commanding the HBC side-wheeler Beaver under charter for hydrographic surveying duties, learned from a trader that the rapids in Seymour narrows concealed a rock. He investigated and, during the all-too-brief respite of slack water, managed to measure just a single sounding over the hazard — at 3½ fathoms below low water. He named it Ripple Rock and the Admiralty issued an urgent Hydrographic Notice warning of the peril. They published a new chart, just for Seymour Narrows. As technologies improved, more detailed information about the underwater threat was added to the Seymour Narrows chart until 1902.

Notwithstanding the publication of clear warnings about Ripple Rock, several vessels were lost or severely damaged on it, including, in 1875, the USS Saranac. Loss of life directly attributable to the hazard exceeded 110. The danger was eventually removed in 1958 with the biggest non-nuclear, man-made explosion on record. Thereafter, 7 fathoms of water covered the twin peaks at lowest tide.

This paper will trace the chorographic history of Ripple Rock using the series of Admiralty charts and the associated comments in the sailing directions.

George Vancouver Meets Tlingit Indian Women
Dee Longenbaugh

Much has been written about George Vancouver's exploration and surveys of the Northwest Coast of America in 1793 and 1794, but very little on his interchanges with the Tlingit Indians of today's Southeastern Alaska. This paper not only discusses the Tlingit women, some of them warriors, but also shows Vancouver as a man with astonishingly modern views on Indian actions vis-a-vis Europeans.

The Journey of Moncacht Apé: Its Possible Effects
on Contemporary Maps and on the Route of Lewis and Clark

Don McGuirk
(Paper delivered by James V. Walker)

There is a story told of a Yazoo Indian, Moncacht-Apé, who traveled from Natchez (current day Mississippi) to the north Pacific Coast about 100 years before the Lewis and Clark Expedition. This story is found in a book written by Monsieur Le Page du Pratz in 1758. The title of this book is “Histoire de la Louisiane”. 

Le Page du Pratz had previously lived in Louisiana for 18 years. While there he had been a keen observer of the land and the Native Americans living there. The copious notes he wrote during that time eventually found their way into this book. 

This paper will briefly outline the journey as told by Moncacht-Apé to Le Page du Pratz and then compare the statements regarding it to several maps published between 1758 and 1800, looking for evidence of its influence. The paper will also present a brief comparison of the two routes (e.g. Moncacht- Apé vs. Lewis and Clark), suggesting an influence of the former on the later. 

The casual observer may at first feel that such a comparison is unwarranted or audacious until they learn that one of the few books that Lewis and Clark took with them on their Journey was the English translation of this very “Histoire de la Louisiane”.

The Leagues and Longitudes of Columbus
Arne Molander

Most theories about the track of Columbus’ 1492 exploration route through the Bahama Islands rely on S. E. Morison’s invention of a short “land league” of about 1½ nautical miles to match Rum Cay to the much larger dimensions of the second island along that route of discovery. But his Journal shows Columbus measured other land distances in leagues of 3.0 nautical miles. A prime example is the Journal’s entry describing his visit to the Portuguese king at the “Valle del Paraiso, nine leagues from Lisbon.” In his “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” Morison himself mapped that overland distance as exactly 27 nautical miles. A second Journal entry measures leagues from the Santa Maria to six prominent Hispaniola features. As mapped by Morison, those distances dictate a league length of 3.0 nautical miles, a relationship Morison correctly portrayed in the dual distance scales on his map. 

Using this corrected league length, Morison’s candidate for the second island, Rum Cay, is less than a third the 10-league length measured by Columbus. My candidate, New Providence, is only 5 ½ leagues in length, but it’s abutting islets, absent at Rum Cay, increase its apparent length to over 10 leagues when viewed from shipboard.

Strong circumstantial evidence indicates Columbus frequently used his Ephemerides to measure longitude from lunar-planetary conjunctions above his horizon reference. Although big longitude biases are introduced by differential refraction of the two bodies, a ten-fold error reduction is achieved by taking measurements when the lower body is about 7 degrees above the horizon reference. These elevated angles coincide with those of solar eclipses measured by Columbus in 1477 and Magellan in 1520.  

From Northeast Asia to the Pacific Northwest: “Marco Polo” Maps and Myths
Benjamin B. Olshin

As far is known, Marco Polo left no maps related to his travels. Indeed, some have expressed doubt as to whether Marco Polo ever traveled at all, since the narrative about his trip to the Far East is second hand, penned by his cellmate in Venice, Rustichello. Moreover, the narrative seems to leave out key elements of Chinese culture such as the drinking of tea. But we do have the narrative itself, Il Milione, and the fact that this text played a key role for several centuries in both mapmaking and exploration. Toponyms from Marco Polo’s text appear on maps even as late as the sixteenth century; Columbus owned and annotated a copy of the narrative, and was greatly influenced by the work. Yet Marco Polo himself traveled in a period that had yet to see the development of modern cartography, and most of the maps that survive from this time — the late thirteenth century — are simple world maps.

