It is amazing to realize that nearly thirty years before Champlain was active in Canada, Sir Francis Drake tried to find the Northwest Passage by sailing around the Horn and exploring the Pacific coast. He made that voyage in the Golden Hind, in 1579, and claimed what is now California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia for England.
Drake blamed them “stinking fogges” (fogs) for his failure to discover the Northwest passage, although he sailed as far north as Alaska. His voyage was a success, however, because when he returned to England, the ballast in his ships was gold and silver taken from the Spaniards.
Other romantic buccaneers followed Drake. The most successful was Captain Cook, who was also sent to try to find the Northwest Passage from the Pacific. Cook had done a wonderful job as navigating officer for General Wolfe in 1759, guiding the Armada of British ships safely up the St. Lawrence. When the Admiralty sent him to the Pacific to look for the Northwest Passage, Cook’s navigating officer was the cruel Captain Bligh, who had been made famous by the book, Mutiny on the Bounty. Another of Cook’s officers was Young George Vancouver.
On March 7, 1778, Oregon was sighted by Cook’s ships, Resolution and Discovery. Sailing North, they unluckily missed the mouth of the Columbia River. A storm drove them out to sea when they reached Cape Flattery and they missed the Strait of Juan de Fuca leading to the water between Vancouver Island and the British Columbia mainland.
However, Cook did find the beautiful harbour of Nootka Sound where he rested the crew for a month. Scurvy was cured by making a brew of Bruce bark. (Cartier learned a similar recipe when wintering at Quebec in 1535).
When Nootka, Cook sailed north until turned back by ice in the Bering Sea. From there he sailed south,and was murdered by natives in Hawaii. Drake and Cook have paved the way for Vancouver and the others who mapped and colonized British Columbia.
- Captain Cook Museum under threat as Aussies fail to donate (australiantimes.co.uk)
- Captain Cook’s pistol locked and loaded (smh.com.au)
- For all of you gun enthusiasts out there, Captain James Cook’s pistol sold for $227,000 at an auction [Cool] (fark.com)
- Captain Cook’s pistol to be auctioned (bigpondnews.com)