On July 22, 1793, Alexander Mackenzie painted a message on a large rock at Bella Coola, British Columbia: “Alexander Mackenzie, from Canada, by land, the twenty-second of July, one thousand, seven hundred and ninety-three.” It marked the end of one of the most remarkable journeys in Canadian, or any other, history.
Mackenzie set out in search of the Pacific on May 9, 1793, after special training in navigation and astronomy in England. Mackenzie wrote later that words failed to express the anxiety, suffering, and dangers of the journey across 500 miles of mountains. From the beginning, he and his companions were often fortunate to escape being dashed to pieces in the turbulent waters of the Peace and Fraser rivers.
Mackenzie went down the Fraser as far as Alexandria, but the Native Indians there told him that he would not be able to continue. So the expedition went back 60 miles until it reached the junction of what is now the Blackwater River. After they had worked their way up the Blackwater, Mackenzie decided they should try to get to the Pacific on foot. Each man carried a gun and a 90-pound pack. The canoe and the rest of their supplies were hidden.
The expedition walked westward for two weeks. Each night Mackenzie had to sleep next to the Native Indian guide to prevent him from sneaking away. Finally they came to a Native Indian camp on the Bella Coola River. Here they traded goods for boats dug out of logs and continued down the river, passing through forests whose trees were bigger than any they had ever seen!
By July 20, they found themselves paddling through salt water. Two days later they saw the waters of the Pacific. Mackenzie’s quadrant told I’m that they were at Latitude 59° 20′ 48″ N. he inscribed his famous message on the rock using a paint made from the vermilion he had brought for the Native Indians.
The small party had not been there long when a party of obviously hostile Indians approached and made signs that they had been fired on by white men. It had probably happened when some of Captain Vancouver‘s men had explored that part of the coast. Mackenzie and his men retreated quickly despite their jubilation.
If you want to read more about this, I suggest first going to Bella Coola Arts & Culture, and then History .com. After that, there is Canadiana.ca, and Canada History.com. finally, I suggest visiting Canadian Military History Gateway