George Vancouver

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George Vancouver (1758-1798), British navigator and explorer, is notable for his exploration and survey of the Pacific coast of North America between 1791 and 1795. He served as a midshipman in James Cook’s second and third voyages into the Pacific during the 1770s and took part in the Royal Navy’s victory at the Battle of the Saints in the West Indies in 1782.

In 1791 he was appointed to command a two ship expedition of exploration of the North American Pacific coast. From a base in Hawaii, in three voyages during the warmer months of 1792, 1793 and 1794, he explored and surveyed previously uncharted parts of the coast from southern California to Alaska, confirming the insularity of the island that bears his name, and building on the work Cook had done in 1777-9. He also completed the survey of the Hawaiian Islands begun by Cook.

The expedition, in its voyage out from England, is credited with the discovery and charting of King George Sound in Western Australia, the first survey of Dusky Bay in New Zealand and the discovery of Chatham Islands in the South Pacific.

Vancouver, unlike his teacher, is known to have been authoritarian and a strict disciplinarian. However his seamanship and navigational and charting capabilities were first rate and he followed Cook’s insistence on the importance of onboard diet and hygiene. In four years away from home there was not one death from illness amongst the crew.

Reference: “The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea”