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Transportation and Maps
Transportation and Maps
The first Europeans who came to Canada brought with them a culture of transportation centred on the wheel. North America's Aboriginal peoples had developed differently, and moved through their country by means of canoes, kayaks, umiaks, coracles, and other water-borne vehicles, constructed from various types of bark, hide, bone, wood, and other materials; as well, the snowshoe, toboggan and sled were essential during the winter conditions that prevailed throughout the northern half of the continent for much of the year. Europeans quickly adopted all of these technologies themselves, and therefore were able to travel to the northern interior via the many waterways that branched out from the St. Lawrence River and from Hudson Bay.
Advances in sailing technology from the 15th century onward enabled Europeans to make longer voyages into regions with more extreme weather and climatic conditions. Improvements were made in the design of sails, masts and rigging, and navigational equipment became more sophisticated. Ships went further north, stayed longer on the Grand Banks and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and eventually began to explore the Pacific Northwest and the Western Arctic. However, even superior sail technology and better navigational tools could not prevent disaster. Extremes of weather, uncharted shoals, miscalculations of time and tide -- all could take the lives of hundreds in a short time, whether through shipwreck or the disappearance of a vessel at sea. Nor did European technology protect even the best equipped from the hazards of starvation, scurvy, and mutiny.
The greater experience of First Nations enabled them to travel from year to year with relatively little danger of becoming lost; journeys were documented through oral tradition. Europeans, however, demanded that map-making provide them with accurate and accessible documents. Hydrographers and surveyors gradually delineated the country's dimensions, dangers, and physical outlines. Through coastal outlines and topographical profiles, cadastral surveys, depth charts, chain measurements, and other tools of the surveying trade, maps were eventually created to benefit navigator and settler alike.
The domesticated horse and the Industrial Revolution forever changed transportation in Canada. By the late 17th century, many western First Nations were using horses for transportation, engaging with their environments in an entirely different manner. European settlers also used the horse to accelerate land-travel times, but also began to build roads. Initially, they crossed rivers by ferries, but eventually bridges were constructed; as the technology developed from wood to iron to steel, the bridges spanned wider and wider gaps. The Industrial Revolution not only made stronger materials available, it also brought steam power to bear on shipping and river travel. Ocean-going steamships shortened travel times, while river transport opened up many areas of the country to large-scale movements of goods and people. In winter, at least until the mid-1850s, everyday life was delimited by the ability to travel by sleigh. The railroad construction boom of the 1840s and 1850s transformed life in central Canada, and eventually opened up winter travel between the ice-free Atlantic ports and the rest of Canada. Ultimately, it extended westwards to the Pacific, forever altering the nature of the country as a whole.