In May 2011, after four years of life on McNutt's Island, we moved to Montreal. This blog remains, though, as a (sort of) daily record of our time on the island, and a winding path for anyone who would like to meander about among its magical places. For additional perspectives and insights I recommend Greg's book, Island Year: Finding Nova Scotia (2010), and my Bowl of Light (2012). I'll continue to post once in a while. If you do want to read this blog, one option would be to begin at the beginning of it (which is, as we all know, in blog-world, at the end), and read forward, concluding with the most recent entry. It's a journal, really, so it does makes more sense if you read it that way. But, you know, read it any way you like.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

McNutt's geography: Samuel Champlain's map of 1607

Samuel Champlain made a map of this coastline in 1607.  In terms of accuracy it's not up to his usual standards. But people think he was in a hurry, or maybe there was a lot of fog the day he sailed by. For whatever reason, it was a broad-brush effort. Maybe he wanted to document the dangerous places along the coast, for sailors. And you can see them here, innocent looking little circles to indicate the deadly shoals, breakers and rocks that are sprinkled through the waters from Cape Forchu (Yarmouth) up to Port Rossignol (Liverpool).

The map is a reminder of what an unsettled place this was. Champlain shows houses where a few French traders may have lived back then, around what are now the many many villages of Pubnico, and at Rossignol. But in the interior, the mapmaker shows nothing but trees. It's still like that, more or less.

There is  a three-branched harbour in about the centre of the coastline. That is probably what is now called Shelburne Harbour, or maybe Shelburne Harbour and Jordan Bay shown together as one. Champlain seems to have labelled it Port d'Negro. There's an island in the harbour, which could be what's now called McNutt's. Just to the south of it, in its more-or-less correct place, is Cape Negro.

It gives me the shivers to think that Samuel Champlain sailed past this place, even in the fog.

Thanks to Terry Deveau for sharing this map with me. The original is in the US Library of Congress.


Terry J. Deveau said...
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Terry J. Deveau said...

Another astonishing map that seems to be a close cousin to Champlain's Map of 1607 is the Simancas / Velasco map of 1610. The best colour version online is here.

A higher-res B&W version is here.

(that last link is likely too high-res for your browser, but if you right click it, the select "Save Target" you can download a copy to look at on your own machine).

It appears to be partially based on Champlain, but tantalizingly includes tidbits that Champlain never knew, and indeed some that appear to be unique -- such as the designation "Poit" at Cape Sable, implying perhaps an otherwise unknown settlement attempt from the Poitou province in France.

The map has always been highly controversial, and many scholars claim it is a fake. Many others belive it is genuine. More background at these links: