Illustrating Champlain

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The Canadian Hydrographic Service published a commemorative map that traces Samuel de Champlain's travels.

“This map could tell such a tale,” declared Robert Dorais, of Fisheries and Oceans Canada's Canadian Hydrographic Service, as he presented the “Voyages and Explorations of Samuel de Champlain” commemorative map. The map is one of three projects selected by the federal department to celebrate Quebec City's 400th anniversary. Champlain, who founded the city in 1608, is one of the event's key figures.

Supported by historians, graphic artists and historical works, Liaison Officer Dorais is the project's primary craftsman; he spent nearly two years of painstaking and passionate work decoding old writing, locating sites and understanding the works produced at the time. The result is a depiction of Champlain's main travels from 1603 to 1615. But the map has much more to teach. It juxtaposes former and current place names, showcases Champlain's exquisite illustrations and contains story excerpts and sidebars highlighting several landmark moments from this exciting period.

The map thus pays homage to Champlain and his multiple talents—not only an explorer, he was also a deft illustrator, hydrographer, ethnographer and communicator. It shows respect for the man and his crew, who were working in the same field, under more rustic conditions and without today's sophisticated equipment, but whose knowledge was nonetheless great. The relationships between Champlain and the Aboriginal peoples are also represented. The area was previously occupied by the First Nations, which Robert Dorais wished to reflect by identifying inland waterways. These rivers were valuable communication links.

The famed heritage launch Surveyor in Quebec City.

The map also includes many symbols: a compass rose with a human face, an astrolabe, the crown of the King of New France and other distinctive details. These cartographic features invite you to dive into history. And there, Champlain's shaky signature—written by an ill hand? Or perhaps on board a ship buffeted by the waves? The map is an open doorway to travel, to imagination.

A printing of 400 numbered commemorative maps with official seals is displayed in ceremonial frames. An additional 5,000 copies are more widely available in the network of official chart dealers (nearly 700 specialty navigation boutiques and bookstores, including about 70 in Quebec).

The chart illustrating the travels of Samuel de Champlain in New France from 1603 to 1615 is available for $14.95 from authorized marine chart dealers everywhere in Canada
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To learn more about activities commemorating the Quebec City 400th anniversary, visit: