THE TWO AMERICAS

It was Alexander Mackenzie who gave his name to it. Starting on the 3rd June, 1789, from Fort Chippewyan, on the southern shores of the Lake of the Hills, accompanied by a few Canadians, and several Indians who had been with Samuel Hearn, he reached 67° 45' N. lat., where he heard that the sea was not far off on the east, but that he was even nearer to it on the west. It was evident that he was quite close to the north-western extremity of America.

On the 12th July, Mackenzie reached a large sheet of shallow water covered with ice, which he could not believe to be the sea, though no land could be seen on the horizon. It was, however, the Northern Ocean, as he became assured when he saw the water rising, although the wind was not violent. The tide was coming in! The traveller then gained an island at a little distance from the shore, from which he saw several whales gambolling in the water. He therefore named the island, which is situated in N. lat. 69° 11', Whale Island. On the 12th September the expedition safely returned to Fort Chippewyan.

Three years later Mackenzie, whose thirst for discovery was unslaked, ascended Peace River, which rises in the Rocky Mountains. In 1793, after forcing his way across this rugged chain, he made out on the other side the Tacoutche-Tesse River, which flows in a south-westerly direction. In the midst of dangers and privations more easily imagined than described, Mackenzie descended this river to its mouth, below Prince of Wales Islands. There, he wrote with a mixture of grease and vermilion, the following laconic but eloquent inscription on a wall of rock: "Alexander Mackenzie, come from Canada overland, July 22nd, 1793." On the 24th August he re-entered Fort Chippewyan.

Mackenzie's first view of the North Pacific Ocean
Mackenzie's first view of the North Pacific Ocean.

In South America no scientific expedition took place during the first half of the eighteenth century. We have now only to speak of Condamine. We have already told of his discoveries in America, explaining how when the work was done he had allowed Bougner to return to Europe, and left Jussieu to continue the collection of unknown plants and animals which was to enrich science, whilst he himself went down the Amazon to its Mouth.

"Condamine," says Maury in his "Histoire de l'Académie des Sciences," "may be called the Humboldt of the eighteenth century. An intellectual and scientific man, he gave proof in this memorable expedition of an heroic devotion to the progress of knowledge. The funds granted to him by the king for his expedition were not sufficient; he added 100,000 livres from his private purse; and the fatigue and suffering he underwent led to the loss of his ears and legs. The victim of his enthusiasm for science, on his return home he met with nothing but ridicule and sarcasm from a public who could not understand a martyr who aimed at winning anything but Heaven. In him was recognized, not the indefatigable explorer who had braved so many dangers, but the infirm and deaf M. de Condamine, who always held his ear-trumpet in his hand. Content, however, with the recognition of his fellow-savants, to which Buffon gave such eloquent expression in his reply to the address at his reception at the French Academy, Condamine consoled himself by composing songs; and maintained until his death, which was hastened by all he had undergone, the zeal for information on all subjects, even torture, which led him to question the executioner on the scaffold of Damiens."

Portrait of Condamine
Portrait of Condamine.
(Fac-simile of early engraving.)

Few travellers before Condamine had had an opportunity of penetrating into Brazil. The learned explorer hoped, therefore, to render his journey useful by making a map of the course of the river, and putting down all his observations on the singular costumes worn by the natives of that little frequented country.

After Orellana, whose adventurous trip we have related, Pedro de Ursua was sent in 1559 by the Viceroy of Peru to seek for Lake Parima and the El Dorado. He was murdered by a rebel soldier, who committed all manner of outrages on his way down the river, and finished his course by being abandoned on Trinity Island.

Efforts of this kind did not throw much light on the course of the river. The Portuguese were more fortunate. In 1636 and 1637 Pedro Texeira with forty-seven canoes, and a large number of Spaniards and Indians, followed the Amazon as far as the junction of its tributary the Napo, and then ascended, first it, and afterwards the Coca, to within thirty miles of Quito, which he reached with a few men.

The map drawn up by Sanson after this trip, and as a matter of course copied by all geographers, was extremely defective, and until 1717 there was no other. At that time the copy of a map drawn up by Father Fritz, a German missionary, came out in Vol. xii. of the "Lettres Édifiantes," a valuable publication, containing a multitude of interesting historical and geographical facts. In this map it was shown that the Napo is not the true source of the Amazon, and that the latter, under the name of the Marañon, issues from Lake Guanuco, thirty leagues east of Lima. The lower portion of the course of the river was badly drawn, as Father Fritz was too ill when he went down it to observe closely.