Explorers of the Maritime Pacific Northwest
Mapping the World through Primary Documents
by William L. Lang and James V. Walker
May 2016, 301pp, 8 1/2x11
1 volume, ABC-CLIO

Hardcover: 978-1-61069-925-9
$131, £101, 114€, A180
eBook Available: 978-1-61069-926-6
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

How were maritime explorers in the 18th century able to map the Northwest Coast?

Covering the adventures of coastal and ocean explorers who made key discoveries and landmark observations from northern California up the coastline to Alaska during the mid-1700s to the early 1800s, this anthology of primary source journal entries, book excerpts, maps, and drawings enables readers to "discover" the Northwest Coast for themselves.

More than 200 years ago, explorers traveled from Central America, Russia, and even Europe to explore the coastline of the American Pacific Northwest, with goals of developing new trade routes, claiming territory for their home countries, expanding their fur trade, or exploring in the name of scientific discovery. This book will take readers to the decks of the great ships and along for the adventures of legendary explorers, such as James Cook, Alejandro Malaspina, and George Vancouver.

This book collects primary source materials such as journal entries, book excerpts, maps, and drawings that document how explorers first experienced the unknown Pacific Northwest coast, as seen through the eyes of non-native people. Readers will learn how explorers such as Vitus Bering and Robert Gray used the full extent of their powers of observation to record the landscape, animals, and plants they witnessed as well as their interactions with indigenous peoples during their search for the mythic Northwest Passage. The book also explains how the maritime explorers of this period mapped the remote regions of the Northwest Coast, working without the benefit of modern technology and relying instead on their knowledge of a range of sciences, mathematics, and seamanship—in addition to their ability to endure harsh and dangerous conditions—to produce exceptionally detailed maps.


  • Provides interesting primary source documents that serve to guide students through the interpretation process
  • Supplies clear explanation and analysis of each document to promote critical understanding of the topics
  • Supports Common Core Standards relating to primary source analysis as well as National Geography Standards, including how to apply geography to interpret the past and understanding the processes, patterns, and functions of human settlement
  • Includes comprehensive biographies and background on each person of significance
  • Presents information on indigenous peoples of the area, including the Tlingit, Chinook, Haida, Tsimshian, Nuu-chah-nulth, and Gitxsan people
William L. Lang is professor emeritus of history at Portland State University. The author or editor of seven books on Pacific Northwest history, Lang was director of the Center for Columbia River History (1990–2003) and founding editor of The Oregon Encyclopedia.

James V. Walker is a retired physician and map collector living in Eugene, OR, with research interests focusing on the Pacific Northwest and early 19th-century Trans-Mississippi West material. He is a member of the steering committee of the Philip Lee Phillips Map Society of the Library of Congress. Walker attended Amherst College and Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and practiced nephrology and internal medicine for 26 years.


"This is a well-crafted book, written in a manner suitable for both a young novice student and a more seasoned researcher. The material offered is well-vetted. . . . This work is one that can prove valuable to any reference collection."—ARBA, September 28, 2016

"For students interested in maritime exploration, this book fills a void in the literature. Especially ideal for undergraduates, it can serve as an overview of maritime exploration in the northwest, and provides easy access to primary source documents. Summing Up: Recommended. High school, community college, and undergraduate students; general readers."—Choice, January 4, 2017

“The editors have safely navigated through many shifting goals and taken careful bearings. Students assigned to examine particular chapters will have no difficulty in delving into the themes as presented, for the work is logical in form and clear in its treatment.”—International Map Collectors' Society Journal, March 14, 2017
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