Captain George Vancouver RN (June 22, 1757 – May 12, 1798) was an officer of the Royal Navy, best known for his exploration of North America, including the Pacific coast along the modern day Canadian province of British Columbia and the American states of Alaska, Washington state and Oregon. He also explored the southwest coast of Australia and negotiated agreements with Hawaii's king Kamehameha I.
He was born in King's Lynn, Norfolk, England. At the age of fifteen he travelled to the Pacific aboard HMS Resolution, on Captain James Cook's second voyage (1772-1775). It was Vancouver's first naval service. He also accompanied Cook on his third voyage (1776-1779), this time aboard Resolution's sister ship, HMS Discovery.
Vancouver would serve on the 74-gun ship of the line, HMS Fame. The Fame was involved in the British victory in the Battle of the Saintes in 1782. While serving on the West Indies station, Vancouver put the surveying and cartographic skills he learned under Cook to use surveying Port Royal and Kingston Harbour, assisted by Joseph Whidbey.
Vancouver entered the Strait of Juan de Fuca, between Vancouver Island and the Washington state mainland on April 29, 1792. He was the first European to enter Burrard Inlet (beyond Stanley Park), the main harbour area of the present day City of Vancouver. This was on June 13, 1792. He named it after his friend Sir Harry Burrard. He surveyed Howe Sound and Jervis Inlet over the next nine days, before returning to Point Grey (now the site of the University of British Columbia) on June 22, 1792 (Vancouver's 35th birthday). Here he unexpectedly met a Spanish expedition led by Dionisio Alcalá Galiano and Cayetano Valdés y Flores and was mortified (his word) to learn they already had a crude chart of the area prepared by another Spanish expedition, led by Narváez, the year before. For three weeks they cooperatively explored Georgia Strait before going their separate ways.
After the summer season ended in August, Vancouver went to Nootka on Vancouver Island, then the region's most important harbour, where he was to get any British buildings or lands returned by the Spanish. The Spanish commander, Bodega y Quadra, was very cordial and he and Vancouver exchanged the maps they had made, but no agreement was reached; they decided to await further instructions. At this time, they decided to name the large island on which Nootka was now proven to be located, as Quadra and Vancouver Island. Years later, as Spanish influence declined, the name was shortened simply to Vancouver Island. (Read more...)