National Geographic : 1899 Nov
THE ALASKAN BOUNDARY In 1792-'95 George Vancouver, under the direction of the British admiralty, made the first accurate and scientific survey of the northwest coast of North America, and his charts were pub lished in 1798. These charts were for more than a generation the basis and source of information of all maps of that region. His survey was confined to the coast, as he made no exploration of the interior of the mainland beyond what was visible from his vessels. From these he saw at all points in the region under consideration a continuous array of mountains, and upon his charts there appears delineated a regular mountain chain fol lowing the sinuosities of the coast line around all the inlets (see maps Nos. 2 and 3). We know that the negotiators of the treaty of 1825 had before them Vancouver's charts and two other maps, one issued by the quartermaster-general's department, St Petersburg, 1802,* which reproduces the mountains as laid down by Vancouver, the other Arrowsmith's latest map, being the one published in London in 1822, with additions of 1823,and this map omits all mountain features in the region, being entirely blank. The published correspondence frequently shows that as to the in terior of the mainland the negotiators were in great ignorance of its topography, and we have seen that even the deputy-governor of the Hudson's Bay Company was no better informed (supia, p. 431). Secretary Canning referred to "the mountains which run parallel to the coast and which appear, according to the map, to follow all its sinuosities," but he asks the British plenipotentiary to explain to his Russian colleagues the difficulty had with the United States arising out of the maps of the eastern side of the continent, on which mountains were laid down and which were found afterwards to be quite differently situated, and he adds: " Should the maps be no more accurate as to the western than as to the eastern mountains, we might be assigning to Russia immense tracts of inland territory where we only intended to give, and they only intended to ask, a strip of seacoast." t The British minister's fear was, as we have seen, lest an invariable line of " the summit of the mountains " might carry the Rus sian line even to the Rocky mountains, and it was to avoid such a contingency that he insisted on a specific limit to the Russian strip of the mainland. The Russian negotiators reluctantly yielded to the British view and the treaty was concluded. The correspondence and documents thus reviewed by me * Found in Fur Seal Papers, 1893, vol. V, appendix to British ease. t Ib., vol. IV, 447.