Salt Spring Island Archives

Donate Now Through!


West Coast Exploration

Tom Wright

Accession Number Interviewer
Date Location
Media Audio CD
ID Topic




Unknown Speaker 0:00
Well, good afternoon, everyone, there's certainly a nice thank you for coming out. Tom rate has

Unknown Speaker 0:20
for the past 28 years, and he's a former

Unknown Speaker 0:29
geologist and teacher

Unknown Speaker 0:33
who has retired here now, you may have lost his capacity as a as a writer in The Guardian, and in the Fall issue, there was a historical article here on the ups and downs on the lathe of jobs, and you might find interesting and sure you are interested in

Unknown Speaker 1:19
I'm delighted to be here and happy to see so many people, I must admit there are about twice as many of you as I expected. So I drew some maps, which are intended to be seen at about half the distance that you've focused on at the bank. So if they turn out to be inadequate, I'll lay them out on the table, and you can have a look at the end. And also, if I can't be heard at the bank, if you go like that, I know what you mean, because I'm speaking a little farther away than I had anticipated.

Unknown Speaker 1:50
fumble around and get some things ready. Including the size I don't think many people here. But I need them to read. But on my disk drives can go from there. I apologize. I apologize. That the title of today's talk was a little bit enigmatic. Because

Unknown Speaker 2:17
it just happened to be the title of the article, which I have written for the magazine. So that's why it's called the end of the earth or living at the end of the earth, I think it was. And I expect those of you who are historically minded probably quit what I'm on about. This is the end of the earth right here. And the purpose of the article was to try to explain to people why this was the end of the year. And those of you who are historians, I'm sure you've probably heard this or everything I've got to say today. And I hope that you won't be bored by that. But you'll find the things that I have to say well appear like old friends. And if you learn maybe one thing out of today's, my day won't be wasted. Before I started, I thought I would like to point out, for those of you haven't seen a couple of really nice new books that have come out recently about this part of the world. And one of them was published in 82. And one just very recently this last year, and the two books are as well read this information, from maps to metaphors. This one edited by Tisha and Johnson, UBC press 1993. And it's about the Pacific world of George Vancouver. And it's particularly about the relationships between this part of the coasts and the 18th century exploration of all of Polynesia, I think you'll find it quite interesting. The other book is called the northwest coast, British navigation, trade and discoveries to 1812 by Barry golf. Now, this was a year older, but some of you may not have seen it. So I just bring them to your attention, but then you will enjoy them. As I mentioned earlier, the article that I wrote was really written for lay men, it wasn't intended for historical experts. I know some of you are actually professional historians, so bear with me. I have also drawn a few maps that say I'm going to try hanging up on a nail over there. One of the unknowns of this particular meeting is whether I can get a hole in the mouth over the little nail. We'll find out in a minute. The second I'm known as better this table is going to pull out Sunday. I'll try so here we go. Living at the end of the I think it was Napoleon who said history is about a fable agreed upon. So all history is seen through somebody's eyes, but it depends greatly on just whose eyes did the sin. And since most of us come from a European heritage, our knowledge of history is taken through European eye is, and that is why I see this as the end of the earth because it was in fact about the last part of the world to be explored from the European point of view. From the point of view of Europeans, America lay hidden over the horizon behind the mists for most of history actually. And its discovery and exploration were very, very recent, just yesterday, historically, speaking. Much of Africa and the Far East were also lands with mystery for a long time. Although you can rest assure that the people who live there didn't feel particularly undiscovered, we tend to see things very much our own eyes in history. The ancient Greeks knew that the Earth was a sphere. And it was in about 250 BC that era fascination was the Chief Librarian as a library of Alexandria, discovered that the sun shines straight down a well, it's Sirenia in Egypt, while passing immeasurable shadow at Alexandria, about 800 kilometers to the north. So he was able to calculate the circumference of the earth. And he actually came very close to the correct figure, which I'm sure you all know, is 40,074 kilometers, I have to look at it fair. So I don't know that either. Following the collapse of the, or maybe I just might say that the Greeks knowing the size of the Earth and knowing it was a sphere, must have known very well, it didn't know anything about the other half of it. It was unknown. And archives the world here lay in the unknown part of the following the collapse of the Roman Empire. And the burning of the Library of Alexandria came the dark ages went on almost all scientific knowledge was forgotten in Europe. Inside the Middle Ages, most people thought the world was flat, and to a European, the world might have looked something like a stress map.

Unknown Speaker 7:08
Find out I'm good I'm starting.

Unknown Speaker 7:23
To think of water, because I'm already going dry. Can you in fact, see that from the back? Oh, good. even brighter stick with me. So I can point to bits of it. As you see, in the Middle Ages, most people would have seen the world in some fashion like this. Jerusalem, the right at the center of their paradise flying off to the east. And the whole map is oriented this way because of the importance of paradise. And then the three continents in Europe, Asia, Europe and Africa, divided by the Don River, the Red Sea and the Mediterranean. And the only purpose of putting up that map is so that you can agree that the Americas are absent. So they're unknown. But that was much the way people saw the world. In the Middle Ages, not the ships that people used to do their explorations in the Middle Ages weren't particularly suitable for exploration because they couldn't sail into the wind. So many of the discoveries only happened when a ship was blown off course, to an unexpected shores, I'm sorry. And for many centuries, legend and FRAC were intertwined as seafarers braved the perils of falling off the edge of the earth if they went too far, and some of them were seeking the fortunate Isles or the islands of the blessing. An early concept of Heaven and the real Canary Islands, the pharaohs, Iceland, Madeira and so forth, were mapped read along with purely imaginary places such as Hi Brazil. Tara Reade promise Fiona sanctorum Promised Land, st Brendan's isles and then cilia, some of which remained on seafarers charts for centuries. Legendary voyagers by the Irish St. Brendan and 545 ad prints made up of Wales in 1170 ad, and the Scottish Henry Sinclair, Earl of Orkney in 1398. Ad. Paul predated Columbus but you'll never say refer them as legendary because he's not a great sales of blue eyed Welsh speaking Indians along the Mississippi are believed by some people to this day. And others say that Sinclair was the original Bruce capital, the MC Mark legends. Various authenticated North American contact by Europeans, of course, was the Norseman and the only Harrelson sailed past Finland and 96 ad was followed 15 years later by Leif the lucky Irishman, who founded a short lived colony at Arsenal meadows in Newfoundland. Interesting enough to sagas often referred to Welsh pregnant to Irish priests, they aren't sure to meet the explorers in our landfalls to the west seeming to lend some credence to those earlier, Iris explorations. Anyway, the Sagas were gradually forgotten or dismissed as legends by the Southern Europeans. But there's some suspicion that points of view as fishermen indeed found the grand backstop, Newfoundland, but just didn't tell anybody about it, if they knew they were there. In the late 1400s, the works of Claudius Ptolemy, who lived about 1000 years earlier, from 73 to 151 ad. Anyway, the works of Claudius Ptolemy were rediscovered, and widely distributed by the new technology of printing which was just coming out at the time, and a spherical Earth, as opposed to flat earth over there, came back into fashion. Just about the same time that marine technology was perfecting ships, which could sail into the wind. Now Ptolemy, his mouth was wonderfully detailed, but it was also somewhat distorted. Among his errors were an exaggerated different distance across Eurasia, from Portugal to China. And the global circumference of only about 29,000 kilometers compared to that 40,000. And, of course, he also knew nothing at all about the Americas. fellow called Marinus of Tyre who lived in the second century AD, had also done some interesting calculations involving the walking speed of a camel. And he found that it took seven months for a camel to reach China. And from this, he had calculated the width across Eurasia to come up with a larger figure than Tawny. And using Ptolemies global circumference and marinas version of the distance across Eurasia, Columbus was able to predict that China lay only a few 1000 kilometers west of Portugal. So Columbus pictured a world something like the map that I'm about to show

Unknown Speaker 12:35
somewhat close to China, and India, Japan, big Japan. And using those distances that I've mentioned, it's not really very far from Europe over to China. And this This is pretty much what Columbus had in mind.

