Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude. — Alexis de Tocqueville

Book of Discovery - M. B. Synge

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.'"


Front Matter

A Little Old World
Early Mariners
Is the World Flat
Herodotus the Traveller
Alexander Explores India
Pytheas Finds British Isles
Julius Caesar as Explorer
Strabo's Geography
The Roman Empire and Pliny
Ptolemy's Maps
Pilgrim Travellers
Irish Explorers
After Mohammed
Vikings Sail Northern Seas
Arab Wayfarers
Travellers to the East
Marco Polo
Mediaeval Exploration Ends
Mediaeval Maps
Prince Henry of Portugal
Bartholomew Diaz
Christopher Columbus
A Great New World
Vasco da Gama Reaches India
Discovery of Spice Islands
Balboa Sees Pacific Ocean
Magellan Sails Round World
Cortes Conquers Mexico
Explorers in South America
Cabot Sails to Newfoundland
Cartier Explores Canada
Search for a Northwest Passage
Frobisher Searches for Passage
Drake's Famous Voyage
Davis Straight
Barents Sails to Spitzbergen
Hudson Finds His Bay
Baffin Finds His Bay
Raleigh Searches for El Dorado
Champlain and Lake Ontario
Discoverers of Australia
Tasman Finds Tasmania
Dampier Discovers a Straight
Behring Finds his Straight
Cook Discovers New Zealand
Cook's Third Voyage
Bruce in Abyssinia
Mungo Park and the Niger
Vancouver and his Island
Mackenzie and his River
Parry and Lancaster Sound
The Frozen North
Franklin's Land Voyage
Parry's Polar Voyage
The Search for Timbuktu
Landers Discover the Niger
Ross Discovers North Pole
Flinders Names Australia
Sturt's Discoveries in Australia
Ross in the Antarctic Seas
Franklin Discovers Passage
David Livingstone
Burton and Speke in Africa
Livingston Traces Nyassa
Expedition to Victoria Nyanza
Baker Finds Albert Nyanza
Livingstone's Last Journey
Through the Dark Continent
Nordenskiold's NE Passage
The Exploration of Tibet
Nansen Reaches Farthest North
Peary Reaches the North Pole
The Quest for the South Pole
Dates of Chief Events