GEORGE VANCOUVER, born about the year 1750, accompanied captain Cook in his second voyage round the world, and, on his return, went out with him in the Discovery, to the north pole, and arrived again in England in 1780. In the latter end of the last mentioned year, he was appointed a lieutenant of the ship Fame, part of lord Rodney's fleet, then on its way to the West Indies, where he remained till 1789, being employed, during the last six years, on the Jamaica station, in the sloop Europa. On his arrival in England, in 1790, he was made master and commander of the Discovery; in which ship he was sent out to ascertain if there existed in North America, between the thirtieth and sixtieth degrees of latitude, an interior sea, or any canals of communication between the known gulfs of the Atlantic and the Great Sea; a point about which Cook and other navigators had been able to give no satisfactory information.
On the 17th of August, 1791, he reached the southern coast of New Holland, where he discovered King George the Third's Sound; and, after leaving Dusky Bay, in New Zealand, ascertained the situation of some dangerous rocks and an inhabited island, giving to the former the name of the Snares, and to the latter that of Oparo. On the 24th of January, 1792, he set sail from Otaheite; and in the following March, arrived at Owhyhee, where he was visited by the chiefs of the island. He then proceeded along the north coast of New Albion to De Fuca's Straits, Nootka, and Monterey Bay. Here he passed some days, and having received an important communication from the Spanish commandant relative to the cession of Monterey, he forwarded a despatch to England, by captain Broughton, in the ship Daedalus, together with his journal of discoveries up to that time.
In February, 1793, he sailed to the Sandwich Islands, where he endeavored to establish peace between the different chiefs, and compelled them to execute two islanders, whom he discovered to have been the murderers of lieutenant Hergest and other seamen of the Daedalus. In April, he sailed along the American shore as far as Cape Decision; and, after coasting along the western side of Queen Charlotte's Islands to Nootka, proceeded to the Spanish settlements of New California, and discovered, to the south of Monterey, a double chain of mountains, and that the one nearest the sea was the least in height. In January, 1794, in which year he was made a post-captain, he reached Owhyhee, which was, shortly after his arrival, ceded by the king Tamaahmaeah to the king of England. On leaving Owhyhee, he passed Trinity Isles, and discovered an island uninhabited and covered with snow, which he called Tschericow. He then proceeded up Cook's river, and after minutely examining several bays, straits, and inlets, and discovering King George the Third's Archipelago, he terminated his operations in Port Conclusion, which he reached on the 22d of August, where he made the following remarks in his journal: - ' The principal object which his majesty appears to have had in view, in directing the undertaking of this voyage, having at length been completed, I trust the precision with which the survey of the coast of North-West America has been carried into effect will remove every doubt, and set aside every opinion of a northwest passage, or any water communication navigable for shipping, existing between the North Pacific and the interior of the American continent, within the limits of our researches.' On the 6th of July, 1795, he arrived at St. Helena, and observed that, having made the tour of the world by the east, he had gained twenty-four hours; it being, according to his estimation, Monday, instead of Sunday, the 5th of July, as in the island.
He arrived in London in November, 1795, and, in a state of declining health from the effects of his voyages, devoted himself to the arrangement of his manuscripts for publication, until within a very short time of his death, which occurred on the 10th of May, 1798. In the same year, his work, edited by his brother, was printed at the expense of government, entitled, 'A Voyage of Discovery to the North Pacific Ocean, and round the World, in which the Coast of North West America has been carefully Examined and accurately Surveyed, Undertaken by His Majesty's Command, and Performed in the Years 1790, 1791, 1792, 1793, 1794, and 1785:' and was, shortly after its appearance, translated into French, German, and Swedish.
The world is indebted to Vancouver for ascertaining the precise knowledge of the North West American coast, of which he entered parts never before deemed accessible but to the smallest sea boats, and traveled in a canoe nearly nine thousand miles among the labyrinth of isles which border that part of the coast. His maps afford an exact description of the discoveries, which he determined with great precision. Zealous, and indefatigable in the pursuit of his object, he was, at the same time, benevolent and unassuming, and insisted on his companions sharing in the credit of his undertakings. In his account he offers some curious notions in reference to the various inhabitants of the north-west coast, the Russian and Spanish colonies, and the isles of the Great Sea; which, by their frequent intercourse with Europeans, had suffered much change in an interval of thirty years. His narrative, in addition to the information it contains, is also replete with interest.