Unknown Speaker 13:05
So when he sailed west to seek China, for his Spanish patrons, Ferdinand and Isabella in 1400 92. That's about the one that everybody remembers, isn't it? Change? I'm not sure. Anyway, he found land right about where it should be. He sailed westward that was he found land just about right on. The people in that didn't look particularly Chinese Of course, so he thought he must have reached India. Instead of his mistake, we still remember by referring to the native people as Indians. Well, continuing exploration soon extended Columbus's newly discovered lands to the north and south. And they didn't really look particularly like that. They look more or less this

Unknown Speaker 14:02
summer handed. This is more like the reality of a new man with stretched misdirection and distraction. Quite some time to decide that. It was not in fact, China,

Unknown Speaker 14:24
but a new land altogether blocking the way to the Orient. How are they going to get around it? Well, I'll go into that some more in a minute.

Unknown Speaker 14:38
As Spanish exploration opened up the Americas, particularly South, the Portuguese were robbing Africa this way. And getting across the eastern just about the same time. The people in St. Paul rt 93 and the Treaty of Tordesillas. Yes, unfortunately, before, we're intended to divide the world between the Spanish to the west, and the Portuguese to the east, this was the idea of the Pope had drew a line. Somewhere on this side of Columbus's discoveries, when he did that, he didn't realize that South America was going to extend further east than he expected. So it actually came in to the east side of the line, which is why the Portuguese, Brazil, why they speak Portuguese in Brazil runs in Spanish. But anyway, I'll have to get you to fill in with your imagination where the question marks are. But you will see that we mean in this part of the world, we're well hidden behind that land barrier. And in fact, sort of harder to get out. And before, we're supposed to think. So our particular favorite bit of funky was still totally unknown to European eyes. And now hidden behind this mysterious new land. Well, the British and the French and the Dutch didn't think much of this 1490 quar treatment. So they joined in with a well not only to explore and to settle that new shoreline, but to find a way around it. Well, obviously, there are two ways around it, you can go around to the north, or the south. Well, a whole lot of people trying to get around the north. And in my reading of the list, I'm only touching on some of the cabinet and criteria crotchy Frobisher Davis Hudson, button, fastened by law, and many others tried to go around to the north, generally be stopped by the ice or actually been frozen in for their efforts. With Magelang, who managed to go around to the south and get around this land barrier to get around the south into the Pacific and 15. years are going by Spanish exploration and conquest of the Pacific seaboard, which doesn't show on my map of South America proceeded overland across Central America. There was more than enough silver and gold to keep the company's two daughters fully occupied, and even over extended so great little exploration took place farther north in our direction. British Columbia of the future still lay hidden from Europeans, far north of the Spanish conquest, protected from discovery by distance and wild seas, and adverse winds and currents. The English particularly didn't see why the Spaniards should carry out all the silver and gold for themselves, and privateers, who were thinly disguised pirates in peacetime and commissioned by Queen Elizabeth in wartime, preyed