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    Re: Thompson mapping Canada
    From: Ken Muldrew
    Date: 2009 Nov 30, 09:48 -0700

    On 29 Nov 2009 at 13:28, George Huxtable wrote:
    
    > I didn't see that particular TV programme about Thompson, but saw an
    > earlier
    > one from the same presenter, Ray Mears, about Thompson's predecessor with
    > the Hudson's Bay Company, Samuel Hearne.
    
    For those who don't know him, Hearne made a couple of amazing journeys
    through the barren lands, reaching the mouth of the Coppermine River
    (forever putting to rest the fanciful notion of a sub-polar Northwest
    Passage). He didn't take lunars and he took only a couple of (useless)
    latitudes. His penchant for smashing navigational equipment (two octants
    and a compass) are enough to make Lewis & Clarke seem like master
    navigators.
    
    Thompson worked under Hearne briefly as a young teenager and was shocked
    by Hearne's devotion to Voltaire. Sunday services at Fort Churchill didn't
    measure up to the lad's notion of Christian devotion.
    
    Ken McGoogan has speculated that Hearne was the inspiration for
    Coleridge's Ancient Mariner.
    
    > Anyone interested in the work of those surveyors should take a look at
    > two
    > recent papers by Peter Broughton, who has done much work on the
    > astronomical
    > history of Canada.
    >
    > "The Accuracy and Use of Sextants and Watches in Rupert's Land in the
    > 1790s", in Annals of Science, vol 66 No 2, April 2009, 209-229
    >
    > "Astronomical Observations by Peter Fidler and Others in "Canada"
    > 1790-1820", in JRASC (Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of
    > Canada)
    > August 2009, pages 141-152.
    
    Thanks for the references, George. I can't wait to read them.
    
    > In those papers are accounts of the work of Turnor, Thompson,  Fidler,
    > who
    > in turn had surveyed the immense lands of the Hudson's Bay Company.
    > Fidler
    > must have been a remarkable character, taken on as a labourer, with
    > little
    > education, who learned on-the-job from Thompson.
    
    Both Thompson and Fidler learned from Turnor, who was brought in to Canada
    on the recommendation of William Wales to survey and map the holdings of
    the Hudson's Bay Company. Fidler was trained as a backup when Thompson's
    badly broken leg was taking too long to heal. This was fortuitous as
    Fidler turned out to Thompson's equal in wilderness exploration (and his
    handwriting is far, far more legible--a definite asset to us armchair
    explorers who like to read the journals of these wonderful characters).
    The Hudson's Bay Company wasn't as ambitious as the Northwest Company in
    opening up new territory to the fur trade, so Fidler didn't map as vast an
    area as Thompson, but what he did survey (along with Turnor) ended up
    being the basis of Arrowsmith's great maps of North America in the early
    1800s. There is also evidence that someone was also sending Thompson's
    surveying work to Arrowsmith on the sly (it would have been counter to the
    Northwest Co.'s interests to have done so).
    
    If anyone is interested in looking at Fidler's journals of his
    explorations, please contact me off list at kmuldrew [at] ucalgary [dot]
    ca.
    
    Ken Muldrew.
    
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