Captain George Vancouver (22 June 1757 – 10 May 1798) was a British officer of the Royal Navy, best known for his 1791–95 expedition, which explored and charted North America's northwestern Pacific Coastregions, including the coasts of contemporary Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, and Oregon. He also explored the Hawaiian Islands and the southwest coast of Australia.
In Canada, Vancouver Island and the city of Vancouver are named after him, as are Vancouver, Washington, in the United States, Mount Vancouver on the Yukon/Alaska border, and New Zealand's sixth highest mountain.
George Vancouver was born in King's Lynn on 22 June 1757 as the sixth, and youngest, child of John Jasper Vancouver, a Deputy Collector of Customs, and Bridget Berners.
In 1771, at the age of 13, George Vancouver entered the Royal Navy as a "young gentleman", a future candidate for midshipman. He was selected to serve as a midshipman aboard HMS Resolution, on James Cook's second voyage (1772–1775) searching for Terra Australis. He also accompanied Cook's third voyage (1776–1780), this time aboard Resolution's sister ship, Discovery, and was present during the first European sighting and exploration of the Hawaiian Islands. Upon his return to Britain in October 1780, Vancouver was commissioned as a lieutenant and posted aboard the sloop Martin initially on escort and patrol duty in the English Channel and North Sea. He accompanied the ship when it left Plymouth on 11 February 1782 for the West Indies. On 7 May 1782 he was appointed fourth Lieutenant of the HMS Fame which was at the time part of the British West Indies Fleet and assigned to patrolling the French-held Leeward Islands. Vancouver returned to England in June 1783.
In the late 1780s the Spanish Empire commissioned an expedition to the Pacific Northwest. However, the 1789 Nootka Crisis intervened. Spain and Britain came close to war over ownership of the Nootka Sound on contemporary Vancouver Island, and of greater importance, the right to colonize and settle the Pacific Northwest coast. Henry Roberts and Vancouver joined Britain's more warlike vessels. Vancouver went with Joseph Whidbey to HMS Courageux. When the first Nootka Convention ended the crisis in 1790, Vancouver was given command of Discovery to take possession of Nootka Sound and to survey the coasts.
Departing England with two ships on 1 April 1791, Vancouver commanded an expedition charged with exploring the Pacific region. In its first year the expedition travelled to Cape Town, Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, and Hawaii, collecting botanical samples and surveying coastlines along the way. On 29 September they landed in Australia, at what Vancouver promptly named King George the Third's Sound. He formally claimed at Possession Point, King George Sound Western Australia, now the town of Albany, Western Australia for the British.
The Vancouver Expedition (1791–1795) was a four-and-a-half-year voyage of exploration and diplomacy, commanded by Captain George Vancouver. The expedition circumnavigated the globe and touched all five continents.
Vancouver, one of Britain's greatest explorers and navigators, died in obscurity on 10 May 1798 at the age of 40, less than three years after completing his voyages and expeditionsNo official cause of death was stated, as the medical records pertaining to Vancouver were destroyed; one doctor named John Naish claimed Vancouver died from kidney failure, while others believed it was a hyperthyroid condition. His grave is in the churchyard of St Peter's Church, Petersham, in the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames, England. The Hudson's Bay Company placed a memorial plaque in the church in 1841. His grave in Portland stone, renovated in the 1960s, is now Grade II listed in view of its historical associations.
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