on heavily laden treasure galleons found for Spain and SAP, distant Spanish possessions pressing Atlantic in the Caribbean, and then eventually in the Pacific. In 1578, Sir Francis Drake in the Golan Heights, Rhonda PayPoint his mission was to hurry the Spanish seas treasure, find the legendary Terra Australis incognita, and then explore the northwest side of America. He was to find the fabled strength of an iron leaf to separate Asia from the Americas and return home by way of the Northwest Passage. Perhaps a word about the Terra Australis, incognita. That was pretty well figured out philosophically. Some people have decided that for the world not to flop over, it must be balanced. So that if there's all that land up in the northern hemisphere, there must be a big chunk of land down the southern hemisphere. So works so and also because it hadn't been explored and discovered, and therefore spoiled by other people was, it sounded like a pretty nice place they had in mind. So this, Terra Australis, incognita was something that many explorers were looking for. It was almost like the isles of a blessing but not quite. Anyway, here's Sir Francis Drake is rounded the horn and after re rating Valparaiso and phileo and sinking several Spanish ships along the way to Golden Hind, eventually, deeply laden with gold and silver and precious stones reached the western coast of Mexico in April of 15 7960 years after Magelang has turned the corner. Well, Drake wasn't very popular. because he'd been carrying the standards and they were after him, so he decided to head north and to save his for Cirrus and also to claim the state of denial. He might have reached as far north as Vancouver Island, where he found heavy weather and what he referred to as drinking foggers. And if so, he would have been the first European to visit our part of the world. But most likely he got no farther than about the 42nd Proud of someone who have picked Blanco in Oregon, before deciding to sail west red around Africa in 1592, not at sea. That's what another 13 years later a brief Seaman named a pasta last fall Ariana, who had assumed the name Juan de Fuca, which sounds more familiar to us, seems to have been sent north and a voyage of discovery by the viceroy of Mexico. He claims to have found a broad eastward inland in the coast of America between the latitudes of 47 degrees and 48 degrees north. He noted a spire pillar of rock north of the entrances straight, reported sailing up the for 20 days into an inland sea studded with islands. Sounds kind of like us. Well, if you really did it, he would have been our press European visitor, but for whatever reason, his story was found unconvincing, and both contemporary and later historians refused to accept it. No documentary evidence backed up the tale, which was passed secondhand by an English trader named Michael Locke, who heard the story in Italy in nine in 1596. lockless himself convinced that Juan de Fuca Strait was the launch site strength of an iron, the Western extension of the Northwest Passage. But to the rest of the world, the Gulf Islands have still not yet been found, still hidden behind the new land, and more than another century passed by. By the early 1700s. Russians were exploring the coast of Alaska, and literate Europeans were becoming familiar with tales of the South Pacific. But around coastlines still, they conceal from the outside world. The map of grumping NAG and Jonathan Swift's immensely popular Gulliver's Travels, which was written in 1726. projected the northern coast of California into the unknown placing the imaginary land of giants roughly somewhere close to today's Queen Charlotte.

Unknown Speaker 22:53
This is actually the map that was published along with Gulliver's Travels. And I do apologize.

Unknown Speaker 23:08
If you look carefully at the map you'll see down here this is California, Monterey, Mendocino. And here's Cape Blanco. But that's about as far as they knew. And instead of

Unknown Speaker 23:26
in around 7070 26. Straight to the nine. Supposedly the way through North America dropped the night the land of the giants set up here, which is pretty close to

Unknown Speaker 23:46
what the world looked like in that part of the world looks like to Europeans at that time. The mythical streets of an iron are they must be quite close to our actual state to find the secret.

Unknown Speaker 24:07
Well, in 1774, the Spaniard Juan Perez, exploring nice for Mexico, actually saw the Queen Charlotte Islands and anchored off the west coast of Vancouver Island, so he didn't go to look through other eyes for a moment rather than European eyes. If you look at that, through native eyes. What the native saw at the time was a giant bird with spread wings, which as it got closer, turned into an island covered with trees, hung with skulls. They were the blocks and the dead eyes that were used to tighten the skulls hanging in the trees. And they thought this island must be inhabited by dead men. Later they were able to trade with some strangely dressed men who they thought had wooden feet because they were black shiny shoes. Native people who aren't used to shoes. During the mid 1700s, Captain James Cook had shattered New Zealand and parts of Australia and meanwhile dashed all those hopes for a habitable continent farther to the south. Cook had made good use of the newly invented chronometer, which allowed really accurate surveying for the first time. On his third voyage, he discovered the Sandwich Islands, which we would call for wine, and then crossed over to the northwest coast of America to explore the unknown. Cook ships feet to the north, where the guest country winds along the coast we now call Oregon and Washington observing, writing, but usually out of sight of land, or catching only glimpses of snow clad mountains through the sleep and fog, which founded just as Captain Cook seems certain to stumble upon Juan de Fuca Strait, and reveal our Gulf Islands to the waiting world. The savage storm drove in westward out to sea and his next landfall on March the 29th, from 1778 was at Nootka sound on Vancouver's Island, West Coast, cook believed to be the mainland of North America. After repairing his ships with the giant trees he found, and so joining with the march app people for almost a month, he then sailed north to seek the Northwest Passage, convinced in his own mind that the Strait of Juan de Fuca did not exist, was indeed a myth as far as Captain Cook was concerned, on penetrating the Bering Strait, and being stopped by ice could set sail and for Hawaii. And, as it turned out his death at the hands of the natives in a scuffle over a stolen both his ships dropped back to England, not only a description of Nootka and its inhabitants, but also news of the left Syria, sea otter pelts, which could be traded from the natives for a trifle, and sold for a treasure in China. Beginning in 1785, entrepreneurs and trading ships mostly English at first, then increasingly Americans converged on the northwest coast, seeking sea otter pelts. Competition became very fierce, and violence increased, but new coastlines were explored. And in 1778, Charles Barkley in the Imperial Eagle finally discovered Pratchett should be rediscovered the entrance to the strait, which he named wonderful for straight after it's now seemingly vindicated earlier discovered. Even the rock Spire, called tattoos rock was there for doctors to point out that it lay on the wrong side of the street. You'll remember one of the photos on the north side of the street is on the southern side of the street. However, the states of the future were not found the door was open, so to speak. By 1790 the Spaniard Manuel Kemper had explored the street as far as Swati called Cordova, which we would call a swimmer. And he's seen the San Juan Islands line for these as mrea nove is and fun, fun. So have cruised among the islands of the Gulf of Georgia in the following year 1791. Meanwhile, in England, a contemporary map, published in the gentleman's magazine of March 1790, still showed Nootka as part of the mainland and brings me to my last map, which will be a little harder to see. I think it's a very interesting map. So I hope you'll come and have a plus so much 1790. This was a European view of the Royal share. This is the Queen Charlotte Islands. You'll notice that Vancouver Island is still firmly attached to the coast. Nobody center around as far as I knew, at that time, the state climate system opening down here

Unknown Speaker 29:26
so rubber industry things happen up at the northern end of this mountain. Up here, the word so far so far this is Captain

Unknown Speaker 29:44
progress is made into the interior. And over here. so far. The pond was an American explorer Seder was a Northwest company. He was the mentor Have you gotten to hear to hear some space in between and let's take a closer look at the map you'll see filled in the space which would take you all the way through, presumably, as

Unknown Speaker 30:25
well this fit of cheekiness was probably the last gasp of the mythical straight of a Nyan for only two years later, in 1792, Captain George Vancouver was on the spot, chopping in detail the real state of Georgia and the islands that we know so well. He and founded the Spaniards, Galliano and Valdez on the same mission. So the project became a joint venture. Alexandra Mackenzie's arrival, overland to the Pacific the following year, signaled the beginning of a vast wave of immigrants yet to come. But at long last are captivating islands. Perhaps the very islands of the blessing sought by the explorers of Oles had been revealed to the world this was in fact one of the very last coastlines to be explored and truly the end of the earth and here we are, and I will lay the maps out so that if you'd like to have a closer look at them, they're here to see and thank you very much for your attention

Unknown Speaker 31:34
that was excellent. Nice to know how we all got here. Well, Tom, I hope sometime we can have you back again for another phrase to Tom Tom does lectures for other organizations and they are always shall we say well attended look forward himself. Tom, thank you again.

Unknown Speaker 31:59
I believe tea and coffee and some goodies are ready in the kitchen. So if you'd like to just mosey in there and help yourselves Thank you