Mackenzie Reaches the Arctic Ocean (Great Events from History: North American Series)
Article abstract: A search for an inland water route to the Pacific Ocean leads to the Arctic coast of North America.
Summary of Event
At the close of the eighteenth century, three hundred years after European discovery of the North American continent, very little was known of the geography of its western reaches. Both commercial interests and empire builders wanted to find a water route across the continent from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean. The British government had offered a prize of twenty thousand pounds to the first person to discover such a passage. It was well known that in the eastern half of the continent, the rivers that flowed west from the Appalachian Mountains to the Mississippi River had sources close to those of the rivers emptying into the Atlantic Ocean. Geographers theorized that a similar arrangement of river systems existed for the west; therefore, it should be possible to discover a transcontinental waterway. This theory was supported by information garnered by explorers. Samuel Hearne, the first European to travel north across the continent to the Arctic coast, reported that there were mountains in the West beyond which all rivers flowed to the Pacific.
In 1787, a twenty-three-year-old, Scottish-born fur trader, Alexander Mackenzie, traveled west from Montreal to a remote North West Company post in what is now northern Alberta. There, at Fort Chipewyan, he met a veteran of the...
(The entire section is 1370 words.)
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