June 22, 2011 - Happy Birthday, George Vancouver

Born on this day in 1757, Vancouver was an officer in the British Royal Navy. He explored the Hawaiian Islands and Australia and, more famously, the northwestern coast of North America. He charted (which means mapped) what is now Alaska, Washington, Oregon, and British Columbia (Canada). Vancouver, which is the largest city in British Columbia, is named for him. Confusingly, the island off the coast of Vancouver is named Vancouver Island, and there are also a city named Vancouver in Washington and a mountain named Vancouver in Alaska.
Vancouver is a
large, modern city.

Actually, Vancouver Island used to be named Quadra and Vancouver Island. When George Vancouver arrived at the island, he met with a Spanish commander named Juan Francisco Bodega y Quadra, and the two were supposed to hammer out an agreement about ownership of buildings and land. They exchanged information about the landforms and harbors, copying each others' charts, and they decided on the name for the island. However, many years later, Spanish influence in the area had so declined that people dropped the “Quadra” part.

A map of this northwest region will show you that there are many islands and inlets of water, so mapping it must have been difficult. Apparently sailors took to the water in small boats powered by oar or sail to survey the area.

Try creating a map...

If you can, walk around a pond or park and map it by trying to imagine what it would look like from the air. Later you can Google map the area and see how your map compares to an actual aerial photo.

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