Mapping It All Out

On April 30, 1770, British-Canadian fur trader David Thompson was born. Thompson became the surveyor and cartographer who mapped travel routes between the St Lawrence River and the Pacific Ocean. He mapped the Columbia River from source to mouth as well as sections between Canada and the United States, along the border newly-created in his lifetime.

Wagon trains and explorers like Lewis and Clark used Thompson’s maps. Some of his surveys in Ontario and Quebec townships were used up to the 20th century. All in all, Thompson mapped about 3.9 million sq km (1.5 million sq mi) of land and its rivers – with surprising accuracy using paper, pen, ruler, almanac, sextant, chronometer, and barometer. For 28 years! No surprise that stories about this terranaut and his inspiring Right Stuff have accompanied astronauts into space.

In his honour, and to celebrate anniversaries of some of his achievements, The North American David Thompson Bicentennials took place across North America between 2007 and 2009 inclusively. Dozens of organizations established many events and permanent collections, plaques, tours, awards, archives, and exhibits – coast to coast and North to South – to try to capture the magnitude of Thompson’s mapping a new continent’s Inner Space.

Canadian postage salute to explorer/cartographer David Thompson

Canadian postage salute to explorer/cartographer David Thompson

It is almost impossible to understand the life of land explorers over 200 years ago. However, for a huge assist, here is an in-depth hour-long program from Public Broadcaster KSPS-TV, Spokane, WA. Uncharted Territory — David Thompson on the Columbia Plateau is packed with examples of that life’s challenges — from travel to food to weather and more. Throughout, David Thompson creates accurate maps as he travels. Uncharted Territory includes the music Thompson would have recognized, the wise elders who schooled him, the tribal politics he learned, the business decisions he made, all played out over stunning environments he loved. Make the time to treat yourself to this eye-opening journey.


B Bondar / Real World Content Advantage

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