It was only with the publication of an article by Leo Bagrow in 1948 in the journal Imago Mundi that there appeared the possibility of a very close connection between the travels of Marco Polo, the narrative of Il Milione, and cartography. In his article, Bagrow presented a number of maps that belonged to a man named Marcian F. Rossi, an Italian who had immigrated to the U.S. in the latter part of the nineteenth century. These maps, Rossi claimed, came directly from the family of Marco Polo. Rossi, in fact, had submitted photostat copies of some of the maps to the Library of Congress in 1933. The Library of Congress ended up receiving one of these maps as a gift from Rossi, the “Map with Ship,” so called because of a small illustration of a ship in the document. That map is still in possession of the Library of Congress. That map — and others in the collection — seem to show not just the farthest reaches of northeast Asia, but also some land beyond a narrow strait.

These other maps discussed by Bagrow have never been seen by the public, and never subjected to any kind of in-depth examination. I have had the unique opportunity to examine them, working in conjunction with the current owner, and the Chief of the Geography and Map Division of the Library of Congress, John Hébert. Debate is already growing around this collection, since Gunnar Thompson and Gavin Menzies have looked at them as evidence for their “1421” speculations.

This talk will present my (slightly more skeptical) research on the maps, an analysis of what they purport to show, and a critical examination of the debates that are developing around them.

Francis Drake and Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño:
The Evidence of the Ming Porcelains

Edward Von der Porten

More than a century's research, beginning with George Davidson's 1886 publication of his findings and continuing through the work of many scholars in many fields in the twentieth century, has identified the 1579 California harbor of Francis Drake as Drake's Cove at the entrance to Drakes Estero in the Point Reyes National Seashore. Over the years, many have disputed that identification, but it has stood the test of time.

However, the issue of physical evidence of Drake's presence has often been raised. It is complicated by the presence at Drakes Bay of Sebastian Rodriguez Cermeño's shipwreck and encampment in 1595, a mere sixteen years after the Drake visit. Undisputable late sixteenth-century artifacts uncovered in quantity in archaeological work at Drakes Bay Native-American sites sometimes were simply attributed to Cermeño's visit without attempting to see whether some or all of them might have come from Drake's visit.

That changed in 1980, when more than seven hundred porcelain sherds were studied intensively by the late Clarence Shangraw, Senior Curator of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and a noted Chinese porcelain scholar, and the speaker. The results of these two independent studies identified one-third of the original plates, bowls, cups, and vases as dating from the late 1570s on art-historical grounds, and recognized that they were a landed and abandoned cargo, devoid of shipwreck damage. The remaining two-thirds were identified as mid-1590s wares which exhibited typical surf tumbling, deriving from an offshore shipwreck: the San Agustin. As Shangraw wrote, the late 1570s porcelains "must fairly be attributed to Francis Drake's Golden Hind visit of 1579." This paper will present how this work was done and these conclusions reached.

The French maps of North America from Lahontan and Delisle to Le Page and Buache
Gordon Sayre

This presentation is a case study of the dialectic between cartographers and explorers—the geographic desires and myths that shaped the image of western North America. In late 1702 or early 1703 Louis de Lom d’Arce, Baron de Lahonton, published in Holland his three-volume Nouveaux Voyages en Amérique Septentrionale. It included a narrative of his travels through the Great Lakes, across the Fox-Wisconsin portage, down the Mississippi, and westward up “La Rivière Longue” through a series of increasingly populous and sophisticated native nations. At the point where he turned around, Lahontan reported how native informants told him that further west was a salty sea around which lived the large nations of Mozeemleks and Tahuglauks, who built large boats, and wore long garments and pointed hats. He documented his western exploration with a map.

In Paris, later in 1703, the Royal cartographer Guillaume Delisle read Lahontan’s new book and quickly revised the drafts he had been working on of his Carte du Canada ou de la Nouvelle France, sketching a copy of Lahontan’s map onto a patch and incorporating it into his published version, along with a note indicating where the new geographic information had come from. Lahontan in his book was sharply critical of the officials in New France and of the Catholic Church. He went into exile after his return from Canada, and his first stop was Portugal and then Spain, where he drew for the Duke de Jovenazo a very different map. This one showed the Mississippi Valley with no Long River and no inland sea.

