In 1604, French explorer Samuel de Champlain sailed the coastline of an unfamiliar land.
While the ill-fated French settlers at St. Croix began building homes, Champlain spent months charting the rocky coastline. Working at the direction of King Henry IV of France, Champlain traveled with Pierre Dugua in a quest to establish a French presence in this supposedly “New World.”
Much of Champlain’s work paved the way for European colonialism in this already-inhabited land, and gave French names to places that are still in use today, such as Isle au Haut and Ile des Monts Deserts — Mount Desert Island in English.
Mapping the rough, rocky coasts of northern North America was a daunting task. However, as a skilled cartographer and aided by Native American contacts, Champlain produced remarkably accurate maps.
After the fatal winter of 1604-05 on St. Croix, Dugua and Champlain relocated the settlers to Port Royal in present-day Nova Scotia, Canada.
By 1607, Champlain had created the first detailed European map of the Gulf of Maine, beginning a long history of naval navigation along the coastline, connecting competing European powers and Native American nations.
(Vintage Photo Credit: Collections of Maine Historical Society, courtesy of VintageMaineImages.com. Item #6360, 11823)