November 17, 2009

Anniversary of Lewis and Clark reaching the “Ocian” Historic anniversaries are not always easy to pin down. Various sources give different dates on which the Lewis and Clark expedition reached the Pacific Ocean. We do know a lot about the famous expedition: it was arranged by President Thomas Jefferson with the directive to explore the Pacific northwest; and it was led by William Clark, Meriwether Lewis, and their Indian guide Sacajawea. We know a lot of details of the journey because Lewis and Clark mapped the areas they explored and recorded notes on 100 species of animals, approximately 176 plants, native American cultures, landforms, and rivers. We also know that Clark wrote in his journal, on November 7, 1805, "Ocian in view! O! The Joy!" Some sources say that Clark was wrong about more than just the spelling of the word ocean—they say that what he saw that day wasn't the Pacific Ocean proper, but a bay into which the Columbia River emptied. By the middle of November, despite some very bad weather, the Corps of Discovery did reach the mouth of the Columbia and the Pacific itself. However, the dates given for this end-point of the journey range from November 15 to November 20, 1805. Why a range of dates for a singular event instead of just one firm date? It probably depends on what historians consider the words “reached the ocean” to mean. Lewis and Clark kept a dated journal, but historians may argue about what bit of water they were describing in a particular entry—the river, the estuary, the bay, or the ocean?

Commemorate the day!

There are Lewis-and-Clark kids' activities available online, including interactive games and coloring pages. This is a game of exploration and discovery. If you should want to dip into the journals written by Lewis and Clark, they're available online, too!

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