Nature Notes

Vol. VII December - 1929 No. 14

Vancouver's Voyage


Who was the first white man to see "The Mountain"? In the year 1791 there set sail from England two vessels -- the Discovery and the Chatham -- with the definite purpose of cruising to the little known Pacific Northwest. In command of these two ships was Capt. George Vancouver, a British naval officer who had already won his spurs as a navigator and explorer under Capt. James Cook, also of the British Navy and under whom Vancouver served in the years previous to this command.

About a year later he reached the neighborhood of his destination, entering Puget Sound in the spring of 1792. The cities of Vancouver, British Columbia and Vancouver, Washington as well as Vancouver Island bear his name, but as he cruised down the Sound he saw and named several mountains that had here-to-fore, as far as the white man was concerned, had been nameless. Among these was Mt. Baker, a sister volcanoe to "The Mountain" and on May 8th, 1792 he first saw and recorded in his diary his observations on "a round, snowy mountain" which he named Mount Rainier "after my friend Rear Admiral Rainier".

Vancouver was not the first white man to visit the Pacific Northwest. It was a wilderness then in every sense of the word but several white men had previously penetrated it. Yet, although it is possible that they may have seen "The Mountain" at an earlier date they left no record of this fact and so Capt. George Vancouver is credited with being the first white man to have seen this great volcanoe which today is admired by thousands of people, both in the Northwest and throughout the world. Vancouver's picture and parts of his diary will be found in Meany's, "Mt. Rainier - A Record of Exploration".

sketch of Mt. Rainier from Puget Sound

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