On the Edge Mapping North America's Coasts

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  • Format: Hardcover
  • Copyright: 2012-07-18
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press

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With our access to Google Maps, Global Positioning Systems, and Atlases that cover all regions and terrains and tell us precisely how to get from one place to another, we tend to forget there was ever a time when the world was unknown and uncharted--a mystery waiting to be solved. InOn the Edge, Roger McCoy tells the captivating--and often harrowing--story of the 400 year effort to map North America's Coasts. Much of the book is based on the narratives of mariners who sought a passage through the continent to Asia and produced maps as a byproduct of their journeys. These courageous explorers had to rely on the most rudimentary mapping tools and to contend with unimaginably harsh conditions: ship-crushing ice floes; the threat of frostbite, scurvy, and starvation; gold fever and mutiny; ice that could lock them in for months on end; and, inevitably, the failure to find the elusive Northwest passage. Telling the story from the explorers' perspective, McCoy allows readers to see how maps of their voyages were made and why they were so full of errors, as well as how they gradually acquired greater accuracy, especially after the longitude problem was solved.Onthe Edgetracks the dramatic voyages of John Cabot, John Davis, Captain Cook, Henry Hudson, Martin Frobisher, John Franklin (who nearly starved to death and become known in England as "the man who ate his boots"), and others, concluding with Robert Peary, Otto Sverdrup, and Vihjalmur Steffanson in the early twentieth century. Drawing upon diaries, journals, and other primary sources--and including a set of maps charting the progress of exploration over time--On the Edgeshows exactly how we came to know the shape of our continent.

Author Biography

Roger M. McCoy is Professor Emeritus, University of Utah, and the author of Ending in Ice.

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
The Earliest Ventures to North America to Find a Northwest Passage, 1492-1543
The Urge to Discover New Lands and Make Mapsp. 3
John Cabot Makes a Claim for England, 1497p. 15
Giovanni da Verrazzano Maps an Ocean of His Imagination, 1524p. 26
Jacques Cartier Gives France a Prize, 1534, 1535, 1541p. 34
England Reenters the Game, 1576-1632
Ships, Navigation, and Mapping in the Sixteenth Centuryp. 51
Martin Frobisher Succumbs to Gold Fever, 1576, 1577, 1578p. 70
John Davis Makes a Near Miss, 1585, 1586, 1587p. 89
Henry Hudson Has a Very Bad Day, 1607, 1608, 1609, 1610p. 95
West From The Pacific; Overland to the Arctic Ocean, 1728-1789
Bering and Chirikov by Sea, 1741; Hearne, 1770 and Mackenzie, 1789 by Landp. 111
James Cook Maps a Huge Swath of the Northwest Coast, 1778p. 116
The British Surge to Find the Northwest Passage Also Makes Maps, 1818-1845
John Ross Sees a Mirage, 1818; John Franklin Makes His First Expedition, 1819p. 125
William E. Parry Has Beginners Luck, 1819, 1821, 1824p. 132
John Franklin's Second Overland Expedition Makes a Successful Survey, 1825p. 141
John Ross's Second Voyage Lasts Four Hard Years, 1829-1833p. 147
Peter Dease and Thomas Simpson Extend the North Coast Map, 1837p. 156
John Franklin's Last Expedition Becomes the Failure of the Century, 1845p. 164
The Franklin Searchers Almost Finish the Map, 1847-1858
The First Searchers Look in the Wrong Places, 1847p. 171
John Rae Hears about Franklin from Eskimos, 1848p. 177
Robert McClure Completes the Passage; Richard Collinson Maps Coastlines, 1850p. 181
Elisha K. Kane Barely Survives, but Maps New Land, 1853p. 190
Francis L. M'Clintock Extends the Map and Learns What Happened, 1857p. 197
Shifting the Focus to the North Pole Fills in Vacant Spots on the Map, 1875-1920
George Nares Maps the North Coast of Ellesmere Island and Relearns Lessons, 1875p. 211
Otto Sverdrup Maps an Immense Area, 1898p. 215
Vilhjalmur Stefansson Maps New Islands, 1913p. 219
A Few Final Thoughtsp. 223
Glossaryp. 227
A Chronology of Selected Expeditions to North Americap. 229
Notesp. 233
Bibliographyp. 241
Indexp. 247
Table of Contents provided by Ingram. All Rights Reserved.

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