Sunday, July 30, 2006

David Thompson, Canadian

One more thing about Canada, though not about my trip. If possible I like to pick up a book of local interest when I go somewhere. This time I bought Epic Wanderer, subtitled “David Thompson and the Mapping of the Canadian West,” by D’Arcy Jenish. I burned through it in the days after we got back.

It’s well written, but that’s not the only reason I liked it. It fills a blank for me. I’m much more familiar with explorations of the US West than those of western Canada.

From Anchor Canada, the publisher: “Less celebrated than his contemporaries Lewis and Clark, Thompson spent nearly three decades (1784-1812) surveying and mapping over 1.2 million square miles of largely uncharted Indian territory. Traveling across the prairies, over the Rockies and on to the Pacific, Thompson transformed the raw data of his explorations into a map of the Canadian West. Measuring ten feet by seven feet, and laid out with astonishing accuracy, the map became essential to the politicians and diplomats who would decide upon the future of the rich and promising lands of the West. Yet its creator worked without personal glory and died in penniless obscurity.”

Thompson also thought that British diplomats were taking the easy way out (being weenies, even) when they agreed to 49 degrees North as the border west from Lake of the Woods, Minn. If he’d had his way—and nobody asked him, even though he’d made the best map of the territory north of the Columbia River—what we call the state of Washington would be Canadian, and the map of the Lower 48 (Lower 47?) would, to our eyes, look a bite had been taken out of the Northwest.



Post a Comment

<< Home