Local News

December 27, 2008

New map retraces explorer's steps

ORONO, Maine (AP) — Four centuries ago, French explorer Samuel de Champlain traveled throughout the St. Lawrence River valley in search of the elusive Northwest Passage.

It's a quest Champlain did not fulfill.

But to commemorate the 400th anniversaries of Champlain's founding of Quebec and naming of Lake Champlain, the Canadian American Center at the University of Maine is releasing a narrative map retracing the noted cartographer's steps from 1603 to 1616.

The nearly 40-by-60-inch bilingual map, which took a year to create, was developed by Michael Hermann, senior cartographer at UMaine's Canadian American Center, and Margaret Pearce, assistant professor of geography at Ohio University.

UMaine professor of French Raymond Pelletier, associate director of the Canadian American Center, provided translation.

The map is based on the 17th-century adventurer's published journals and includes excerpts written by Champlain.

It also includes indigenous place names and extensive narrative details of the five locations where Champlain spent long periods of time: Tadoussac, Quebec, Montreal, Morrison Island and the Penetanguishene Peninsula.

"We were interested in the idea of mapping narrative using the written record of Champlain's explorations as the primary source document," Hermann said.

"Champlain was a geographer and cartographer, like we are, so we were studying his journals and trying to get inside his head, trying to understand what he was facing when trying to map this landscape."

During the project, one of the cartographers read aloud from Champlain's journals while the other tracked his journey on a map of the St. Lawrence waterway and adjacent lakes.

In addition, last year Hermann and Pearce spent three weeks exploring the river valley by car, researching Indian place names and visiting historical sites and museums.

All of Champlain's travels were dependent on the knowledge, skills and technologies of the tribes that made up the Algonquin, Wendat, Wabanaki and Innu. He collected maps and stories from the native people to be used in his own published maps.

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