In the first half of the eighteenth-century the French royal cartographers, first Delisle and then his son-in-law Philippe Buache, stubbornly maintained that western North America was broken up by a large inland sea, the Mer de l’Ouest, connected to the Pacific, or Mer du Sud, by a narrow straight. An inland sea would make the passage through North America much easier, and thereby facilitate the development of trade with Asia, and so long as France controlled the Mississippi Valley it would control this trade route. Lahontan’s narrative and map contributed to this myth, and explorers who pushed up the Arkansas and Missouri rivers in the 1720s, including Jean-François Benjamin Dumont de Montigny, did not dispel it when questioned by Delisle and Buache. In 1752-53 Buache published two treatises promoting the idea. But later in 1753 Dumont and Antoine Simon Le Page du Pratz each published a story from a Yazoo Indian named Moncacht-Apé, who had traveled to the Pacific Ocean without finding any Western Sea. Le Page refuted the speculations of Delisle and Buache and his subsequent book, Histoire de la Louisiane (1758), included a map which though it does not show the Pacific Coast, plots the route of Moncacht-Apé up the Missouri and down a westward flowing river, with no Mer de l’Ouest. 

Up until the end of the Seven Years War, French cartographers filled in the white spaces of western North America with hopeful speculations that might help their struggling colonial projects there. Delisle and his office did much to advance the technical standards of cartography. But as they also tried to digest every new exploration narrative, however fabulous, into their new maps, they fostered a feedback loop of geographic myth. Explorers claimed to find what their Paris leaders wanted, until Le Page (and the war) finally put a stop to it, at which point Jefferson and Lewis and Clark inherited the myths as their own.

On the Vessel Sailed by Bartholome Ruiz in 1526:
Characterization and Significance for the Pre-Columbian Archaeology
of Northwestern South America

Cameron McPherson Smith

The nature of the vessel sailed by Spaniard Bartholome Ruiz, who in 1526 AD encountered a large aboriginal vessel off the coast of Ecuador, is investigated. Using multiple lines of evidence including (a) historical texts, (b) period illustrations, (c) analyses of Ruiz’s intentions and actions on this voyage and (d) the results of numerous experimental reconstructions of early Spanish vessels of exploration, the Ruiz vessel is concluded to have been a lateen-rigged caravel. This is significant because the native sailing raft was said by the Spaniards to have been equipped with sails essentially identical to their own. This in turn is significant in understanding the sailing abilities of the late precontact aboriginal Northwest South Americans, specifically the Mante of Western Ecuador, who were marine-adapted as early as 2000BC. Inferring the nature of Mante watercraft allows us to better characterize the options and constraints that would have conditioned their maritime activities.

Exploration and Innovation in Oceania
Alice Storey
(winner of 2005 SHD Essay Contest)

The colonization of Oceania is the most recent human migration event. This unparalleled journey resulted in the population of a geographic area that is over 1/3 of the globe and yet is one of the least well known in human prehistory. This presentation will introduce these migrations and the technological and scientific advancements which allowed them to be made over 3000 years ago and rediscovered by modern archaeologists. From work with the chemical signatures of rocks and pottery, reconstructions of lost languages and the careful reconstruction of ancient genetic codes we catch glimpses of the Pacific past and honor those who make it their life’s work.

Wu Tang, Marco Polo, Zheng He & Drake:
Secret Voyages to the Pacific Northwest

Gunnar Thompson

When the English explorer Francis Drake reached the Pacific Northwest in 1579, he complained of the “vile, stinking fogs.” His expedition on the Golden Hind was still in a fog—a deep fog of mystery—following the return to England in 1580. Drake’s maps and log were confiscated and the crew was sworn to secrecy regarding their route of transit around the world. To this day, the controversy rages on concerning where the Queen’s favorite cavalier might have landed on his daring trek up the West Coast. Did he find the Golden Gate, the Columbia River, or the Northwest Passage?

I have found an authentic copy of Drake’s map in the archives of the British Museum. What it shows will astound you—because the accuracy of the map could only have been possible with the aid of a shipboard clock. If true, this would be the earliest documented use of a mechanical clock for navigation and mapping. 

This presentation will retrace the exciting overseas expeditions of ancient Pacific mariners to the Northwest Coast beginning with the legendary Chinese Admiral—Wu Tang. By the 13th century, the Venetian spy Marco Polo sailed with Yuan Dynasty mariners across the Pacific Ocean. Their secret expeditions involved the mapping of the West Coast from Alaska to Peru. Ming Dynasty explorers commanded by the famous Admiral Zheng He completed the survey of the West Coast—thereby converting Marco Polo’s “Island California” into a peninsula that is later seen on maps by Mercator in the 16th century. 

