This map is a 1784 edition of Gerald Muller's seminal map of the North Pacific and contiguous coasts of America and Asia, originally published thirty years earlier in St. Petersburg. It was the first official map to reflect the results of Russia's Great Northern Expedition. The Great Northern Expedition was one of the largest and best organized voyages of exploration, the results of which completely remapped much of the Arctic coast of Siberia and some parts of the northwest coast of America, filling in vast amounts of coastal details that had previously been depicted according to myth and speculation. The important achievements of the expedition included the European discovery of Alaska, the Aleutian Islands, the Commander Islands, Bering Island, as well as a detailed mapping of the northern and northeastern coasts of Russia and the Kuril Islands. The expedition also disproved the myth of a large landmass in the North Pacific.
First published in 1754, Muller's map was the official Russian response to Joseph Nicolas de L’Isle’s surreptitious publication of his map of the same region (Item 19). Russians experts believed that de L’Isle had improperly presented the information he had gathered while serving in St. Petersburg at the Royal Academy. For example, his delineation of the American northwest coast was decidedly incorrect. Thus, they encouraged Gerard Muller, a German cartographer working in St. Petersburg, to create the official map from the Imperial Academy in St. Petersburg correcting de L'Isle's mistakes.
While Muller's map is noteworthy in its omission of de L'Isle's mythical "Sea of the West," it does preserve the possibility of a water route from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean via the tentatively located "R. de l'Quest," which is depicted as connecting Hudson Bay to an outlet on the coast of northern California.
This chart marks the first time that the coastlines of Alaska and the American northwest were accurately portrayed on a printed map, and is therefore considered to be a map of tremendous historical importance. Produced to meticulously track the Captain Cook’s route on his final voyage, this chart reflects his significant contribution to the understanding and mapping of the northern Pacific coasts. When compared with other maps produced during the same year (Item 25, for example), this chart’s depiction of northwestern landforms, particularly Alaska, are strikingly accurate.
The publication of this map was surrounded by controversy; an internal struggle broke out between the editors of Cook’s official account of his third voyage and those who had accompanied Cook on his final voyage and were present at the time the observations were made. A competing chart was constructed by one of Cook’s companions on the voyage, Henry Roberts, but the editors of Cook’s official account successfully suppressed its dissemination.
As noted in the map's legend below the title, sections of the Asian coast are drawn from a Russian manuscript map.
This rare map of the American Northwest, Canada, and Greenland accompanied the first edition of Sir John Franklin's Narrative of a Second Expedition to the Shores of a Polar Sea. It uses red lines to illustrate Franklin’s successful route from Fort William on Lake Superior to the Arctic Sea, an important milestone in the exploration of the Arctic and the pursuit of the Northwest Passage.
The map tracks the second expedition of John Ross in Canada’s Northwest Territories, during which Ross discovered King William Island, Boothia Peninsula, and the Gulf of Boothia. Ross named the latter two discoveries after his backer, London gin magnate, Felix Booth. His nephew, James Clark Ross, is credited as the first European to reach the North Magnetic Pole during the same expedition on June 1, 1831.
When the party’s ship was crushed by ice, he and his crew were stranded. The men spent one of the four difficult Arctic winters at "Somerset House," which can be located on the map west of Prince Regent Inlet. This was also the wreck site of the HMS Fury from William Parry’s 1825 expedition. When Ross and company were finally rescued by whalers in the summer of 1833, the whalers grimly informed Ross that he could not be who he claimed because Captain Ross had died in the Northwest Passage two years earlier.
Upon returning to England, Ross was greeted as a hero and knighted the next year. Sir John Ross and his crew’s four winters in the Arctic constituted a survival record that would not be broken for more than seventy years.
The Hydrographic Office of the Admiralty produced this chart of the North Polar Sea in 1835 to reflect the latest discoveries in the Arctic. The notation "loam of the land" marks the spot where William Parry and his crew believed they had spotted land that, as it turned out, did not actually exist. This phenomenon, called a Fata Morgana or Arctic mirage, is a common occurrence in Polar expeditions.
This spectacularly illustrated map celebrates the first transit of the Northwest Passage by Sir Robert John le Mesurier McClure in 1854. While the large polar map celebrates the achievements of Captain McClure, the smaller map near the top includes information about the Wellington Channel gleaned from the Admiralty chart of 1835 (Item 29). The edges of the sheet are richly adorned with images of the vessels used on the expeditions of John Ross, John Franklin, and Edward Belcher. Also present are scenes of Inuits, labeled "Esquimaux," and life in the Arctic.
This chart includes the most current information available in 1875 about the North Pole. In addition to listing the notable Arctic explorers beginning with Ross in 1818 and ending with Wyprecht and Payer in 1874, this chart tracks the routes of important expeditions, such as those led by McClure, Franklin, and M’Clintock, as well as the 1872 Austrian expedition that discovered Franz-Josef Land.