Peter Pond: Map Maker of the Northwest (1740-1807)

Gloria Fedirchuk


... In addition to his contributions in charting the Northwest, Pond compiled vast amounts of data on the geography of the Great Lakes area through his travels in the Upper Mississippi and Detroit areas. He was responsible for providing information on the geography of the Great Lakes area to Benjamin Franklin that dictated the character of the Canadian-American boundary negotiations in 1782-83. Pond's character has been described as volatile, occasionally explosive, morose, suspicious, unsociable, proud, sensitive, sometimes impetuous, and intractable. Others have described him as a true adventurer, of sterling character, courageous, industrious, aggressive, and extremely competent. Although his memoirs suggest that he was largely unschooled, he apparently received a good "common education" and was literate in both English and French. His wit and good humour and his artistic sense show through in his writings. His own writings and detailed cartographic notations indicate a man with a high regard for knowledge, a keen sense of observation, and a desire to preserve information. Whatever may be said of his character and literacy abilities, there is no doubt that here was a man extremely capable of assembling, integrating, and interpreting vast amounts of verbal and visual geographical data and presenting them in amazingly accurate depictions of geography for which there was no precedent. As a result of his travels in the Athabasca area and contact with the resident Indians, Peter Pond compiled information on the geography of the region and prepared the first map of the north-central parts of Canada. Pond's cartographic assembly was aimed at the discovery of a route to the western sea. His knowledge of the Northwest, his vision of a passage to the Pacific Ocean, and his own desire to reach that ocean served as an inspiration for the epochal voyages of Alexander Mackenzie. Despite his unequivocal importance as a historical figure, Peter Pond has not been recognized for his accomplishments.


Biographies; Boundaries; Expeditions; Exploration; Explorers; Fur trade; Geography; History; Mapping; Pond, Peter, 1740-1807; Athabasca River region, Alberta; Canada; Mackenzie River region, N.W.T.; Mackenzie River, N.W.T.; Middle North; N.W.T.; United States

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