This presentation will include illustrations of Chinese jade coins that archeologists found at Teotihuacan, Marco Polo’s map of the Pacific Northwest featuring Puget Sound and the Columbia River, Zheng He’s 1418 World Map (first reported to the public in January of 2006), the “lost Queen’s Map” attributed to Francis Drake, and ancient Chinese coins recently found by archeologists at a native village site on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington State. 

Non-Medically Related Maps by Medical Doctors, 1480 to 1900
Norman J. W. Thrower
SHD Fellow

The large number of medical doctors interested in maps has often been remarked upon. This includes physicians and surgeons professionally concerned with the mapping of disease as well as those who have contributed more generally with maps or writings on cartography. The speaker treated both categories in a paper, “Doctors and Maps,” which was published in the summer number of The Map Collector, 1995, pp. 10-14, 8 illus. This article elicited correspondence and the names of doctors not on my list. These are included in this revision of the former paper.

In 2005 a book Cartographies of Disease: Maps, Mapping and Medicine, by Tom Koch, was published by ESRI Press, Redlands, California. This included the work of medical doctors and others, specifically on medical mapping, from the last decade of the 17th century up to 2005. By contrast, the present paper treats only non-medical cartography by medical doctors during a period of over four centuries. Members of other learned professions have made maps or written on the subject, but the number of medical doctors who have contributed to cartography seems especially high. The question is raised why is this the case? and the work of a score of practitioners is reviewed, briefly, and illustrated.

“In this sign you shall conquer.” The Cross of the Order of Christ
in Sixteenth-Century Portuguese Cartography

Matthew Hill Voss
(winner of 2006 SHD Essay Contest)

Although recent scholarship has rightly argued that for the Portuguese colonial “possession” was based on monopolization of logistical and navigational information, not the control of territory, Portugal also justified its right to empire on religious grounds. This is evident in a chart of the Atlantic made by Jorge Reinel c.1540, on which two different flags designate Portugal’s possessions in West Africa and Brazil: the royal standard and the Cross of the Order of Christ. This is not mere decoration, for while the royal standards are placed in areas where Portugal had an established presence, the Cross of the Order of Christ marks places where that presence was unrealized or challenged. The Cross symbolized the ideology of crusade that had driven Portugal’s expansion and was its chief legitimizing factor. By marking these uncertain possessions on the chart with the Cross, I argue, Portugal included them in its wide and exclusive mandate to conquer lands for the glory of God, thus creating a powerful justification of its empire and a legitimate reason to defend it from interlopers.

Glimpses of Life of a Frontier Military Doctor:
Scurvy at Ft. Atkinson, 1819-1820

James V. Walker

Scurvy is usually considered in the context of men exposed to prolonged nutritional deficiencies during extended maritime voyages. However, even before and after the age of sail, clinical consequences of prolonged Vitamin C deficiency caused countless deaths among land-based populations, especially during many military campaigns. Land scurvy continued to be regularly recorded in the reports of military engagements of many countries well into the twentieth century. 

This paper examines the outcome of the U.S. Army Missouri Expedition of 1818-1820 during which 160 out of 800 men died of scurvy while encamped near present day Omaha, Nebraska, on the upper Missouri River. This was the single largest loss of men in the U.S. Army to this disease during peacetime.

Using both primary and secondary source material, I will briefly highlight multiple factors of military policy which contributed to this event, examine the extensive correspondence of one of the attending surgeons, John Gale, which illustrates his familiarity with the disease and his personal reaction to conditions overwhelming his capabilities, and describe the initial impact of this event on both Army Command and the Surgeon General.

Alexander Mackenzie, First Across the North American Continent, 
Twelve Years Before Lewis & Clark

William J. Warren

Alexander Mackenzie was a Scotsman who went to work at an early age for the Hudson's Bay Company. He was assigned to the Lake Athabasca region where he traded with Native Americans for furs. The arduous path to the European market prompted Mackenzie and others to seek a westward path to the Pacific. His first attempt to find such a route ended in the Arctic Ocean and frustration. A second attempt in 1793 brought him to the Pacific coast but the route proved impractical for commercial purposes. His book describing his travels was published in 1801, prompting Thomas Jefferson to quickly organize an American expedition to protect United States' interests in the Pacific Northwest. This presentation incorporates many illustrations from Derek Hayes' fine book, First Crossing, published in 2001.

As of September 11, 2006

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