July 22 – Alex Mackenzie Reaches the Pacific!

Posted on July 22, 2018

When we talk about "explorers," we often think of Spaniards, Portuguese, or English sailors charting previously-unknown-to-Europe waters and lands.

We don't necessarily think of a Scotsman exploring the rivers and lands of Canada.

But that's what Alexander Mackenzie did. He had explored the rivers and lands of Canada before, looking for a route traveling west to the Pacific Ocean. As a matter of fact, he ended up naming one river "Disappointment River" because it poured into the Arctic Ocean, not the Pacific (the river since was renamed Mackenzie River in his honor!). He had studied advances in measuring longitude in Great Britain. And in 1782, he set off westward along with two native guides, a cousin, several French-Canadians, and a dog.

When he reached the Pacific, Mackenzie inscribed a rock:

It turns out that Mackenzie is the first human we know crossed the North American continent, east to west, above Mexico. It's super possible that others did it, but Mackenzie's is the first recorded transcontinental crossing. In addition to the rock, Mackenzie kept journals of the expedition and published them when he returned safely.

Mackenzie was knighted and lived in Scotland the rest of his life, marrying and having children.

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