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.
His maps expanded European knowledge of the region, and were used as the basis for new European maps of North America, according to Hermann and Pearce.
Champlain made seven trips to forge fur-trade alliances, help priests establish missions and assist in founding the New France Colony. But his most important, all-consuming charge from 1608-16, finding the Northwest Passage to open European trade with China, was never realized.
He wanted to go to James Bay, the lower section of Canada's Hudson Bay, for that purpose.
Pearce said the tribes promised again and again to take Champlain to the James Bay in exchange for continued trade and his military alliance against the Iroquois, but they never did.
Champlain ended his search for James Bay after eight years and died in Quebec in 1635.