|A Book of Discovery|
|by M. B. Synge|
|A fascinating account of the world's famous explorers, including the early travelers in ancient times, the discovery of the New World, explorations in Africa and Australia, and the expeditions to the Arctic and Antarctic. Many of the explorers tell part of their story in their own words. Amply illustrated with reproductions of early maps and charts, as well as old woodcuts, drawings, paintings, and miniatures. Emphasis is placed on the explorers' 'record of splendid endurance, of hardships bravely borne, of silent toil, of courage and resolution unequalled in the annals of mankind, of self-sacrifice unrivalled and faithful lives laid ungrudgingly down.' Ages 12-18 |
MACKENZIE AND HIS RIVER
 EVEN while Vancouver was making discoveries on the western coast of North America, Alexander Mackenzie, an
enthusiastic young Scotsman, was making discoveries on behalf of the North-Western Company, which was rivaling
the old Hudson Bay Company in its work of expansion. His journey right across America from sea to sea is
worthy of note, and it has well been said that "by opening intercourse between Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and
forming regular establishments through the interior and at both extremes, as well as along the coasts and
islands, the entire command of the fur trade of North America might be obtained. To this may be added the
fishing in both seas and the markets of the four quarters of the globe."
Mackenzie had already explored the great river flowing through North America to the Arctic seas in 1789. He
had brought back news of its great size, its width, its volume of water, only to be mistrusted, till many
years later it was found that every word was true, and tributes were paid not only to his general accuracy,
but to his general intelligence as an explorer.
In 1792 he started off again, and this time he discovered the immense country that lay hidden behind the Rocky
Mountains, known to-day as British Columbia. He ascended the Peace River, which flows from the Rocky
Mountains, and in the spring of 1793, having made his way
 with much difficulty across this rugged chain, he embarked on a river running to the south-west. Through wild
mountainous country on either side he paddled on; the cold was still intense and the strong mountain currents
nearly dashed the canoes to pieces. His Indian guides were obstinate, ignorant, and timid. Mackenzie relates
some of his difficulties in graphic language: "Throughout the whole of this day the men had been in a state of
extreme ill-humour, and as they did not choose to vent it openly upon me, they disputed and quarrelled among
themselves. About sunset the canoe struck upon the stump of a tree, which broke a large hole in her bottom, a
circumstance that gave them an opportunity to let loose their discontents without reserve. I left them as soon
as we had landed and ascended an elevated bank. It now remained for us to fix on a proper place for building
another canoe, as the old one was become a complete wreck. At a very early hour of the morning every man was
employed in making preparations for building another canoe, and different parties went in search of wood and
gum." While the boat was building, Mackenzie gave his crew a good lecture on their conduct. "I assured them it
was my fixed unalterable determination to proceed in spite of every difficulty and danger."
The result was highly satisfactory. "The conversation dropped and the work went on."
In five days the canoe was ready and they were soon paddling happily onwards towards the sea, where the
Indians told him he would find white men building houses. They reached the coast some three weeks later. The
Salmon River, as it is called, flows through British Columbia and reaches the sea just north of Vancouver
Island, which had been discovered by Vancouver the year before.
Alexander Mackenzie had been successful. Let us hear the end of his tale: "I now mixed up some vermilion
 in melted grease, and inscribed in large characters, on the south-east face of the rock on which we had slept
last night, this brief memorial—'Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July,
one thousand seven hundred and ninety three.'"
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