George Vancouver


George Vancouver : biography

22 June 1757 – 10 May 1798


  • Various locations have been named after George Vancouver, notably:
    • Vancouver Island, Canada
    • Hudson’s Bay Company’s 1825 Fort Vancouver
    • Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
    • Vancouver, Washington, USA
    • Vancouver Peninsula, Australia
    • Mount Vancouver, eighth highest mountain in Canada
    • Vancouver Bay in Jervis Inlet was named after him when Capt. G.H. Richards resurveyed the area in 1860.
    • Vancouver Maritime Museum
    • Vancouver Arm of Breaksea Sound, Fiordland, South Island, New Zealand.
  • Statues of Vancouver are located in front of Vancouver City Hall, in King’s Lynn and on top of the dome of the British Columbia Parliament Buildings.
  • The Vancouver Quarter Shopping Centre bears his name in his home town of King’s Lynn, England.
  • Canada Post issued a pair of 14-cent stamps to mark the 200th anniversary of Captain Cook’s arrival at Nootka Sound on Vancouver Island on 26 April 1978. George Vancouver was a crewman on this voyage.
  • "Gate to the Northwest Passage"; a commemorative statue by Vancouver artist Alan Chung Hung was commissioned by Parks Canada and installed at the mouth of False Creek in Vanier Park near the Vancouver Maritime Museum in 1980.
  • Canada Post issued a 37-cent stamp inscribed Vancouver Explores the Coast on 17 March 1988. It was one of a set of four stamps issued to honour Exploration of Canada – Recognizers.
  • The George Vancouver Rose, named in his honour and hybridized by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. "George Vancouver Rose"
  • Virgin Trains British Rail Class 221 unit 221129 is named in his honour.

Many collections were made on the voyage: one was donated by Archibald Menzies to the British Museum 1796; another made by surgeon George Goodman Hewett (1765–1834) was donated by A. W. Franks to the British Museum in 1891. An account of these has been published: see J. C. H. King 1994. ‘Vancouver’s Ethnography’ Journal of the History of Collections. 6(1):35–58.

250th birthday commemorations

Vancouver faced difficulties when he returned home to England. The accomplished and politically well-connected naturalist Archibald Menzies complained that his servant had been pressed into service during a shipboard emergency; sailing master Joseph Whidbey had a competing claim for pay as expedition astronomer; and Thomas Pitt, 2nd Baron Camelford, whom Vancouver had disciplined for numerous infractions and eventually sent home in disgrace, proceeded to harass him publicly and privately.

Pitt’s allies, including his cousin, Prime Minister William Pitt the Younger, attacked Vancouver in the press. However, Pitt took a more direct role; on 29 August 1796 he sent Vancouver a letter heaping many insults on the head of his former captain, and challenging him to a duel. Vancouver gravely replied that he was unable "in a private capacity to answer for his public conduct in his official duty" and offered instead to submit to formal examination by flag officers. Pitt chose instead to stalk Vancouver, ultimately assaulting him on a London street corner. The terms of their subsequent legal dispute required both parties to keep the peace, but nothing stopped Vancouver’s civilian brother Charles from interposing and giving Pitt blow after blow until onlookers restrained the attacker. Charges and counter-charges flew in the press, with the wealthy Camelford faction having the greater firepower until Vancouver, ailing from his long naval service, died.

Captain George Vancouver, one of Britain’s greatest explorers and navigators, died in obscurity on 10 May 1798 at the age of 40, less than three years after completing his voyages and expeditions. His modest grave lies in St. Peters churchyard, Petersham, Surrey, in southern England.